2016-08-08 15.09.08

Yosemite Colourway: Managing Colours

After my self-proclaimed success pleasant experience with the Lupine Forest colourway, I decided that I needed to stretch myself right out of my comfort zone: colourwise. So when I visited the Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners Guild annual Spin-In a few weekends ago, (where there are VENDORS so you can BUY FIBRE) I came away with four additional colourways from my newly discovered local dyer Kinfolk Yarn and Fibre. One of them was Yosemite (on Organic Polwarth), fraught with primary colours and all the secondary colours but purple. Take note of that.

Here it is on display just hours after I bought it. I met my husband for lunch and simply couldn’t leave it in the car. I had to look at it and start studying it because it scared me. Okay, scared is too strong a word, but was not sure how to work with it. What scared me about it? All the strong contrasting colours. What would they look like plied against each other. Would it be a muted yarn with all the intensity of the colours washed out from the balancing that comes from putting complementary colours next to each other?

2016-07-30 12.10.52

When I approach spinning these lovely dyed braids, I pull them apart and try to line them up so I can see the colours and the colour repeats. Given this, see below, I initially thought about making a 4-ply yarn. There are eight repeats that could work. But I don’t have a lazy kate that holds 4 bobbins (weak excuse I know).  Seriously, I wanted the colours to be strong so the singles needed to be thicker than I normally spin. If I made a 4-ply yarn I’d have a bulky yarn and that wasn’t what I wanted, at this point anyway.

2016-08-07 07.07.46

I decided to make a 3-ply yarn and spin the singles a bit thicker than I normally do. That way the colour intensity would prevail. I divided the roving in three equal lengths. I further divided those rovings into 2 parts, 4 parts, and 8 parts – width wise, as seen in the wee balls below ready for spinning.

2016-08-07 07.38.46

I first spun the balls of four onto bobbin one, and then spun another bobbin with the balls of eight sections. After further reflection I decided that wanted the yarn to be a “wildly dancing fractal yarn” so I needed to further divide it. Thus the bobbin that was to have a roving split only into two sections was divided into 16. Yes, 16. That was challenging, but it promised no long lengths of any one colour.

2016-08-07 14.21.51

This yarn was spun and plied all in the same day. Not because that is the best approach, but because I was impatient to see the result. And here it is. The mini-skein to the right is what was left of the two of the bobbins (the four and the eight).

2016-08-08 15.08.50

I love this yarn. I love the way all the colours come out and are fully present. I didn’t spin it fine, so optical mixing doesn’t have as great a chance to occur, With the thicker singles, the colour is strong. Even though I love it, I am also cautious, because I have had experience with yarn that I loved in the skein and hated once knitted and vice versa.

For now I admire it and make plans for it. A cowl, a pair of mitts and a hat? A scarf? Or another lovely skein that I pet and admire.

2016-07-18 11.53.10

In Defense of Default Yarn

Default yarn has been getting a bad rap these days. When people talk or write about it, there is often a disparaging tone. I’m guilty of this. In the promotion for my class, Be the Boss of Your Yarn, I ask people if they are tired of making default yarn, and further imply that making default yarn is part of being in a rut.

I’m writing today to redeem default yarn. So let’s start by taking a closer look at what default yarn is.

Default yarn is the yarn that we make by routine. It is the yarn we make when we sit down at our wheel and simply spin. Making this yarn brings us to our spinning zone, relaxes us and gives us great pleasure.

When we make default yarn, we are often using one or more of the following:

    • our favourite fibres and fibre preparations,
    • our most preferred whorl or spindle,
    • treadling rhythms that feel the best,
    • and/or the drafting techniques we are most comfortable with.

2015-09-04 13.12.37It is important to note that default yarn is different for everyone. I know this because of all the spinners I work with in the classes I teach.

