Category Archives: spindling

A tale of two turtles

So this is a continuation of the last post, where I spun 40 grams of fibre onto my Jenkins Swan. I wound the turtle in that neat and tidy way that I saw most spindlers on Instagram doing. They are lovely. 2016-03-24 15.28.03However, I discovered that when I removed the shaft and arms, the edges started to peel away. I had noticed this on several earlier occasions, but just figured that I was somehow doing something wrong in my wrapping. Not this time. I paid close attention.

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The quality of this photo is awful and I apologize for that. However, You can see the layers clearly coming apart.

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So when I spun the second 40 grams, I continued to wind “over two, under one” but didn’t try to line the fibre up in a neat way. The turtles ended up being the same size, so there goes that theory that winding it neatly allows you to get more yarn onto your spindle. (This was my theory.)

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So here they are side by side. The random wind-on is on the left. The carefully wound one is on the right.2016-03-27 08.10.21

For plying I made a two-stranded ball and to assist me in this I put the turtles into our French Onion Soup bowls. They are the perfect size and heavy. Things went well for the first half, but as the centre hole got larger, the yarn from the carefully wound turtle started coming out in clumps. I think the fibres stick to each other when they are carefully wound like that.

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Here’s an 80 gram double stranded ball that I plied using my Snyder Steampunk spindle. It’s my go-to spindle for plying. It’s heavy, fast and I can get a lot of yarn onto it.

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There’s 80 grams on this baby. Measured out at 192 yards or 177 metres.

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The moral of the story?  Carefully wound turtles, while beautiful, take longer to wind and are not solid stable balls. In the singles stage when the twist is really active, you want as much stability as you can get.

That’s my story.

A decent obsession: my Jenkins Turkish spindles

In the last year or so I’ve fallen in love with Turkish spindles. I consider myself to be a hard-core spindler and work mostly on Houndesign Henry Dervish spindles. They are beautiful tools and at 35 – 40 grams, are of a good weight to make most kinds of yarn. And, they have a slender shaft that allows me to run it up (or down) my thigh and get into really high speed spindling fast.

The Turkish spindles, while of a similar weight, are not fast. You can’t run them up or down your thigh, you have to flick them to put them into motion. So they are slower. This slowness has proven to be a good thing. The slowness coupled with the weight makes a different kind of yarn than what I was making on my Houndesign. The weight of the Jenkins stretches the fibre. The twist enters slower than it normally does, while the fibre is stretched. Once plied and washed, the fibres bounce back and the yarn is soft, lofty, and light.

Here’s my first Jenkins – 50 grams. The turtle (that’s what the cop on a Turkish spindle is called) is blended Corriedale. As I was newly into Turkish spindle spinning, I was following what the spindlers on Instagram were doing to wind their turtles. “Over two, under one” around and around lining the strands up in a neat sequence. It makes for a very pretty turtle, especially when you use multi-coloured fibre like in the second photo – but it is time consuming.

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And this is my newest Jenkins – a Swan 34 grams. After moving away from winding on in a methodical way, I decided to revisit it to see if it makes a difference. Here it is with 43 grams of fibre on it, all carefully wound.

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But look what happened when I removed the arms and shaft. The last layer of wound fibre is peeling off. Not impressed at all. What I noticed in other instances of winding on this way was that the yarn came off in layers and I didn’t like that either.

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I am going to fill this spindle with another 43 grams of fibre and wind it – still “over two, under one” but not worry about lining up the strands of yarn. More like what you see in these photos:2015-11-11 19.37.412015-11-29 08.45.09

I am thinking that the turtle will be much larger because the yarn is not neatly wound. But at least it will stay in place. We shall see.

Stay tuned.

Z is for Zombie

This year our guild, the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild, worked with the Langley Centennial Museum to plan a gallery show. The show will be in the spring 2017.

We struggled for a while to find a theme that fibre artists in our guild could get their heads and hearts around, and be inspired to create something new for the show. Taking a very linear approach, we came up with this: The A, B, C’s of Fibre Arts. The idea is that everyone will choose or be given a letter. Using that letter they will come up with something related to fibre arts to make, explain, or showcase in some way.

