Posts Tagged ‘spinning’

Just Do It

Murano glass spindle from Butterflygirldesigns, fibre from Jessie

About a year or so ago I mentioned my first attempts at spinning. I bought a spindle and some fiber and played a little with it, I managed to make a thread that hung together, but mostly I admired the spindle itself, the craftmanship behind it, and the astonishing fact that all fabric ever made up until a few hundred years back was produced from spindle-spin yarn. I’m talking sheets for Egyptian pharaohs, and sails for Viking ships. Whoa.  That is a lot of spindle spinning! Hopefully I lived in a warmer climate in a previous life, cause I think I’d be behind inthe clothing department in spite of the Norwegian proverb stating ‘need teaches naked woman to spin’. Nothing is mentioned about naked men.

I’m ashamed to say my spinning productivity haven’t really boosted the past year, but after the initial playing and understanding the basic principle, I’ve now taken on my first real project. The fibre is a merino/bamboo/nylon blend and the intention is for it to become sock yarn. So far I’ve spun about…half? That is 60 g or 2 oz in half a year. But since this project is all about the learning process I like to think I’ve gotten more out of it than that.

What I’ve learned about spindle spinning so far

  • spindles are beautiful little tools and works of art, and spindle buying is highly addictive.
  • buying spindles/fibre/books instead of yarn doesn’t make my bank account any fatter.
  • I can get a lot done if I spin in those little moments, while waiting for the pasta water to boil and such.
  • a spindle can be used anywhere, and also left anywhere. I’m really inspired now but can’t for the life of me figure out where in the apartment I left it!
  • I can pack a lot more on the spindle if I lead the single around the bottom of the yarn cop before carrying it up over the whorl and to the hook. In the beginning I had to empty my spindle all the time cause the single just slid through the hook when I had a little yarn wound on.
  • If I grab the spindle at the lowest end, and at the thinnest point when I flick it, it spins longer and more evenly. (This has something to do with physics and force and momentum. I don’t know physics, just that it works and that is good enough for me).
  • I don’t need to put as much spin into the single as I can, to make durable sock yarn. Inspired by a Ravelry thread I’m now spinning my singles not very tight (not sure if I’m really underspinning, I am not experienced enough to tell) and then compensating for that by adding more twist in the plying process. In theory this should make sproingy yarn.
  • Chain (navajo) plying on the wheel is a great way to overcome the Fear of the Wheel.

The single is breaking on me both during spinning and plying but it is getting better. I had trouble overlapping fibre in the beginning (adding more when I was about to finish the bit of top I was spinning) but that is getting better too. I’m not so good at splicing the singles together but guess also that will come with practice.

I’m winding the yarn to a toilet paper core when the spindle is full ( and I can’t quite get over the transition in material and elegance from the stone and hardwood precision tool to a cardboard roll. As always, toilet paper rolls do the job, they are just not meant to be seen).Then, with the help from this brilliant video, I’m learning to chain ply the single on my wheel.

My first plied yarn,  about fingering weight. Can’t wait to see how it will stripe in a sock!

The number one thing I’ve learned though, is that there is only one way to learn how to spin, and that is to spin. The academic in me has read books, researched the web, read more, watched videos..but really, this isn’t about brain training, it is finger training. When I started spinning a few times a week I suddenly noticed that my fingers were adjusting, finding an easier and faster way to to what I needed to do, or I’d suddenly discover that I was automatically doing something I had trouble with earlier. I think this is what I find most fascinating with crafts, when you see a pair of hands making it look so easy, and then realize all the knowledge and experience living in those hands, and how no book can preserve that knowledge.

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Now also Ripped Off Yarn

I’m not talking about ripping yarn of the needles this time (which I do quite often. I have a low threshold for ripping out something if I don’t like the knitted fabric. Gives more value for my yarn money too!). Also not the about the very few times I have felt ripped off in a yarn purchase (oh, there was once this ridiculously expensive hand dyed silk…which was awful to knit with and stained my whole apartment with black dust when I wound it. I’m wondering if my aunt still remember I said I’d knit her that shawl, or if she is just being polite not asking about it anymore).

This time I’m the only one to blame if the yarn is no good.


When I said I found extra fibre in my stash for the thrummed mittens, I sort of gave away that I have a stash for unspun fluff as well. Not much, and not much have been done with it either, but I’ve had two spindles for a while (years), big, sturdy, heavy wooden ones that tolerate being dropped when the yarn breaks and spin for a long time. When I bought the first one 2?3?years ago I did a little practicing with the white stuff in the picture. Playing with the thrums made me want more..I’ve seen more and more people spinning yarn and without saying it out loud decided that this year, I’ll teach myself how to spin yarn. Not amazing yarn but something that holds together and can be used for knitting in a pinch, and then we’ll see if I want to move on from there.

So I dug out my other big (Big!) wooden spindle, watched a lot of YouTube videos and spun up the rest of that green fluff. I don’t know what it is, but it must be good beginner’s material. Thick and thin yarn yes, lots of backspinning events followed by yarn breakage yes but I got the hang of it.

And today..


…I received something very different from ZebsisDesigns. A top-whorl handmade spindle that feels so delicate and fragile in comparison that I most of all want to put it in a vase and just look at it.. The almost-black lava stone whorl is incredibly cool but really hard to photograph, it is not as rough as it looks  and does not snag the “yarn”. The carved black hardwood shaft is beautiful, and only a fraction of the diameter of my other spindles but it feels really nice.  If you’re looking for spindles I recommend Etsy, there are so many pretty ones there you’ll have a hard time buying just one!

The difference in spinning? It is smaller and MUCH lighter so I guess that is why it doesn’t spin as long. I think the wooden ones are better for first attempts, but for my third or so attempt at spindle  spinning I had no trouble using this one. I find that I have more control and spin a more even, less overspun, and thinner single, thinking this might become my sock yarn spindle if I ever get that far..

Oh, and the fibre:


I just don’t know how to start on this one. I’ve heard that Blue Face Leicester wool is supposed to be good to start with for beginners. I think I’ll just look at it for a while first and maybe pet it a little. The colours blend together even nicer in person. Yum!

And something that will remain an “as is” eye-candy for quite a while:


A small silk sample perfectly matching the orchid I bought yesterday to remind myself that spring will come to these latitudes as well. Like learning to spin, it might take a while.

Can you tell I’m really exited about spending a lot of time and money turning beautiful stuff into crappy yarn??

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