IS#4: For Your Spinning Library

Though it’s late in the day, I’m still feeling inspired— this week about books. There is almost nothing I like better than diving into a brand new book, especially if it’s a book that’s going to teach me cool things.

The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin

If you only every purchase one book about spinning or about fiber in general, please let it be this one. I was utterly surprised to find that the entire first half of the book is solely about the nature of fibers. I was familiar with much of the material (thank you, Knitter’s Book of Yarn!) but the way Judith presents it is fantastic, it’s a very clear, concise crash-course in fiber characteristics and how they affect finished yarn. And although I knew the basics already, it was chock full of great stuff I hadn’t known. For instance, the viscose method for making cellulose fiber from plant material, called viscose or rayon, involves a ton of nasty chemicals while another cellulose fiber called lyocell, marketed as Tencel or Seacell, is produced using a much more eco-friendly method. I know which one I’d rather use! Also, the book has flow charts and diagrams and lists of fiber characteristics that appeal to my scientist’s heart. I know I’ll be referring to it often during my spinning career. Here’s a decent review with some more pictures, if you’re interested.

As for spinning instruction, the book gives a quick background on fiber preparation (combing and carding) and while it assumes you know the basics about how loose fiber turns into yarn, it does give a great summary of the differences between worsted and woolen drafting and spinning and how the two styles differ. There’s a great chapter on diameter control and a whole bunch of information on plying and how to create different novelty yarns, which I didn’t think I’d ever use but now it’s got me wanting to try to make a chained yarn and see what happens! The DVD it came with started with plying, which is fine but I could’ve used more information on drafting in general. However, the DVD did teach me one important thing:


See how the ends of those two bobbins are different sizes? Well, the driveband of my wheel attaches directly to the bobbins, so the size of the bobbin affects how quickly it turns and how much twist is added to my yarn. If drafting and treadling speeds are held constant, a larger bobbin end will result in a thicker yarn with lower twist while a smaller bobbin end will result in thinner yarn with higher twist. I did not even realize the bobbins were different sizes nor did I think that they would affect the yarn I produced until I watched Judith’s segment on diameter control and looked at the bobbins side by side. It did explain why I had so much trouble keeping the yarn size consistent on one of the bobbins, though.

There are definitely some underspun sections in the resulting 2-ply, but I love it all the same. Plus, this yarn went from fiber to finished in exactly 4 days, which is pretty exciting! Does anybody else have tips or good resources about using wheels to produce particular kinds or sizes of yarn? Wheels are every so much more mysterious than spindles and I’m wondering how many more ‘duh!‘ moments I should expect during this learning process…

What’s been inspiring you lately? Link your blog below and let us know!


5 thoughts on “IS#4: For Your Spinning Library

  1. Alicia, I absolutely loved this post! Judith is such a great teacher – I had the pleasure of meeting her at SOAR 2010 – and her book should definitely help you demystify your new wheel. And I think your handspun is totally gorgeous!! If you're worried about underspun bits, think of it this way: slightly underspun = super-soft and cozy yarn. 🙂

    As far as using your wheel to help control yarn diameter and twist, I pretty much always set my wheel for a more pronounced take-up (the way the yarn is pulled onto the bobbin) when I'm spinning thicker, low-twist yarn, and when I'm spinning fine yarns that need lots of twist to hold together, keep the take-up tension very light, so I'm almost forcing it to wind on to the bobbin. I find it really helpful, though I also firmly believe that we spinners can make any yarn, with any ratio and tension, as long as our hands are skilled and in control. It's definitely nice when the wheel helps out, though! 🙂


  2. Congrats again on the wheel. That book sounds amazing, if I ever get to the wheel I will remember it. I definitely need to learn some new spinning techniques, even if I just stick with my spindle.


  3. I have heard so much about that book, your mini review has definitely put it on my “to order from Amazon” book. The wheel jargon is pretty much over my head, all I know is that the yarn is going to be super pretty!


  4. Added to my Amazon wish list, thanks! Of course, first getting a wheel is on my wish list (not from Amazon, though!), but for now I'm happy collecting the funds for one, and using my drop spindle. I know 'Respect the Spindle' is a great resource for that, but I'm not sure what other books to look at as far as spindle spinning goes…



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