If knitting in public isn’t weird enough for you, you should take up spinning.
What I learned from Spinzilla last week was that spinners are, on the whole, a very happy bunch of people. We like to get together and ogle each other’s fiber, wheels, spindles, kates, niddy noddies, and freshly made yarn. We encourage. We help. We teach. We skip tea in favor of wine.
In getting ready for Spinzilla, I couldn’t wrap my head around what I wanted to accomplish. Did I want to spin 4 oz per day? Did I want to make more fractal yarn? Did I want to try a combo spin?
A couple days before Spinzilla began, I assessed the fiber stash. I sorted it by prep this time and found that my roving bin wouldn’t close! That settled what to spin. As for how to spin it, I figured a spinning competition was as good a time as any to learn long draw, which is a production technique that produces a woolen yarn. I was almost swooning at the thought of spinning up woolen yarns in many colors to knit colorwork item. Peerie Flooers, here I come!
I opened up my Craftsy class “Drafting from Worsted to Woolen” with Jacey Boggs Faulkner and practiced long draw on a few different roving samples. After an hour of playing around, I emerged with a lumpy and deliciously lightweight mini skein of woolen 2-ply dark brown Cormo.
The night before Spinzilla started, pulled out some of my oldest stash: 7.5 oz of light grey roving with some pale purple and yellow carded into it. It was mystery wool that I bought on sale from a shop going out of business back when I was baby spinner. I prepped it by pulling off two yard lengths (measured fingertip to nose, nothing too fussy), splitting that lengthwise, then predrafting, or attenuating, each piece until it was about doubled in length. Then I gently rolled each piece into a ball so it wouldn’t tangle.
The prep helped immensely with speed of spinning and it turned out that this mystery wool was even easier to spin long draw than the Cormo.
My second major endeavor for Spinzilla was an 8 oz ball of mixed Icelandic and Border Leicester lambs wool from Kathy Westfall named “Two Black Lambs.” It was sooooo soft. The staple length of this fiber was longer, which made the long draw even easier than the mystery wool. It felt like it was spinning itself!
Here’s my Spinzilla 2015 pile:
As team captain for Happy Fuzzy Yarn, I pursued people to fill up my team of 25 spinners. I am really proud that we had at least 5 people on our team who were very new spinners. Even though this is a competition for most yardage, my focus was education and community. I wanted people to feel welcome, no matter their skill level or time commitment. I am so happy with what each and every one of us accomplished. I’m not burned out like sometimes happens with intense events like these, and I am already looking forward to next year.
This Spinzilla, I fell in love with the long draw. I am just getting started. I can’t wait to try more breeds and see what happens. And my happy spinner friends, makers extraordinaire, will be there with me.
For the record, you can also spend $10 to join another team or, ye gads, go alone. I will still talk to you, but our relationship may never be the same.
You don’t have to be a “good” spinner. Wheel or charka or drop spindle or tahkli are all welcome. This is a judgement-free zone and, in fact, this is a great time to learn from others — whether you are just getting started or (like me) trying to kick it up a notch.
Although this is technically a friendly competition to get the most yardage, we are in it for the laughs and the excuse to spend an inordinate amount of time making yarn for one week. (Hellllo, stash busting!)
My summer of family fun was also filled with lots of spinning. I was just in the mood for it and enjoying myself immensely.
First up was “Frothy,” a delicious, pink blend of Cormo, Border Leicester, Coopworth, and silk from Fiber Trends that I finished plying in early June.
“Frothy” called to me in the depths of winter and although I don’t think of myself as a pink girl, I couldn’t resist her siren song. I’m so glad I didn’t. This was fun to spin, fun to ply, and I keep looking at it and petting it and dreaming of what this 500+ yards of DK weight yarn will become. Probably a shawl.
“Frothy” was spun up on the Majacraft Suzie Pro that I am fostering for a friend of a friend. So I decided that the next project would be on my own Louet S15, who hadn’t been used all winter. I chose another Fiber Trends roving that I picked up in February at the Spinner’s Flock Fleece Fair. Called “Peacock,” it’s a blend of alpaca and wool in wild, but subdued colors, kind of like a tartan: burgundy, blue, orange, yellow.
The alpaca in “Peacock” was too slippy for my mighty Louet S15, which kept ripping it out of my hands, making the the spinning No Fun. After about of week, I did the big girl thing and switched tools, to my Schacht Hi-Lo spindle. Now we are getting on. Spindle projects are always slow going for me because it is not the project I reach for first. Here in early October, the “Peacock” spindling is still ongoing, with no end in sight.