For me, it is the yarn I make when I am approaching a new fibre or fibre prep. I simply want to see what it does. So default yarn in many ways is my baseline. My default yarn is a two-ply yarn, usually spun using my largest whorl (6:1), the short forward draw, treadling about twice per draft, with a very gentle uptake. After a minute or two, I let it twist back on itself to see if I’m liking the twist angle and the thickness of the yarn. And from there I start tinkering. From the look of this wee sample, I may change whorls, increase the uptake, change my drafting technique, draft more or fewer fibres, or abandon the project altogether.

When I made the yarn for the Lupin Forest mittens, I was thinking mostly about colour and how to get the most out of it. For that project, I spun my standard default yarn. For the next project that came from that experiment, I changed my drafting technique and came up with a different kind of yarn. (The blog post for this project is on its way.)

Default yarn gets a bad rap when that is the only yarn you know how or are willing to make. So I’ve developed a way to draw attention to this and to help spinners come up with strategies to make different yarn.

In my class, Be the Boss of Your Yarn, we start the day out by making our two-ply default yarn using two colours so we can more clearly see the yarn. Then we make four samples of two-ply yarn using the same two colours, first with high twist singles and high twist plying. Then, high twist singles with low twist plying. The third sample is low twist singles with high twist plying, and the final one is low twist singles with low twist plying. These are all exaggerations, but from this exercise, we can start to better understand some of the elements of our default yarn. From knowing where we start, we are in a position to know much better what it is we need to change to get away from the default.

2016-06-20 11.30.29Here is what the sample cards from the first exercise look like. We lay them all out and chat about what we are seeing in our yarn and in other yarns. It is an ah-ha! moment for many students as they for the first time, start to understand what they are doing to make default yarn. Knowledge is power.

So don’t despair or worry about your default yarn. Embrace it. But also, try to understand it so you can do it more intentionally. And when you want to make a different yarn, you are in a better position to know which elements you need to alter.

Happy spinning.

2016-05-04 19.12.51

Lupine Forest – playing with a colourway

Ever since my stint at Olds College teaching a class called Wild About Colour, I’ve been obsessed with dyed rovings. I spent a great deal of time developing this class and want to deliver it again and again and again. I also want to make it longer, maybe two days. . . . there’s so much to do and learn and discover when you open the box of colour. So I’ve been thinking about it and colour a lot lately.

One (delightful) challenge in planning and organizing my classes is finding good quality, reliable sources for my materials. And to continue my 100-mile wear sentiment, I want to support local artisans – so I went looking for them.

At Fibres West 2016, I was drawn to the Kinfolk Yarn and Fibre booth. I was teaching a full schedule and didn’t really have time shop. Makes some of us wonder why we choose to teach. I loved her colours and from the way she presented her work I knew she was an artist at heart. If you want to challenge this, please do. That will be an excellent blog post for me to articulate in writing.

So, earlier this month, we met up and talked fibre, colours, and supply for workshops. I came away from that meeting with four colourways to play with and excitement about working with a new dyer. As much as I am a visual person, I am also inspired by language, so often the title of a colourway will get me thinking. . . Lupine Forest.  Sometimes the name of a colourway will irritate me, but in this case, it truly inspired me because for the first time, I have lupines in my garden.

This is the story of Lupine Forest.

Here is what the braid looked like when it was all rolled up.

2016-07-15 07.14.16

I pulled it apart to see how (and if) the colours repeat and to get a sense of the entire roving. Lovely, lovely stuff. Lots of purple and green with the occasional section of brown. I couldn’t wait to play with it.

2016-07-15 07.16.38

I wanted the knitted fabric to look like lupines. You know those flowers? In the wild they are mostly purple and have long stems with symmetrical repeats of blossoms along the stems. A perfect candidate for the barber-polling that some spinners dread, and go to great lengths to avoid.

2016-05-04 19.12.51

So I pulled off a length of it, ended up being a third of the roving, split that in six sections and spun that up. Here it is. A mere 44 grams.

2016-07-16 15.02.42I wanted to have a barber-polling effect, to replicate the look of lupines, so I chose a green BFL that I had in my stash. It was far too bright and consistent, so I blended it on my hand carders with two other greens that more accurately reflect the colours of the forest, and made several of the rolags you see below. The bright green that I wanted to play down is the green at the very bottom. Plied with the purples, it would look like lupines; with brown it would look like forest with underbrush; with the greens, it would simply add depth. That was my thinking.2016-07-17 11.52.32

That gave me these two bobbins that I plied into a soft-two ply yarn.

