Monthly Archives: May 2016

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:

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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:

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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:

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

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Now I take it with me where ever I go.

The stuff we learn from each other is so helpful.

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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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.

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