I took the letter “Z”. And immediately thought of knitting a zombie parade. Let me explain. I am not a particularly gruesome person, nor am I a zombie fan. I actually find them quite disturbing and photos of zombie parades quite disgusting. However, a few years ago a friend of mine showed me some photos of knitting that her young daughter did as one of her first knitting projects – it was a knitted zombie. It was the craziest looking thing. Yes it was a zombie, hands rotted off, blood dripping from the eyeball, oozing entrails and so forth. But it also looked so darling having been hand knit.  So that’s what I decided to try. I like the contrast of taking lovely, loving and heart warming crafts like spinning and knitting and making something horrifying and disgusting from them. Besides, I think the kids will really like it.

A quick search on Ravelry and I came up with this pattern by Fiona Goble. I got her book Knit your own Zombie from the library and looked over the entire suite of patterns. This was going to be some fun!

Here’s my plan: All the yarn for the zombies is going to be spindle spun in small batches. This will allow me to mix the colours just right to get the correct “flesh” and “blood” colours. To make the flesh, I started by blending white, orange, and yellow corriedale. I then added some tan alpaca that had serious noils from a bad adventure with a picker – a story for another time. Then to “deaden” the flesh look I added in some green and blue corriedale. I did the early blending on my hand carders, but then moved onto the drum carder to really mix it up and get a good volume of fibre. Here it is right of the drumcarder, ready to be spun.

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I spun it on my Jenkins Turkish spindle. It’s a 50 gram spindle and because of that weight, it stretches out the corriedale. When it’s done the yarn bounces back and gives a light, bouncy yarn. I loved the way the noils were coming through in this yarn. In the finished item, the noils could be viewed as maggots or seeping pustules. I’ll leave that up to the imagination of the viewer.

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And here it is being plied on my Snyder Steampunk spindle. It’s a great workhorse for plying.

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Newly washed and ready for knitting. This yarn did not disappoint. 2015-11-30 07.28.17

I’ve knit up the first zombie and will post photos of him/her tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Learning to spin faster

I love spinning, especially spinning on my spindles. They are beautiful tools and I take any excuse to spend time with them. I love all kinds of fibres, but especially the variety of wool we have available to us these days. It seems though there are not enough hours in a day to play with spindles, play with fibres, make yarn, and then do something with it, like knit.

I figured that I needed to start spinning faster. What would it look like if I only worked on one project from start to finish? And during that period, tried to spin as quickly and as efficiently as possible? How fast is fast? At least for me.

I work full time, Monday to Friday. So my fibre arts happen in the evenings and on weekends. On Wednesday evening I pulled out the March 2015 Sweet Georgia Yarns (SGY) fibre club installment. It was a 100g braid of 100% corriedale – the colourway is Beginner’s Luck.

Here’s the photo shoot:

This is the fibre opened up so you can see the colour way. It’s blue with several gradations of green. All the colour changes are gentle and not dramatic. I decided that I wanted the colours to blend as much as possible, so I split the entire roving in half, weighed them to make sure I’d have equal amounts, then split the fibre further into pencil rovings and started spinning.

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It took Wednesday and Thursday evening to fill spindle one. And Friday to spin spindle two.
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On Saturday morning I wound the singles from both spindles into a double stranded ball for plying. And brought out my Steampunk spindle by Scott Snyder for the job. I wanted to try to make one skein of plied yarn.

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And here is the spindle, as filled with yarn as you could get. It was getting heavy and I was in danger of running out of shaft to spin. 2015-05-16 19.49.14 2015-05-16 19.49.29

After plying I let it sit overnight and this morning wound it off into a skein.

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One nice skein – measures 241 yds or 223 metres and weighs 109 grams. A decent amount of yarn produced in three evenings, one day and a morning. All found time.2015-05-17 08.16.21 So what did I learn? Here are some things I noticed that can help me spin faster into the future:

1. Have a plan

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this yarn, how I wanted to spin it and how I wanted to play with the colourway. I wasn’t making decisions every time I picked up the fibre. The experimenting was over and I was just down to spinning.

