Spinners love to share their tools

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My little Akerworks spindle is my favorite travel spindle. It fits into my purse easily. And because it’s made out of carbon fiber and plastic, it’s pretty hard to destroy. I’ve been carrying it around for over a year and the only damage it has sustained is a little bit of bending of the hook (the one part of the spindle made with a softer metal). Believe me, I’ve dropped this sucker dozens of times. This little guy can take a serious beating.

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Adan, don’t worry. This is an old photo. I now know that the little black thing in this photo is upside down. 

Last weekend, my husband and I attended the Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse. It’s an outdoor folk music fest that frequently brings in the likes of Claudia Schmidt and Susan Werner. I always bring a fiber project to work on, since I know I’ll be spending all day and most of the evening listening to music. Spinning is the perfect activity for this sort of event. Easy to pick up and put down.

I was surprised and delighted to find out that, this year, I was not the only spinner present. And that other spinner was also spinning on an Akerworks spindle. I quizzed her about it and, it turns out, she had seen me spinning on mine the year before and been inspired to find the company online and order one of her own.

So, naturally we spent some time yacking about our favorite spinning tools. And I came away with a new appreciation of how fiber crafting draws people together. We love to talk about our art and our favorite tools, our preferred sources of wool and the most delectable fiber blends (I’m a big fan of Polwarth and silk).

I also came away from the experience thinking, “I really liked her large spindle. And the marigold whorl. Maybe I need another one…”

We spinners enable each other too.

Going on a big trip – do I take a spindle along? My “Inside-Out” emotions have their say.

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I’m going on a big trip to Europe in the coming weeks. And I’m seriously contemplating forgoing my usual travel knitting and bringing a drop spindle instead. We’re trying to pack light a la Rick Steves, with all our luggage on our backs, so I can’t bring the bag full of projects I would normally pack as my “personal item” on the plane.

I have two choices, both long neglected. Partly because I’ve been addicted to my spinning wheels, but let’s be honest: I was also a bit intimidated. My spindle spinning has mostly been confined to heavier, beginner-friendly spindles, before I acquired a wheel. I haven’t seriously spun on a spindle in more than two years.

  • One choice is a cute little Jenkins spindle purchased at Black Sheep Gathering two years ago. And the poor little thing has been sitting neglected in my craft room ever since.
KCL Woods maple spindle.  0.84 oz

Jenkins walnut spindle 0.59 oz (17 g)

Pros:It’s very light weight and collapsible. Plus, all the photos on Instagram of Turkish spindle spinning look awesome.

Cons: I have never spun on this type of spindle before. 

  • The other choice is a cunning little KCL Woods spindle purchased for me by Mom when I first took up spinning.
KCL Woods maple drop spindle 0.84 oz.

KCL Woods maple drop spindle 0.84 oz.

Pros: It’s a top-whorl spindle, which is the only type I’ve ever spun on. It’s also light weight and it has a detachable shaft, with two extras. So it’s sort of collapsible too.

Cons: It’s going to take up more room in my luggage. Not much, but a little. And maybe it’s a bit too big for spinning on a plane. Hard to know until I try.

The Inside-Out characters in my head are saying:

Image from Pixarpost.com

  • Joy: You’ll have so much fun with your spindles. It’ll be so relaxing and you’ll meet so many new people while you spin. You know you like the attention. It will be great!
  • Sadness: What if spinning on spindles is not as much fun as you remember? Then you’ll be bored on a plane, wishing you had your knitting.
  • Fear:  What if you suck at spindle spinning? And what if you annoy the people sitting next to you in the plane. You’ve never done this before. What if you get all elbowy? They’ll throw you off the plane before you get to Philadelphia!
  • Disgust (Disdain really): Why bother packing anything project at all? You know you’re not really going to use it. It’ll just take up room in your luggage that you really should be filling with more socks and underwear.
  • Anger: You’d better bring some kind of project on the plane or I’m gonna lose it! You hear me? Lose it!

I’m on a spinning wheel. Wheeee!

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After two months of practicing on drop spindles, this weekend I had the opportunity to try my first spinning wheel.

