We were brought up in the suburbs, in a house that started life as a drive-through dairy in the early 1900’s. Over the years, a porch was roofed, rooms were added, and the drive-through dairy became a three-car garage with garage doors on either side. By the time we moved in, in 1972, the house had become a long, rambling, wonderful four-bedroom mish-mash, with a den in the front and a landmark eucalyptus in the back.
It was a wonderful place to grow up, but it was as suburban as it gets, and I’m not sure how my sister Wendy grew up to be a wildlife biologist and a cat farmist and a general, all-around animal lovist.
She’s been fascinated by buffaloes for as long as I remember. One of the first things we did, after I moved to San Francisco, was visit the buffaloes in Golden Gate Park. It’s a weird place for them, granted, but there they are.
On a not-so-recent trip somewhere or other, Wendy and her daughter, Lizzie, were in actual buffalo territory, and managed to collect several handfuls of buffalo fluff from fences and trees against which the animals had scratched themselves. Naturally, they brought it home to me.
I think we talked about what to do with it for two years. We finally washed it, and it sat on top of her fridge for another year before we finally made some decisions and I took it home to play at my house.
There really wasn’t very much of it, and what there was of it was inconsistent. There were soft, short, fluffy bits; long, hairy, hard and pokey bits; scattered locks here and there; and a bunch of randomness between short and long, soft and pokey.
The best yarn for this kind of material is woolen which, given the way it’s spun, is not meant to be a smooth, consistent yarn, but instead a textured and fluffy yarn. Woolen spinning also incorporates more air than worsted spinning, so you can make more yarn out of the same amount of materials.
To prep it, I seperated out some of the cute little locks—I wanted to keep them intact and try to add them into the yarn whole, while spinning. You can see them a bit in the middle bobbin in the picture at the top of this post. Otherwise, I put the fluff through my drum carder two or three times to homogenize and blend the various fibers, and that was it.
Spinning was fast and easy. I chose a three-ply yarn for three reasons. First, woolen-spun yarn is inherently less durable than worsted-spun, but adding plies can add to the durability it does have. Second, my sister is going to knit with it, and I wanted to make a big enough yarn so that it didn’t take her three more years to knit it up. Third, spinning woolen is fun and bitchen!
You just pedal away as fast as you can, and the twist just zips up into the fluff, which you whip away from the spinning wheel to create the yarn. You stretch it a bit while this is happening, which evens out the lumps (kinda), then whap it onto the wheel and repeat. It’s a blast. Here’s a pretty good, short video, if you’d like to see it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z92IpGYh8RE.