2. Just spin

Yes, just spin. Don’t stop and admire your yarn in between each piece you complete and when you pick up another to join on. I tend to do that and it’s a time sink. Just spin, and spin, and spin.

3. Notice where you are using your time

Take note of how long things take you to do. Getting the fibre onto the wrist so it’s out of the way was taking me too much time. I had to put down the spindle, grab the new fibre, wrap it around my wrist, pick up the spindle and get started again. I figured out a seamless way to grap the new fibre and tuck it into a knitted wrist distaff without having to stop and put down the spindle. That saved a minute or less. But when you figure that you are doing that several dozens of times – it starts to add up.

I also noticed that winding on takes time. And there is the temptation to spin a long amount, but then when you wind that on, in order to keep it under tension I’d have to butterfly it until I can comfortably grab the spindle. So for me, I was more efficient to spin an amount I can comfortably manage and then wind that on.

4. Work with more than one spindle

Now here’s a rationale for having more than one spindle on hand! You can and I have on several occasions spun yarn using one spindle for the entire project. I spin singles one on the spindle and then wind it off into a neat, hard ball. Then I spin singles two using the same spindle. When that is done I wind that singles, along with the singles from the first spinning (the one that is sitting neatly in a hard ball) into a double stranded ball. It is this ball I use for plying.

Working with more than one spindle allowed me to save time winding off the singles yarn. I filled spindle one. Then I filled spindle two. I put both of them into the lazy kate and wound my double stranded ball from both spindles – it took 20 full minutes.

I am sure I will think up a few more things that made this go faster. But that’s it for now. I am going to wash the skein and will measure it again for the final total.

Have a great long weekend, and thanks for reading.

Haida Gwaii workshops 2015

Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Haida Gwaii to deliver two full-day spinning workshops. I had visited there for fibre arts teaching in 2010 and again in 2012. It is a magical place with creative, generous, big-spirited people. I can’t wait to go back again.

I landed in Sandspit and then traveled by bus/ferry to Queen Charlotte. Here’s the view from the ferry as we head south.

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A week earlier I received my new Navajo spindle from Dave, my spindle guy. I spent the week learning how to use it so I could teach the people in my spinning class how to use this amazing tool. It is quite similar to the kind of spindles their ancestors used. Two days before departure it dawned on me that I had to somehow get this on the plane. At 31″ long and 6″ in circumference, it wasn’t fitting into my large suitcase. After calling Air Canada and getting assurance that I could take it onto the plane, I set out to package it up.

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And here I am, past security waiting for the flight. I carried it to the plane and gave it to the “sky-check” guy who promised that it was going to sit at the very top of the pile, and not be crushed. And the picture below is all the equipment and materials I needed for the full-day workshops. In these bags are several pound and varieties of fibre, several top-whorl spindles bottom-whorl spindles, supported spindles and even a Turkish one. Also inside are three pairs of hand carders, wool combs, knitting needles, resources books and handouts.
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And to top it all off, here is the view from our workshop. The weather was grand – full sun and medium heat. The participants made skeins of yarn, stretched their skills and had a lot of fun. I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Thanks Haida Gwaii.

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Another workshop at Fibreswest 2015 – Drop Spindle II

And for those of you have a little more confidence with your spindles, but want to take your spinning to another level, here’s another spindling class for you. I hope to see you there.

For more information visit Fibreswest 2015.

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Drop Spindle II – Diana Twiss. Half Day, Sat. Mar. 14/15. 1:00-5:00. $65 #105

This class is for spinners who are able to make a continuous thread with a suspended spindle (also known as a drop spindle) and want to learn more. In this 4- hour class, participants will learn some techniques to make their spindling experiences much more satisfying by learning all the basics such as making a leader, drafting and winding on. We will also explore drafting techniques such as spinning from the fold, worsted and woollen and strategies for spinning difficult or challenging fibre. An assortment of ways to ply yarns (along with Navajo Plying) with a spindle and the importance of setting your yarn and how to do it will round out our day.