2016-07-17 16.42.54

That you see here. A 75 gram skein. A decent amount for a wee project.

2016-07-18 11.53.10

This is a perfect example, for me anyways, of a yarn that disappointed. I thought I had gone too far with the greens and washed away all the purple. What’s the use? The lupines were all lost in the sea of green. But. . . never completely judge your yarn/result until you knit it up.

Knit up into a quick half-mitt (Simple Lines) project, you can see that the purple of the lupines was maintained. The forest is there with the greens throughout and the occasional browns of the trunks of trees. (This photo doesn’t truly show the colours, they are much warmer.)

2016-07-22 16.36.02

I have another two-thirds of this braid that I have other plans for. I want to spin a yarn so the purple really “pops” so that will mean spinning a thick/thin yarn. Let’s see how that works out.

In the meantime, I want to thank Kyla for this lovely braid of fibre. It was so beautifully dyed, no felting or crunchy parts, no dye residue when I washed the yarn. Lovely and soft for a pair of hands wanting warmth in the coming months.

2016-05-28 10.10.19

Have spindle, will indeed travel

I love my Turkish spindles. I love their look, their weight and the fact that they slow me down. I love the way they come apart and can be stored easily. What I didn’t like for a long time was the fact that once I got started with one, I was stuck with the shape. This made transporting it to and from work a bit tricky.

Until I spied a very interesting thing on Instagram one day. A fellow Turkish spindler posted a photo of heading to the beach with her spindle and other stuff all in a bag. What was missing from the spindle was the shaft. How is this possible?

And then another Turkish spindler, when we were discussing winding on techniques, mentioned that she removes the shaft and flips her turtle, so she can wind on, building the turtle from both sides. I haven’t quite figured that trick out yet, but what intrigued me again was this idea of removing the shaft and being able to put it back in.

I tried removing the shaft. Duh. Nothing terrible happened. All the singles stayed in place and I was able to easily put it back. Now it is easy to travel with my Turkish spindles. The photo essay below shows how. Spindle with several grams of spun singles:

2016-05-28 10.10.07

Shaft removed and turtle with arms in tact, stored safely in the carry bag along with the shaft:2016-05-28 10.07.29

Carry bag zipped up and ready for transport. Nice, neat and small package. Fits easily in my purse:

2016-05-28 10.08.22

When I want to spin again, I take my turtle out of the bag. Here’s the nice hole in which the shaft easily returns. It’s a serious no-brainer:

2016-05-28 10.10.40

And here it is with the shaft back in place, ready to spin again:

2016-05-28 10.10.19

Now I take it with me where ever I go.

The stuff we learn from each other is so helpful.

2016-03-19 17.01.47

Be the Boss of your Yarn*

*In 2011 I attended a 3-day spinning workshop “Spinning with a Purpose” with Abby Franquemont at the Taos Wool Festival in Taos, New Mexico. Written on the whiteboard as a welcome was the workshop title along with the message, aka “Being the Boss of your Yarn”. I give full credit to Abby for this variation of her title. This is not an imitation or repetition of the workshop she offered. Hers was much more in-depth and moved along with our learning needs. Mine is more directed – is all about learning a set of skills and strategies that put you in charge of the yarn you want to make, rather than making the same default yarn over and over and over again.

Be the Boss of your Yarn is the final full-day class I’ll be teaching at Olds College this coming June. Here’s what I have in store:

This workshop is all about busting through “default-yarn” – that yarn you make over and over again despite attempts to do it differently. In this workshop you will learn techniques that will expand your yarn repertoire. You will experiment with and learn about the effect of twist on your singles and your plied yarns. You will also learn about yarn structure by making samples of soft singles, 2-ply, chained (Navajo ply), and cabled yarns. You will learn strategies for making the yarn you want. At the end of the day, YOU will be the boss of your yarn.