In mid-August I decided to clear out some leftover singles and practice my navajo plying. I made quick work of Rambouillet leftovers and then took on the wheel-spun Peacock singles. I’m happy with how these turned out although I struggled to get the n-ply going.
Then I started spinning the green glitter mohair batt (wool/mohair/silk noils/glitter). This was one of those fibers I probably would have never bought for myself and I am so glad Julie destashed it in my direction because I learned a lot! First, mohair is fun and easy to spin owing to its looooong staple length. Second, a little bit of glitter (like angelina or firestar, not confetti) isn’t obnoxious at all; it just peeks out here and there. Third, I might want to try making some blended batts of my own soon. Just for the fun of it.
I spun this 8 oz up in about a week, which is pretty fast for my multicraftual self. It was so fun that it had my full attention — while watching Life on Mars with Matt in the evening (I like the UK original version better, but we ultimately watched both series).
About two weeks later — slowed down by the start of the school year, etc — I navajo plied the leftover singles. That was a lot less successful (it’s worse in real life than in these pictures). I’m not sure why, but maybe it needed more twist in the ply. No tears though, this was just a practice with leftovers and gives me stuff to think about.
I also navajo plied (on the wheel) some leftovers from the yarn I spindle-spun for Julie as a thank you gift. Also less successful, also done on the same night as the green glitter mohair n-ply so another theory I have is that I was just off my game that night.
This clearing out of leftovers was all in preparation to finish a years-old project. I got this red and gray probably-Tunis from a local vendor when she closed up shop. Red is not really my color so this was purely for the practice of spinning. I started spinning it on an friend’s Ashford Traveler, even plied up two skeins of it, then wound the remaining singles on to cardboard tubes when the wheel went back to its owner.
I wound the singles on to my Louet bobbins, had some trouble with directionality and I think I had to ply that last skein the opposite way of what I normally do, but no worries, I am just making yarn, not winning prizes here. One of the things I tried while spinning this fiber was playing around with blending the red and grey in some areas and separating the colors in other areas. I am interested to see how that looks when knit up. The wool is a bit scratchy, so it is definitely destined for outerwear.
Now I am working on spinning some dark grey cormo pencil roving. This wool is very clean and smooth and soft. So soft! At first it was a bit of a challenge to spin on my mighty Louet S15. I really like spinning on that wheel, but it has a powerful take up owing to its bobbin-led drive. But I found that if I get just the right draw on the cormo, it’s not a fight. I’m already halfway through!
It has been a quiet year (here, anyway) with a beautiful, but hard-to-read theme.
How about we change things up?
A new theme and renewed purpose.
After thirteen years–lucky, lucky thirteen–working in traditional publishing, I am stretching my wings to encompass the online realm. Right now, let us simply enjoy each other’s company, shall we? In two years’ time, my little people will all be in school and I will be able to devote myself to my freelance career fulltime. Yikes! So this is the time to enjoy. The time when my seven-year-old son still says “I love you, Mom,” while we’re walking home from school (as he did today).
What have you been enjoying lately?
I’ve been sinking deeper and deeper into the soft abyss of spinning. I have been blessed to borrow two spinning wheels and be given another–simultaneously–this past year. Talk about wow. So it is time to give back before there’s some sort of karmic backlash, like a rubberband snapping back into my face.
The borrowed wheels are an Ashford Traveller (very easy to spin on!) and a Majacraft Suzie Pro (the Cadillac of spinning wheels, as one friend put it). Then someone was cleaning her house and gifted me with a Louet S15 that she had bought second-hand and never used. It needed love and repairs but–OMG! It was mine!
Through my local fiber guild, Spinner’s Flock, I got in touch with Linda of Cape House Farms, a local Louet dealer. She fixed my baby up right and told me it was more than 30 years old. I went straight from Linda’s beautiful property to Knit Night, my heart so light and bubbly with excitement, my arms full of combed Border Leicester that she gave me to play with–and I discovered that I couldn’t spin on this wheel to save my life!
Cue violins. Pass the antacids.
Luckily there is always knitting to get my back (love you BFF!) so I wasn’t empty-handed that evening. But after closing down the coffeeshop, I stayed up late doing research. I learned that most Louets, the S15 included, are bobbin-led wheels. The other two I’ve been using are flyer-led. I made a few small adjustments to my drafting and treadeling and–behold!–Rapunzel is back in the house.
Rapunzel reference aside, I make no great claims to my spinning quality. I am simply enjoying the process. First question out of everyone’s mouth when I show them my spinning is “what are you going to make?” Fair enough. If you asked me about the angle of twist or Z/S spin, I would just look at you cross-eyed anyway. But I have no answer to this popular question. I left the last guild meeting wearing my latest skeins of yarn like a cowl and that worked well enough.