Category Archives: spinning workshop

Teaching at Olds College Fibre Week 2016

I am so happy to announce that registrations classes at Olds College Fibre Week are open. Equally excited to say that I am on the roster! There are four full-day spinning classes I’m on track for.

Here are the workshop descriptions for each one:

Wild about Colour

2014-10-19 12.41.08Do you have braids of hand painted top in your stash that you are afraid to spin? Or have you spun up a hand painted braid but then were disappointed with the yarn because the colours blended in a way you didn’t want and it ended up muddy and muted?

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.

Spindling 1.0 — We’re Making Yarn!

DianaDrop1-e1421434010552In 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.

Be the Boss of Your Yarn — a default-yarn busting workshop

2016-02-13 07.49.17Are you tired of making the same yarn – that no matter what you do, you are always spinning the same stuff? Do you want to be able to make yarn for a variety of purposes – so you direct the project instead of the yarn telling you what it will be? Well, you are not alone. This full-day 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.

Twist and Draft: Worsted to Woolen and everything in between

2015-10-09 15.13.49Worsted and semi-worsted, woolen and semi-woolen – you may have heard these words used to describe yarn and spinning techniques and you also may have heard conflicting answers. What does it all mean?

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.

Check it out here and sign up for a bucket load of fun and learning.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

FibresWest 2014 and spindle spinning classes

FibresWest 2014 is coming up on Friday, March 21 and Saturday, March 22 in at the Cloverdale Fair Grounds in Surrey, BC. The event runs from 9:30 am to 6 pm on both days. Admission is $8, seniors and students get in for $6. And kids under 13 are free.

It’s a great fibre event. This year is their 6th Annual and each year there are more vendors, more classes and more excitement. Coming a near 1/2 year after Knit City, it’s just the fibre fix we need to get us through the year.

This year I am teaching an Introduction to Spindle Spinning on Friday morning.

And on Saturday morning I am teaching an Advanced Spindle Spinning Class. Please visit FibresWest 2014 for all the details about these (and other) classes. Hope to see you there!

Spinning Workshop: Session Four

Last Sunday we had the fourth and final (for now) spinning lesson at my place. We had a lot that we still wanted to get done so I was quite a task master.

First thing we did was a lot of spinning. I wanted to make sure each one not only had the basics of drafting and putting twist into the fibre, but that they were able to troubleshoot any problems at would arise as they spun. Happy to say that all four spinners are making a continuous thread that gets more and more consistent each week. And for the most part, they can figure out how to fix a problem like over or under twisting, and are in much more control of their wheels. In the beginning, we often feel that the wheel is controlling us and it takes some time before your get the upper-hand. Once you do, you are well on your way to being an independent spinner.

They were all interested in fibre preparation techniques, so to make the drum carding session more interesting, I showed them how to make Crazy Batts. Those are the lovely batts you make from a variety of fibres, colours and textures. The resulting yarn from a Crazy Batt looks something like this:

It’s fun and funky yarn. Below is a small sampling of the fibres we were working with — mostly wool in a variety of colours, but there was also some kid mohair thrown in, you can see that in the top right corner.

Added to the mix was all sorts of other things, bits of silk noil, cut up silk hankies, pieces of commercial yarn that has texture. All this gets made into “fibre sandwiches”. Each sandwich has a layer of fibre, some yarn bits, another layer of different fibre, more texture bits and finish off with a final layer of fibre.This sandwich gets fed into the drum carder.  Usually 4 or 5 sandwiches do the trick and you have a decent sized crazy batt. Here’s what our table looked like when we were in full production.

After making crazy batts for about an hour, I demonstrated how to use the picker.

It’s a crazy looking and highly dangerous piece of equipment that you use to tease the fibres to get them ready for drum carding. If you are into a high level of production, it’s a good idea to have one. But one way or another, it’s a good idea to learn the right way how to use that piece of equipment. You can ruin fibres and ruin your arm if you don’t do it right.

Major rule: never, ever put your hands near the teeth.  However tempting it may be to just pull a bit of fibre out of the way. Always use another tool, never your own hand.

So the class and I are taking a break for a few weeks.  Lambing is coming on and other family obligations have us busy for next few Sundays.  But we are going to start up again with more fibre preparation, more spinning techniques and more fibres.

Stay tuned.

Spinning workshop: Session three

Today we had our third spinning lesson here in my farmhouse at the end of the road. We went over time as we had so much that we wanted to get done, and no one seemed to mind. First, we did a lot of spinning. I wanted the gals to have two good sized bobbins of singles — one in white, one coloured — so they could learn how to ply. The twist was really active in the singles, as they had just been spun, so the plying was a bit of an adventure in patience and persistence. Everyone made a lovely good sized skein. Should have taken photos of them, but was so busy with everyone, I totally forgot about documenting it.