I’ve taught this class a few times already and it is a blast. What is the most fun is seeing the excitement and sometimes awe as people realize some fundamental elements they can change to alter the look (and function) of the yarn they are making. Some of us, when we learn to spin, develop a fear of too much twist, like it is a bad thing. Too much twist will make your yarn hard and other silly things. Well, that is true, however the margin of what is too much twist is much wider than you can imagine. And in the first part of this class, we set out to explore this.

We make a series of two-ply yarn samples, first putting a lot of twist into the singles and then alternatively, plying with a lot of twist and then in another sample, plying with as little twist as we can get away with. In the next series of two-ply yarn we make singles using as little twist as possible and then plying with a lot of twist and another sample plying with very little twist. Then we look at the yarn, and feel the yarn. We measure the angle of twist. The idea is to push the element of twist to both extremes so we can see what too much and too little twist looks and feels like.

2016-03-19 17.01.47

Then we do a bunch of other things in the afternoon, building on this knowledge and new found comfort with varying amounts of twist.

This photo is what was left over after everyone left the class at Fibres West 2016. Scraps of yarn that didn’t make it to the sample cards and other bits from various experiments. I’m looking forward to doing this again.

I hope to see you there.

 

2016-05-22 08.58.01

Twist and Draft: worsted to woolen and everything in between

The third class I’ll be doing at Olds College during Fibre Week 2016 is Twist and Draft. The subtitle is “worsted to woolen and everything in between.”

Here’s an excerpt from the description:

Explore and experiment with a variety of drafting techniques from worsted to woolen. Learn when and why, and most importantly, how to use these different drafting and spinning techniques, from short forward draw (worsted) through to the long draw (woolen). You will also get some tips on fibre preparation to help you get the yarn you want for your project.

Expand your spinning repertoire so you have more choices in making the yarn you want, from strong, fine yarn for socks through to lofty, soft yarn for hats and sweaters. You’ll come away from this class knowing how to answer the worsted vs woolen question with confidence.

I have the teaching plan all sorted out and now I’m working on assembling the right materials to support the exercises. I have carded rovings of local Clun Forest and Suffolk to use as we start playing with the drafting techniques that are used when making woolen type yarn.

For the worsted portion I have combed top in BFL and Merino. I also have some Romney lamb locks, and Merino locks that we will comb as part of learning the fibre prep for worsted yarn. I wanted another wool to sample with and decided to use some California Variegated Mutuant (CVM) that I purchased at the Fleece sale back in October. It’s a beautiful colour and I have a lot of it.

To check it out, I combed up 16 grams of the fibre. What you see below are the results. Nine grams of combed top, simply beautiful and soft. What’s in the scale is the waste, or the stuff that is left over after combing. I usually make felted balls with it. But what if this was the only fleece you had to make all the knitted items for your family? If that was the case, you’d think differently about calling this waste.

2016-05-21 17.30.09

I decided to make yarn with it. I carded it into rovings on my Ashford carders. It was pretty messy stuff. Lots of short bits, some VM, and fibres of all lengths. No less, I soldiered on and got it done. After spinning the combed top, using a short forward draw. I changed bobbins and spun these rolags with a supported long-draw letting the twist get into the fibre and pulling back. I plied it the next morning using a centre pull ball. As I plied I pinched the bumpy parts so smooth them out a bit and try to make the yarn more even.

2016-05-21 18.55.44

Here are the two finished skeins before they were washed. On the left is the worsted: combed top, long staple length, spun with short forward draw. On the right is the woolen: hand carded, short fibres, supported long-draw. On the side is the true waste, doesn’t even weigh half a gram.

2016-05-22 08.08.31

I washed the skeins in hot soapy water and rinsed them in hot water. For the woolen skein I did two rinses, one in hot water for a few minutes, and then into ice cold water for a few minutes. While in this water I roughed it up and then back into the hot water. I finished it in the cold water. I squeezed water out of both and gave both some good thwacks on the side of the tub. Then I rolled them in an old towel and took them outside for their photo shoot.