Willie Wheelie, a very welcome guest in my home. He arrived Saturday evening. I’ve spent nearly eight of the last 24 hours learning how he ticks.

It’s a Louet S75, borrowed from a kind friend who is looking to find it a new owner.

Boy, am I a sucker.

My friend must have known that once I got my  hands on my first wheel I would fall in love. It’s like a first boy friend. A first kiss. There might be a better wheel for me out there, but after the thrill of touching this one, it’s hard to imagine feeling this way about any other wheel.

I wasn’t intending to purchase the first wheel that came along…

Practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more.

The first hour or two with Willie Wheelie were very frustrating. He didn’t want to play nice and kept jerking the yarn out of my hands. Not coy. More like a 10-year-old crush punching me on the arm and running away.

All the technique I learned using a drop spindle flew out of my head. Heck with the 10-year-old crush metaphor. It was like trying to lasso a very small weasel.

Capturing the weasel.

Eventually, I figured out how to adjust the wheel so that I could capture the weasel. Then the drop spindle technique started to come back. I was able to spin in short spurts.

The treadles gave me trouble for a while. It’s very difficult to pay attention to your feet, hands and yarn at the same time. I was continually snapping the yarn and letting the weasel off the leash. When that happened, the weasel was very hard to harness again. I ended up with a pile of discarded yarn scraps that looked like this:

Eventually I figured out that I needed to treadle backward a bit  to get to a more stable bit of the spun fiber, before attempting to treadle forward again.

I was beginning to learn its wily tricks.

After about three hours I ended up with a bobbin full of yarn that looked like this:

Not totally pretty, but definite progress. The worst parts are hidden in the center where you can’t see them.

This morning I got up at 8:30 and sat down to spin with renewed vigor. After yesterday’s practice, everything went much more smoothly. Either the weasel was tired and slow or I was smarter and faster. After two or three more hours I had a second bobbin that looked like this:

Spinning on a deadline

Why did I feel compelled to get all this spinning done right away? Other than the fact that I tend to get obsessed with pretty new toys like this?

Next weekend I’m attending a spinning party. There will be lots of more experienced spinners there. I’m going to get someone to teach me how to ply. Who knows, I might get some usable 2-ply out of this endeavor.

In Which I Take Up Spinning

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Last week I took my first spinning class. Since then I’ve spun the fiber we received in class, the one bag of  fiber I’d set aside “just in case I took to spinning,” and now I’m all out and looking for more.

My mother warned me: Once you start spinning, you won’t want to stop.

File this experience under “Things Mother Warned Me About,” along with boys, drugs and wearing thrift store clothes before you’ve washed them.

In class, the teacher gave us each a homemade spindle made of a wooden toy wheel, a dowel rod, and a hook. A nice cheap way to start. She also gave us our choice of a variety of bags of colorful wool. I chose a bag of blue-green fluff.

Initially, it was not the wool that defeated me. Nor was it the spindle itself. It was my clothing. Word to the wise: don’t try to do a rolling start off your thigh while wearing a loose cotton skirt. I was more successful in winding my skirt around the dowel rod than I was in spinning my yarn. My apologies to anyone I inadvertently flashed during the early parts of class. Eventually I gave up and spun the spindle with my fingers.

The teacher started us out with a technique called Park and Draft, which seems very beginner friendly. You pinch the yarn above the spindle hook, then set the spindle to spinning and wind up a bunch of tension in the fiber between your fingers and the hook. Then you “draft” it out by drawing the twist up into the fiber above.

The yarn I produced during class was very sorry stuff. Full of thick and thin sections and alternately over and under spun. I’m told to call this “novelty” yarn. During the next few days, I spun a little more every day. By the end of the bag of fiber, my technique had improved a bit.

My first proud, lumpy attempt.

Almost as soon as I was done spinning that first batch I started on the next batch. This time, I pre-drafted my yarn carefully, which helped the yarn come out more evenly.

When I was done I wound the yarn around the top of a chair.

A much better, although still quite bulky attempt.

Then I tried taking it off the chair and winding it into a hank. It ended up looking like this:

Sigh.

Apparently, I have an over-twisting issue. So much to learn.