Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moons

My spindle technique is definitely improving. I still have a ways to go before I succeed in getting a truly consistent single, let alone a truly consistent twist in the plied yarn, but I'm getting better at it.
Among the tricks I've picked up while hanging out in the Spindlers Ravelry group, there's a neat video demonstrating a ply-on-the-fly technique. As far as I can tell, it's sort of a modified (?) Navajo plying technique that gives you a three-ply yarn without the necessity of fiddling with three spindles at once. Or four, counting the one doing the actual plying. It's still a little fiddly since you have to stop every so often, loop the yarn, ply it, then wind the plied yarn around the shaft before resuming with the single strand. It makes more sense if you watch the video, though. ;)

So that's what I've been trying to do after I did such a crummy job of spinning the mulberry silk. Poor silk. It deserved better treatment than being used to relearn the art of drop spindling. I've progressed, though, and have two spindles with fiber on them. The fire agate has some of SallyInWales's hand dyed BFL on it, and I'm finding out that having a notch in the whorl really does help. Even if I choose not to take advantage of it, having it there feels better--sort of like training wheels, I guess--because, if the single slips, the notch will probably keep it from getting away from me.
The cedar spindle does have a notch, and I've made more progress with it--it's starting to fill up, which means I'll have to figure out how to move the cop from the shaft to some other storage thingy before I can keep going. The Mountain Colors Targhee is really, really easy to spin (for some reason I'm finding the BFL a little more challenging.. go figure).
I've been considering expanding my collection and, after dithering, I picked a Dragoncraft spindle with gorgeous blue swirls and a moon embedded in it. It took a little wiggling to get the whorl really tightly in place, but I think I've got it on there well enough that it won't come off without a lot of abuse... which I certainly don't intend to dish out. This one weigh just a tiny bit less than the other two (the fire agate weighs 1.48 oz and the cedar weighs 1.44 oz) at 1.3 oz, but is still considered a mid-weight spindle. I've been operating under the assumption that lighter weights produce lighter yarns, but a number of people have suggested that this is false and that an experienced spinner could probably use any size spindle to make even very light yarns. I'm not sure that's true for, say, a 2 oz spindle, though, since some people recommend using heavier ones for plying. It's a puzzle. O.o
It was purely coincidental, I'm sure, that the package arrived on a day that, while also the day of New Year's Eve, falls on a blue moon. In view of the utter blueness of the day, I picked up the blue Corriedale/bamboo blend--I gave up after having been frustrated by its quirky, slubby nature--and took another stab at spinning it. It's going better than my initial attempt, which may well be due in part to my practice with the other two spindles. The picture doesn't do the spindle justice... or the fiber, for that matter.
There are all kinds of little white and brown hairs in the mix. It seems I wasn't as thorough about cleaning my cards as I thought I was, so there's a little bit of alpaca fluff still stuck in there, and it's giving the yarn an interesting texture.
All this fiber! Combined with the sock yarn mom gave me for Christmas, I may never surface except to blink blearily at the outside world and make Grinch-like comments before I disappear again. Now it looks like I really do need a bigger jar to stash my spindles in... *sigh!*

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Happy Solstice, you guys. I hope you're all staying safe and warm somewhere, enjoying good company, good food, and that you're not too fussed by the fact that we on the east coast of the United States got upwards of a foot of snow. ;-)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Daily Dose

What's a girl to do when she's sold her spinning wheel and feels like spinning? Like an itch that needs scratching, the urge to spin fiber is something that isn't likely to go quietly into the night and twiddle its thumbs. The solutions are myriad, of course, and the easiest is to concoct some sort of spindle-type device with a CD, a rubber grommet, and a dowel or spare knitting needle of the appropriate width. And then we have Etsy, which is a black hole into which many people fall, never to be seen again. In the best possible way, naturally.
I've decided to wait until May to get a new wheel. Don't let this statement mislead you, though, because I've spent hours doing research and pestering people like Rachael for advice on smaller wheels. That's the problem, really. An Ashford Traditional is small, yes, but like a lot of Saxony wheels, it does still take up a lot of space because of its width, and I need something with less width. Since Rachael posted about getting a Merlin Tree Hitch Hiker--and her subsequent woes and resolution of same--I've been intrigued by the cute baby wheel idea. The downside, according to Rachael, is that if you're tall, you'll probably have to slouch uncomfortably to accomodate the Hitch Hiker's diminutive proportions. Rachael is tall. I'm tall-ish. So that means the Hitch Hiker and I probably might not be suited to each other, even though its small footprint and small pricetag are quite an inducement. I intend to test these guys at Maryland Sheep and Wool in May and see how much slouching is required. She also suggested trying something like an Ashford Kiwi, which also has a fairly small footprint and pricetag, and the added bonus of not having to slouch. That's another one on my test list.
May is such a long time away, though! In the meantime, what do I do? Etsy is home to about a billion creative people, a good number of whom sell gorgeous things; I'll keep my opinion about the so-called "upcycled suitcase pet bed" to myself... ahem. My main interest, though, is drop spindles, which cost about 1/4 as much as a spinning wheel at most.. unless you're looking at Golding spindles, and they're not on Etsy anyway. *sigh*
So. Spindles. I blundered into a Ravelry group devoted to this subject--one of several, I might add--and looked at pictures until my eyes couldn't focus anymore. And then I went back to Etsy and looked some more. And finally settled on a fire agate top-whorl spindle with a black rosewood shaft. It weighs slightly more than 1.5 oz and is delightful to look at. Does it spin? Hell, yes. Does it spin well? Definitely. And Maiysha does such a wonderful job of packing the spindles, it almost seems a pity to undo it all to get the thing out of its carefully secured nest of bubblewrap and tissue paper. And then there's the fiber she sent with it: a little bit more than half an ounce of her hand dyed mulberry silk (see picture to the left). I've never worked with pure silk before, so this is going to be a challenge which, I think, I'll put off until I've succeeded in re-learning the use of a drop spindle. She also sent a handcarded bit of roving with--hee!--some sparkly stuff in it. This, too, will wait until I've mastered spindle spinning. It's too gorgeous... and too fluffy... and.. and.. *sigh* I want one of everything in her Etsy shop. I tried spinning a tiny bit of the silk and it came out with a few little bloops of fiber where I didn't draft it quite as evenly.. but.. but.. it's like embroidery thread, it's so thin. O.o Wow. I guess I'm a little beyond the park-and-draft stage, but.. barely.
I'd also been dithering over the Banksia pod spindles I saw. On Etsy, of course. Banksia pods come from Australia and have all sorts of neat holes and textured bits where their petals/needles/quills used to be. I dithered too long, alas, and the one I loved most was snapped up before I could get up the nerve to buy it; in the meantime, the young man responsible for creating the spindles posted a beautifully finished cedar spindle with a curly maple shaft. And, of course, I completely fell in love with it and dithered. And then I bought it. It, too, arrived today. It weighs a little bit less than the fire agate spindle, but it spins... and spins... and spins...
I tried spinning a wee bit of some of the Corriedale/bamboo blend I started fiddling with a couple weeks ago, and I'm really enjoying it. I have to figure out how to draft a little less aggressively, though, because the yarn I'm spinning is so thin it'll probably produce lace weight yarn after it's plied. Which is fine, really, 'cause you can never have too much lace weight yarn. Really. Promise.
I think I should be in good shape until May, at which point I'll probably skip buying a wheel altogether and get a Bosworth spindle.... and a Golding spindle.... and... and... *sigh* I think I need a bigger vase to accomodate the impending growth of my collection.