2016-05-22 08.58.01

One of the things people don’t like about combing as a fibre preparation is the amount of waste. But if you decide to use the waste to make a different kind of yarn, you may just feel differently about it. I love the look of both of they yarns can’t wait to knit them up into wristlets.

2016-05-20 06.23.17

Spindling 1.0 at Olds College Fibre Week 2016

The second full-day workshop that I’ll be teaching is Spindling 1.0.

Here’s the description:

In this workshop, you will learn basic spinning techniques for suspended spinning. These techniques will allow you to further explore making a variety of yarns with these noble tools. This class is for absolute beginning spinners, or for those who know how to spin with a wheel, but don’t know how to do it with a spindle.

In this introduction to the spindle as a tool for making yarn, you will also earn about the properties of wool as a protein fibre for making yarn. You will learn how to draft fibre, put twist into it, ply and set the yarn– everything you need to get you started on your yarn making journey.

I’ve taught this class several times. Sometimes it is a 3-hour class, sometimes 4-hours. Having a full 6-hour class is a true luxury and I feel blessed as an instructor and happy for the students. It gives us the chance to explore things just that wee bit deeper. To ask more questions, to play a bit more.

For a long time I’ve had a wonderful spindle maker create amazing spindles for my classes. These are top whorl spindles made by Dave Smith of Houndesign. Dave is now following another passion: music and leaving wood turning behind. Here’s a glimpse of these lovely tools.

Haida Gwaii May 11-14 007 Haida Gwaii May 11-14 008

As a spindle instructor, one of the biggest frustrations is the tools people bring to the class. People who don’t yet know how to spin, especially spindle spin, often don’t know how to select the right kind of spindle. They often come to my class with really heavy, bottom whorl spindles, and then are frustrated that they can’t spin on it. Having good spindles on hand was key and was a big reason for spindling success.

So now I have to do this differently. I don’t have a spindle maker and frankly getting out of the spindle purchase and re-sale thing is fine with me. It is one level of detail I don’t need at this time. What I’ve decided to do is to have a class set of spindles that are good quality spindles. If someone shows up to my class with a strangely balanced or heavy one, I can offer one of mine on loan.

The spindles that I’ve played around with and have fallen in love with are TurtleMade spindles from Jen Kemery. They are gorgeous. Available in 26 colours it is difficult to choose just one. They are affordable ($20 Canadian plus shipping) and they work beautifully. I now own a class fleet. Everyone can try it out. They can learn spindling and can also learn how to work with a Turkish spindle at the same time. If they love these and want their own, they can order one from Jen. Win-win-win. Here’s a shot of the fleet. Aren’t they lovely?

2016-05-20 06.23.17

And a couple of close-ups so you can really see them. They are made on a 3-D printer and weigh between 34 – 36 grams. I think this is a perfect weight for an all-purpose spindle. You can spin fine singles on these and you can spin thicker singles too. If you drop them, and who doesn’t at any given time in the spindling process, you don’t have to worry about them chipping or cracking.2016-03-22 18.42.39

2016-03-11 17.35.16

On the weekend we had three of these spindles being featured at the Surrey Museum Sheep-to-Shawl, for our demos. Kids gathered around these spindles and wanted to try them out. They were drawn to the colours and the fibres. The process of teaching the kids a bit about spindling was doable because we weren’t worried about breaking a $20 polymer spindle. Happy to report that not a single one was broken or damaged in any way, despite being dropped several times.

Looking forward to featuring these at Olds College. Hope to see you there.

2016-04-23 08.24.29

Wild about Colour: finally there!

I am going to be teaching 4 full-day workshops at Olds College in Olds, Alberta this year during Fibre Week 2016. As you can imagine, I am over the moon to have been asked, to have my proposals accepted and then to have the classes get sufficient enrollment that they are a go!

The first one up is called Wild About Colour. Here is the short description for it:

This workshop is all about making sense of those wonderful hand painted braids we are seeing everywhere. Learn how to make a series of decisions that will help you get the yarn and effect you want from the colours in your painted braids. In this full-day workshop you will learn some basic and advanced techniques for working with hand painted top. Colour theory will be discussed and practically applied throughout the day.