Material fee: $15 payable to instructor plus an additional $45 if you wish to purchase a Houndesign spindle for your class.

Skill level: must be able to make a continuous thread when spinning with a drop spindle

Equipment needed: suspended spindle, top whorl preferred. Bring a variety if you have them. If you are planning to purchase from me please indicate on your registration form.

Empty shoebox – to be used as a Lazy Kate and to hold your materials.

Workshops at Fibreswest 2015 – Spindling I

Registration for Fibreswest 2015 is now open. Check out the classes. In the following three posts, I will be highlighting some of the classes that I will be teaching there this year. Hope to see you there.

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Introduction to Spinning with Drop Spindles, Diana Twiss. Half Day, Sat.Mar.14/15, 8:30-12:30. $65 #104

In this 4-hour workshop, participants will be introduced to the basic spinning techniques for suspended spinning. These techniques will enable participants 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 not a spindle.

In this introduction to the spindles as a tool for making yarn, participants will learn about the properties of wool as a protein fibre for yarn. They will also learn drafting techniques, and how to spin, ply and set yarn.

Topics covered include: varieties of spindles – how to choose one and how they work, choosing fibre – the properties of wool and working with wool,  spinning on a spindle – park and draft technique, drafting, worsted and from the fold, winding on, making a cop and dealing with a full spindle. Plying your singles and finishing your yarn will also be covered.

Material fee: $15 payable to instructor plus an additional $45 if you wish to purchase a Houndesign spindle for your class

Skills needed: none

Equipment needed: suspended spindle, top whorl preferred. Bring a variety if you have them. If don’t have one want or wish to add to your collections, spindles will be sold at the workshop for $45 each. If you are planning to purchase from me, please indicate on your registration form.

Empty shoebox – to be sued as a Lazy Kate and to hold our materials.

Winter Thaw – Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club March 2014

The March 2014 Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club is a delicious 4 oz/100 g braid of Superwash BFL in greens, blues and browns. I spun it up on my Houndesign spindle, and plied on the spindle as well.
I divided the colour way into lengths that went from blue to brown to green. The plan was to further split them into pencil rovings and spin one spindle starting with the blue, and then fill a second spindle starting with the green. My thought was that when it was plied I would get a two-ply yarn that would have blue/green sections and full brown sections.
Didn’t quite work out as my pencil rovings were of dramatically varying thicknesses. But the finished yarn is lovely and I can’t wait to find a project for it.
Here’s what it looked like in progress.
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Taking a well deserved break. . . . .

 Two spindles full of just plied yarn waiting to be wound off on the niddy-noddy into skeins.

And here’s the freshly plied yarn – total of 310 metres, or 286 yards of fingering/sport weight. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this lovely yarn.

Introduction to Spinning with Drop Spindles: workshop

Another announcement about workshops being offered at Fibreswest 2013.  Sign up before March 8th to make sure you can get a spot.

Introduction to Spinning with Drop Spindles, Diana Twiss. Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9am-1pm. $45.00. Class held at Shannon Hall, at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.


In this introduction to the spindle as a tool for making yarn, you will learn about the properties of wool as a protein fibre for yarn. You will also learn drafting techniques, and how to spin, ply and set yarn. 

In this 4-hour workshop, you’ll be introduced to basic spinning techniques for suspended spinning. These techniques will allow you to further explore making a variety of interesting yarns with these noble tools. This class is for absolute beginning spinners or for those who know how to spin with a wheel, but not with a spindle.

Supplies:

  • Suspended spindle, top or bottom whorl. Spindles available from instructor for $45.00 (Top Whorl Spindle from Houndesign). 
  • Any fibre preparation equipment that you may have, such as hand carders or wool combs. 
  • Empty shoebox – to be used as a Lazy Kate and to hold your materials.

You will be supplied with all the fibre (and more) needed for the workshop – there will be a $10 materials fee to be paid to the instructor.
For information about registering for this workshop and to see a list of other workshops, please visit Fibreswest 2013.