Spinning Through It

Sometimes it’s easy to let a particular day (let’s call it “Monday”) kick your butt. It’s even easier when you have seemingly insurmountable deadlines, impending dentist appointments (never a good thing), and a nasty cold that just won’t quit. On such days, it’s incredibly difficult to find any time for fun or relaxation… when perhaps it is needed most.

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Whorl Club Masham, colorway Indigo Dreams.

That’s why I love spinning so much. When there is no time or brain space for dedicated crafting, spinning can still be done. Just a twirl or two of the spindle makes me feel infinitely batter. It lets me take an entirely futile day and spin it into something productive, something beautiful.

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Louet Merino/Silk, part of my Spindle Experiment (click for link).

Spinning scratches the creative itch just enough and really only takes 5 minutes or so to significantly improve the tone of the day. It’s pretty magical that all it takes is a few minutes to remind myself that life is more than spreadsheets, sore teeth, and snotty noses. That’s some powerful, perspective-shifting therapy, don’t you think? Have you done any spinning today?

P.S. Check out Alex Tinsley’s review of my lotion bars on the Dull Roar blog, where you can enter a giveaway to win one!

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Too Busy For Inspiration

It’s a sad, sad week when I’ve been too busy working, battling a cold, and running around willy-nilly to give my weeky Inspiration Saturday post its proper due. Even when I know I have a busy weekend, I try to plan my post ahead of time. No luck this week, however. This morning I’m off to vend my Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe products at the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market in Bristol, Rhode Island. (If you’re local, come say hi! Open 9 am – 1 pm.) Then the Fiasco and I need to visit our wedding reception hall to have a chat about details and then I’ll probably fall into bed, weary of body and hoarse of throat, for probably the rest of the weekend. (Fun times, eh?)

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Polka-dots!

To make up for the lack of my usual pattern-and-yarn-inspired ramblings, I’ll leave you with a photo of my brand new stunner of spindle. This is another beauty made by the talented Joshua Lynch from TexasJeans on Etsy. I’ve been enamored with this polka-dot style inlay since I first saw it and finally inquired about a custom order. He said he probably wouldn’t get to it until June. Because I got impatient, I went ahead and purchased one of his Russian spindles to hold me over, figuring I could justify buying two spindles if they were a month apart… turns out, I ended up with two new spindles in one week! While I’ve had to dodge some (probably well-deserved) glares from the Fiasco, it’s so pretty that I just don’t feel very bad at all about my sudden-onset spindle gluttony.

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Experimenting with some Louet merino/silk fiber.

Details: The whorl is made with birdseye maple, and inlaid with purpleheart, redheart, and osage orange. A pretty purplish dymondwood was used for the shaft. I love whatever waxes Joshua uses to finish his spindles, they are so incredibly smooth and silky-feeling. The whorl is just over 2.5″ wide and the whole things weighs 1.24 oz (37 g). It’s a nice mid-weight top whorl with a pretty, balanced spin. I plan to do a little experiment with the fiber shown, spinning about 0.5 oz on each of my spindles and comparing how spindle style/weight/etc affect the finished yarns (but more on that later).

That’s all I can manage at the moment. I hope you have an enjoyable Saturday!

Spinning Silk Supported

I hope those of you celebrating Memorial Day are doing so in whatever way makes you happiest! I’m currently stuck at home with the beginnings of a sore throat and a very sick Fiasco. Poor guy does not handle illness very gracefully and we changed our original plans (visiting parents on Long Island) and then our secondary plans (a cookout with friends) to much less exciting, self-imposed quarantine. I consoled myself with silk.

Hand-carded silk rolags.

First, I turned some silk top from into shiny, weightless rolags. A reader asked a question about what is needed to make rolags. You need a pair of hand cards, which run about $60+. I have a flat-backed pair from Paradise Fibers, but I am not a huge fan of them. They’re a little heavy and other hand cards have curved backs which I think make the motions easier, but I still used them to make these rolags. The Woolery sells a hand carding kit, which comes with a pair of basic wool cards, a book, and 2 lbs of fleece. They also sell a How to Card Wool DVD which is really interesting because it shows 4 very different techniques for hand carding, since there isn’t much agreement on One Right Way to hand card. This YouTube video is a little bit long (skip ahead a bit to the actual carding), but shows the process simply:

I did basically that, just a little more gently and messily with silk (it’s a very fly-away fiber) and then used my new toy to make this pretty little skein:

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Wee silk skeinlet.