We will start with basic 2-ply techniques and move into the wondrous world of fractal spinning. After making several fractal samples, we will work on combination drafting and also learn how to make ombre yarn. Skills such as hand carding and Navajo plying will be learned along the way. At the end of this workshop you will be wild about colour and never again hesitant about working with hand painted top.

This is a newly developed class, and though I’ve been thinking about it for years, I haven’t actually had the chance to make it a reality, until now.

For the last while I’ve been puzzling over how to get the most learning out of a 6-hour class. How many exercises can people complete in that time? What number of exercises and which ones will help people understand the fundamental principles of working with hand painted braids and then be able to apply them in other situations?

What’s the best way to teach colour theory, so we don’t get bogged down in it or confused by it, but inspired? These and several other questions have kept me up at night. In the last couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with the workshop plan. I’ve put myself through this class three times already, as each time I tinker with the exercises, the fibre and the flow of the day.

There’s no spoiler alert necessary here, because I have decided that I am not going to tell you my plan, until after the workshop. I want the 12 participants to be the first to see what’s up and how things are going to roll out. All I will say is that there will be seven different lovely coloured superwash BFL colourways from Sweet Georgia Yarns, and 14 different colours of Corriedale top from Fibres Plus that folks will be playing with.

The photos below are some of the shots of my planning and organizing for the class. More about the other classes in future posts.

2016-04-24 16.36.32

2016-04-23 08.24.29

2016-04-23 08.24.502016-04-23 08.25.24

 

2016-04-17 17.04.34

Meet the wristlet: a practical way to swatch

While not a huge fan of the swatching process, I do swatch. In my own way. See below for proof of my swatching for Glenfiddich Cardigan. The idea behind swatching is to see how the yarn behaves; what it looks and feels like knitted up and to check for gauge. Frankly, when I want to jump into a new project, the last thing I want to do make a swatch. But in some instances, like when you want to make a sweater that will fit you, it is a good idea.

11887269_1494248024234524_1616237018_n_small_best_fit

Another aspect of making a swatch is to see what the yarn in the swatch fabric will do when washed and put through the paces. Some recommend carrying it around in your back pocket. But what kind of abrasion do you get from something comfortably enveloped in two layers of denim?

A couple of weeks ago I was out of town and I had my spindle with me. I have a collection wristlets that I knit up using scrap yarn to use as distaffs, or bracelets to hold the fibre. I didn’t have one with me, so I quickly knit one up using some of the leftover yarn from the second turtle I wound on the plane. That’s the multi-coloured one at the bottom.

2016-04-21 17.51.27 2

It’s a pretty thing and I enjoyed wearing it and using it to hold my fibre while I spindled. It was so lovely I kept wearing it long after I finished spinning. After having it on for the entire day, I noticed that this wee wristlet was getting some wear and tear. And then it occurred to me that this may be a better way to see how a yarn/fabric behaves. It certainly was put through the paces of being stretched as I pushed it up my arm to avoid getting wet, or if I forgot, it got wet, it was rubbed against things, and generally treated as any cuff would.

2016-04-22 07.03.24So with the next fibre I sampled, Clun Forest from my neighbour up the road, I made a skein, washed it, and knit it into a wristlet. I wore it around for the day to get a sense of what that wool/fibre/fabric would feel like knit up into a sweater.

2016-04-17 17.04.34

The wristlet is on top, the unwashed swatch is on the bottom. The wristlet gave me much more information about the yarn than this swatch does. So, new discovery for me. It’s a beautiful and functional. My good friend Rachel confirmed this belief in her latest blog post.

A wristlet is a practical way to swatch. It gives information about the yarn, about the size of needle to use, and most importantly, gives me a chance to really check for wear and tear.

2016-04-22 07.03.55

Honey, why do you have so many spindles?

