I am all about spinning at the moment. Just over 3 weeks ago, on February 12, I decided to pick up my spindle again. This wasn’t the first time I’ve tried to learn to spin, but this time, I was serious. (To be fair, I was serious last time, but had to stop due to tennis elbow.) I grabbed my Corriedale* fiber and my top whorl spindle, and sat down to practice park and draft. I was very pleased to see that not having spun for quite a few months didn’t seem to have caused me to regress.
A few days later, I decided to move from park and draft to suspended spinning, and well, the results weren’t pretty. My nice, even spinning became all lumpy and bumpy in a flash. My biggest problem seemed to be that I wasn’t able to draft out quickly enough to keep up with the twist rushing upward from the spindle. When I couldn’t draft, I ended up with a ton of twist in the fiber supply, and when I did manage to draft quickly, I drafted out way too much fiber, and got fat slubs in my yarn. And sometimes, I drafted out so furiously that I separated the fiber from the newly formed yarn, sending my spindle to the floor. It was a fast, frantic process, nothing like the relaxing experience spinners praise. Something was clearly off.
My big spinning breakthroughs came while I was attending Stitches West, which began February 19th. Seeing people spin in person, and even getting instruction, helped me tremendously. I remember walking into one vendor’s booth to find her spinning on a spindle, seemingly effortlessly. I noticed her gently rolling the spindle along her thigh before calmly drafting out small amounts of fiber, keeping control of the process at all times.
The difference between how this spinner worked with her spindle, and how I struggled against mine, made a huge impression on me. It dawned on me that the answer wasn’t to draft at the speed of the light immediately after releasing the spindle, which is what I’d been attempting to do. Rather, the solution was to take a deep breath and slow everything down. My spindle only moves as quickly as I allow it to, and nowhere is it written that I must have my spindle going at top speed. I now set my spindle spinning with a bit less oomph and draft at a speed that makes me comfortable. More than anything, I remind myself to just relax and enjoy the process. When everything is working, spinning with my spindles is such a joy. Everything flows so easily. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that it’s actually working and that the spindle isn’t going to crash to the floor. I’m having to learn to trust myself and my instincts, and not get anxious while I’m spinning, because most of the time, I’m doing just fine.
In addition to learning how to improve my spinning while I was at Stitches, I also got some new material with which to practice. When I was at Stitches last year, I was dazzled by the colors in the fiber and yarn dyed by Greenwood Fiberworks, and impressed by how especially friendly the proprietress, Carolyn, was. However, I bought very little yarn at Stitches last year and didn’t get anything from her booth. This year, I knew that I was going to have to make a purchase. Once again, Carolyn’s booth was a stunning palace of color, and she couldn’t have been any nicer. I ended up purchasing several little pig tails, half ounce mini braids of a variety of fibers. I also purchased a brand new spindle, a little Greensleeves Bare Bonesie. The Corriedale I’d been practicing with was fine, but this fiber was divine. Oh, what a difference loving your fiber makes! I’d never spun Merino**, Polwarth, or BFL ( short for Bluefaced Leicester) before, and I enjoyed beginning to understand their differences.
I spun the BFL and Polwarth simultaneously, followed by the Merino. I’m extremely happy with how much my spinning improved while I was working with the Merino. I am hoping that I’ll see further improvement in my current spinning project, my most ambitious undertaking yet:
This is a full 4 ounce braid of Greenwood Fiberworks BFL in the Tiger Lily colorway, the big sister of the pig tail I’ve already spun. So far, I am really enjoying spinning it up. I divided the braid in half width-wise before beginning, which gives me a lot of options as to how to proceed. I got the idea to divide the fiber this way from the pseudo fractal spinning tutorial on the Samurai Knitter blog. I was planning to do a 2 ply and aim for maximum barber poling, but now I’m having second thoughts. Do I really want to disrupt these lovely color transitions? I’m now thinking that I may want to spin right on through the second half of the fiber and then chain ply my singles. That would leave the colors intact and also give me a nice, round yarn. However, chain plying will reduce my yardage, which I’m not sure I want to do. On the other hand, it would also give me a slightly heavier weight yarn, which has its advantages. A third option would be to do a true 3 ply rather than a chain ply. Hmm. I have a long, long time to think about how I want to ply as I spin my singles. No matter what I choose, I know it will be beautiful. If you have any suggestions for how I should ply this, please let me know in the comments.
*Fun fact: I just learned that the breeds of sheep are always capitalized.
**I cannot find a good website with information on Merino sheep and their wool. The ones that I’m finding are from companies selling Merino, and I believe that many of the magical properties of Merino that they discuss apply to many other types of wool, as well. If I’m able to find the type of webpage I’m seeking, I’ll add a link to it.
3/8/15: Edited to add a link to some Corriedale info.