After spinning on my Russian spindle, I wound the yarn into a center-pull ball and then plied from the center and outer ends of yarn. Next time, I would take both ends and then wind up a plying ball from the center-pull ball before actually plying. A plying ball is basically just two singles wound into a ball as if they were one strand of yarn under tension. Then, when you go to ply, the two singles are nicely aligned and come off the ball evenly. Because I bypassed this step, I ended up with more snarls and tangles than were entirely necessary. I plied on my wheel.

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Pretty, though, right?

I’m really happy with this little skein. It weighs just 0.6 oz (19 g) and contains about 70 yards of 2-ply, fingering-to-sport weight yarn. If this had been a full 4 oz of silk instead of leftovers from my alpaca carding experiment, I would’ve ended up with about 465 yards of yarn. Now (perhaps predictably) I wish I had more silk!

Here are some links to YouTube videos you can watch if you’d like to see Russian support spindling in action:

  • Video 1 (1:28 min) by soozagee – No narration, clear view of drafting technique and shows winding a temporary cop. I’m still in the ‘park and draft’ stage where my spindle is not actively spinning while I pinch and draft out fiber.
  • Video 2 (9:28 min) by Beth Smith – Narration, but not a very close up view of what’s happening with the spindle. Good descriptions of different fiber preps to use with support spindling and how to start the spindle..
  • Video 3 (6:55 min) by Fleegle – No narration, demonstrates how to begin spinning on the spindle, has some slow motion sequences. Good view of the tip of the spindle. Shows a temporary cop and how to wind it off by butterflying.
  • Video 4 (10:12 min) by Lisa Chan – Narration! Yay! This video helped me the most when I was first trying to make sense of what the heck was going on. She clearly describes starting the leader, spinning from the fold, managing twist, and progressing through park and draft. If you’re just starting out, I’d start here.

I hope those resources are helpful! I’d add two tips to the information in the videos: 1) preparation is really important for smooth drafting when twist is added so quickly. I recommend spinning from the fold (with most spindles, really) or carding some rolags, and 2) the angle at which you hold the yarn in relation to the tip of the spindle will affect what is happening. If you are holding the yarn at a 90 degree angle (perpendicular) to the spindle shaft, when you spin the spindle you will be winding the yarn onto the shaft (or off, depending on direction). If you are holding the yarn at a 30 or 45 degree angle to the shaft, you will be adding twist to your yarn when you flick your spindle (which is what you want). If you are holding the yarn nearly directly above the spindle tip (parallel, or a 0 – 5 degree angle) you will most likely just be pulling your wound yarn off the top of your spindle (which is not productive, so stop it). Angle matters, and it will take a little practice to find your sweet spot.

That’s enough babbling from me today, I think. What are your favorite spinning technique resources?

IS #73: Spindle-Spun

It felt good to confess my stalking of spindles to you all last week. Some of you affirmed my spindle infatuation with stories of your own collections, others expressed wonderment and curiosity about all the different types you’ve never thought of before. It made me feel a little less ridiculous for my spindle coveting… just in time for this beauty to arrive!

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Our new friend.

This little lovely is a birdseye maple Russian spindle from TexasJeans. It is long (12″) and lightweight (0.9 oz, 27 g) and is a quick little spinner. I was surprised at how fast and short its spin was, and how much it differed from my heavier Tibetan. My fingers quickly got the hang of it, however, and I spent an enjoyable Friday night spinning up some silk from The Wacky Windmill and watching Once Upon A Time.

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Mmmmmmm, silk.

The key to supported spindling (in my opinion) is spinning from carded rolags. Whatever fiber you’re working with, it will spin up much more smoothly and evenly if you card it first. This means your yarns will likely all be woolen or semi-woolen, depending on how you draft. Also keep in mind that I’m a newbie and generally winging it when it comes to spinning supported, so there could be better ways to do things. In light of that, for inspiration this week I decided to seek out gorgeous handspun yarns on Ravery that had been spun on supported spindles. Prepare to be amazed!