. . . My darling husband asked the other day, when four large Capar spindles from Natural Knot Wood Designs arrived in the mail. (Four had arrived the week before from TurtleMade, and four medium Capar spindles two weeks before. And there were even more that he didn’t even know about. . . but this isn’t an AA meeting.)

I have to admit, it is an honest question. A dangerous question, but an honest one.

There are three reasons why I have so many a wide assortment of spindles.

1. For teaching

I need an assortment of styles and sizes for my spindling instruction. I teach people how to make yarn with a spindle: I work with absolute beginners to more advanced spindlers. People learning how to spin on a well-balanced medium-weight spindle (30 – 40 grams) have a greater chance of success and limited frustration in the learning process when they are working with a good piece of equipment. So I have several top-whorl spindles (enough to cover the entire class of eight) that participants can use during the workshop if their spindle is giving them grief.

There are also people wanting to learn how to stretch their skills like learning how to spin cotton or short stapled fibres like cashmere. They want to move beyond the suspended (drop) spindle and move to supported spindles. They may simply want to try it out before they decide to jump in and buy one. For this, I have two Tahkli spindles, three Houndesign Little Twisters, three Russian Spindles, two antique supported spindles – stick and clay whorl – from Guatemala, and a Navajo spindle made by Houndesign. From left to right are the Little Twister from Houndesign; Tahkli; and the two antique spindles from Guatemala.

2016-04-22 06.57.17

They may also want to learn how to work with a Turkish spindle. As a suspended spindle, it is similar to the others in the drafting and spinning process. Where it differs and people may want tips or practice, is in the starting and winding on process. So I have a fleet of Turkish spindles for them to use during the workshop. Below is one of them from TurtleMade. It is made on a 3-D printer.

2016-03-22 18.42.39

2. For making different kinds of yarn

The spinning wheels that give us the greatest variety of yarns with ease are the ones with multiple whorls and drive options. Why not so with spindles?

I have some spindles that are really light (16 grams) and have a smooth shaft, which allows me to spin off my thigh and put a LOT of twist into my yarn FAST. I also have a spindle that is heavy (50 grams) and as a Turkish spindle, it requires a flick of the fingers to get it in motion – much slower than rolling it off my thigh. Because of the weight of the spindle and the slower speed of the spin, the twist goes into the stretched out fibre slower than it does on the fast light one. I can take the exact same fibre, with the exact same fibre prep and spin on each spindle the light one and the heavy one – and I get very different yarn. In fact, I’ll do that experiment over the weekend and will prove it.

So depending on the yarn I want to make and/or the fibre I am working with, I will select my spindle accordingly. The same way that if I want to make soft singles using my Ashford Joy, I’ll set it on the largest whorl – so there are fewer revolutions per treadle and set my tension for a slightly stronger uptake. If I want to spin for socks and I’m making a three-ply sock yarn, I’ll change to my smallest whorl so I get more revolutions per treadle, and slow the uptake down so a lot of twist can get into the finely drafted singles yarn.

It’s easier to change your whorl and uptake than it is to change what your body does. Because of body or motion memory, we easily and quickly go back into the rhythm we generally use to spin – hence the phenomenon of default yarn. So using the same principle, I change my spindle to get a different result for a different kind of yarn.

The Steampunk spindle, shown below, is a terrific spindle for making singles and especially for plying. Since it is large and can fit 4 ounces (and probably more) plied yarn onto it, it has become my go-to plying spindle. No messing around with the smaller ones. This one is the King!

2016-03-27 11.29.20

3. For the simple and undeniable fact that they are beautiful tools

They are beautifully crafted, often made from exotic woods, and are delightful to look at and hold. For the most part, the ones I own are made by artisans I have had conversations with and are people I want to support in their craft. Here’s a small sampling of some of the spindles. There are a few more tucked away here and there in my studio.

2016-04-22 07.03.55

So the long and short of it is this: there are three good reasons why I collect spindles and since all fall within the parameters of my hero William Morris’ famous quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

I’m good. Really good.

PS –  I reached a point last week after ordering more spindles, that I had to stage an intervention on myself. That consisted of deleting the Etsy app from my smartphone!