After we did the spinning and plying, we moved over the next room where I had drum carders and a Louet picker set-up. I showed them how to use the Louet picket to tease the fibres apart and then load them onto the drum carder. Everyone made some batts and a had generally good time experimenting with the different pieces of equipment.

Here’s the Louet picker. It’s the oddest looking piece of equipment  but it does a nice job opening up the locks for the drum carder. I haven’t had a lot of satisfaction using the rolling pin type piece, but I just use my Ashford carders instead. I toss some fibre onto the carding cloth area, and then with my hand carder, just card one way, and then the other. When I go the other direction, the fibre all comes off and then it goes over to the drum carder. Magic.

What used to take hours of teasing, can now be done in minutes.  Really.

And here’s a photo of the front room, full of spinning wheels, six of them even though there were five of us in total. It’s a small space but we make it work.

Thanks Heather, Katie, Diane and Tannis for a terrific day.  You are all turning into great spinners.

Spinning workshop: Session two

Here are two photos of what my dining room table looked like after our second spinning lesson. In addition to learning and practicing  basic spinning techniques, we also talked about fibre preparations — drum carding, hand carding and wool combs. The most popular fibre preparation was combing, so we got out the combs and practiced.  This (mostly) always gives a lovely and surprising result as the combs get rid of so much of the debris.
And yes, that is a bowl of homemade cookies off on the left.  Thanks to my neighbour Hilary.

We are going to do more spinning next week and will also finally get around to some plying techniques:  double and chain plying (Navajo). There is such an interest in fibre preparation that I think we’ll pull out the drum carders and make some fun batts.

It was a fun day. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

At least for now.

Flax to Linen & everything in between: workshop

Announcing one of the many workshops being offered at Fibreswest 2013. Register before March 8th if you want to attend any of the workshops. Here’s a special one that I am featuring:

FlaxWomanFlax to Linen & everything in between
Kim McKenna and Diana Twiss. Friday, March 22nd, 2013, 9am-1pm. $45. Class held at Shannon Hall, at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Join Kim and Diana and explore the wonders of flax; how to turn flax straw into beautiful soft linen yarns. Most  people with access to a garden can grow their own flax. In this workshop you will learn the practical skills of growing, processing and extracting line and tow linen from flax. You will also help to keep the art of flax spinning alive by making your very own distaff in order to prepare the flax for spinning. Finally, you will get hands-on experience and tips for spinning flax into linen. Participants will leave the workshop with a fully dressed distaff and distaff support structure. Distaffs will be dressed with 20 grams of dew-retted flax.

Supplies: spinning wheel in excellent working order. See free Spinning Wheel Maintenance download at Claddaghfibrearts. Screwdriver with Robertson head. All other materials will be supplied. All levels welcome, absolute beginning spinners may not be able to spin, but will certainly be able to dress a distaff and benefit from the rest of the workshop. Material fee of $30.00 payable to instructors.

For more information about this workshops, how to register and other information related to this fibre festival please visit FibresWest 2013.

I hope to see you there. 

Introduction to Wheel Spinning — in Glen Valley

Last Sunday I started teaching an Introduction to Wheel Spinning class right here in my own home. The classes are a four-part series of two-and-a-half to three-hour sessions that cover a variety of topics. These topics will provide participants with a strong foundation of skills for spinning amazing yarn and expanding their knowledge of the craft. I am working with a small group (four) beginning spinners. So there is lots of opportunity for one-on-one engagement.

There is a fee for the lessons. I provide all the materials for the first two sessions and there there may be a small materials fee for the last two as we move into working with other fibres (alpaca, llama, silk, and mohair) and blending them. Here is what the materials kit for session #1 looked like:

Each kit had four empty toilet paper rolls to hold spun singles; commercially spun yarn to practice treadling with; a batt of bouncy grey (Romney) wool; a bag of rovings (BFL, Corriedale, and Dorset); a journal; two plastic bags and class notes. And the shoe box itself seconds as a lazy-kate. We’ll poke holes in the side and slide knitting needles in to hold bobbins of singles yarn so we can ply. If you don’t know anything about spinning, that sentence probably didn’t make any sense at all.  Not to worry.

And here’s what my dining table looked like before the class started. I wish I had taken a photo of the room after everyone left. It was a complete shambles and I loved it. At the end of that session, everyone was spinning a continuous thread. We are meeting again on January 27 for session #2. It is wonderful to work with people who are as passionate about making yarn as I am. Makes me feel less crazy when I see how excited they are about wool and all the lovely things you can do with it.