Photo copyright ArcticWoolies.

Photo copyright MaryBear.

 

Photo copyright LillyVoigt.

Photo copyright NotNotKnitting.

Photo copyright RoeOfPurls.

Ok, things I’ve learned from this exercise: spinners do a less-than-stellar job of documenting their spins on Ravelry! I checked every handspun page of every spinner in the Spindlemania group that I KNOW has some gorgeous support spindles… and nada. Nothing. No projects on the support spindles and barely any handspun posted at all! So I just ganked most of these photos from the Thick Or Thin Challenge thread in the Spindle Candy group. I was hoping to show off some finished yarns but these are cool, too!

What’s been inspiring you lately? Share with us or link you own blog post in the comments!

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Spindle Stalker

I’ve become a stalker of spindles. I don’t know how this happened. For so long, I was perfectly content with the two that I had: a Golding beginner spindle and a Kundert that I used for my spinner’s study. I thought two must surely be enough and secretly scoffed at people who had entire bouquets of spindles in their possession.  What could they possibly need all those for, I thought***?

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Kundert and Golding, circa 2012.

Then, at Rhinebeck 2012, I met a lady at a function who was happily spinning away on an itty bitty spindle while we spoke. Just spinning the whole time, like it was no big deal, because her spindle was hardly bigger than a pencil and surprisingly unobtrusive. The next day I purchased a tiny Golding tsunami spindle of my very own.

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Golding tsunami

That’s when it really hit home: all spindles are not created equal. There is a world of difference between my 3″, 52 gram (1.86 oz)  Golding beginner spindle and my 2″, 14 gram (0.5 oz) Golding tsunami. Size, weight, wood density, whorl shape — all of these things affect the speed and length of the spindle’s spin and the weight and thickness of the spun yarn. Larger whorls with more weight around the rim, will have a longer spin. Smaller whorls or spindles with weight concentrated near the shaft, will have a faster spin. Faster spin means finer yarn. Also, lighter weight drop spindles can spin finer yarns than heavier weight drop spindles, which will break a yarn that is too thin.

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TexasJeans Tibetan, spinning angora

This brings us to supported spindles, which essentially have all of their weight concentrated at the shaft. This means they have a very short but very fast spin and are well-suited for fine fibers that need a lot of twist, especially since they are spun with their tips resting on a surface rather than suspended, so the weight of the spindle will not break the yarn. The Woodland Woodworking website has one of the best and most concise descriptions of the different kinds of support spindles that I have found. I currently own a Tibetan style spindle from TexasJeans on Etsy, and may have just ordered a Russian style to compare the two for myself.

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Jenkins Aegean, with my current spin-in-progress

About 6 months ago, I became curious about spinning on a Turkish style (bottom whorl) spindle. I really liked how neatly one could wind the cop and how the center pull ball formation eliminated the need to wind the yarn off the spindle before plying (one less step). I did some research and deduced that Jenkins Turkish spindles were among the best-of-the-best and the Fiasco kindly gave me a tiny Aegean for Valentine’s Day. I’m extremely glad he requested one when he did because 1) I love spinning with it and 2) Jenkins spindles are getting quite difficult to find! While I love my Aegean, it is tiny and lightweight (19 g) so it tends to spin a very fine yarn. I would like to obtain a larger Turkish spindle for spinning thicker yarns and for plying, as well.

And thus the stalking has begun. I’ve discovered many talented spindle-makers through the Spindle Candy and Spindlemania boards on Ravelry and now have a rather lengthy spindle wishlist, including:

Photo copyright Woodland Woodworking. Tried and failed to score one of these beauties last weekend…

Those groups are dangerous to your spindle sensibilities. I now have opinions about what types of woods I like (birdseye maple! purpleheart! holly!) and what weight of spindle I would like to obtain to fill in the gaps in my collection. The members of those Rav groups are a wealth of knowledge and of temptation… peruse at your own risk! Do you spin on spindles? Do you use just one, or many?

***Boy, was I ever wrong.

P.S. If you’ve been waiting, I’ve just updated Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe with 7 tasty lip balm flavors: toasted coconut, passionfruit rose, lemon lime, strawberry vanilla, chocolate cake, lavender EO, and spearmint EO!

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Tasty, tasty flavors!