Spinning the Yarn
As seen in the section on wool, sheep usually go about a year between shearings. By the end of a year-long growth period, their woolly coat has gathered burrs, plant matter and some dirt. Even though wool naturally repels these impurities, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned, both manually and with amole. When the wool is dry after washing, it is combed with carding paddles to separate, clean, and align the fibers before spinning it into yarn on the spinning wheel.
The art of spinning wool takes years to master. The width, texture and tensile strength can vary greatly. When weaving a piece it usually requires that all the different colors of yarn be made to the same specifications. Otherwise the piece will be uneven, hard to weave, and aesthetically unpleasing. Below are two weights of yarn.
The family uses a manually powered wooden spinning wheel. In addition to making yarn, the spinning wheel is used to wind bobbins and to roll yarn from a ball into a large loop to be placed over the Biilieelii (Zapotec) that feeds the yarn onto the bobbins.
In the photo below, you can see how the wheel is turned with a hand crank, and how the spinner holds the carded wool back from the spindle so that it becomes a twisted, even strand of yarn before it is rolled up on the spindle. If the yarn is too thin it will break easily. It must be made in one consistent texture and width for a high-quality weaving.
Preparing the Yarn for Weaving
After spinning, the wool is often naturally dyed and then hung up to drip dry. When it is dry, it is hung on storage pegs in the same large loops as when it was dyed. Later the yarn is wound onto bobbins for use on the loom.