Monday, October 31, 2011

Successful Drop Spindle Class

During tough times like today it's helpful to have distractions. Spinning is one of my many distractions.

I bought a spindle from the Yarn Cupboard about a month ago with the hope of teaching myself to spin on it. I thought it would be nice to have a true travel spinning project that didn't take up a bunch of room. This is the Ashford spindle that's top whorl, 3 1/8 inches and weighs 1¾ ounces:

I tried reading articles and watching YouTube videos but I couldn't get it to work for me. I think my body was just used to spinning on a wheel and didn't understand the different mechanics needed to get started. Plus I was spinning on some junk fiber that I didn't care about so that contributed to the crappy spinning I was doing.

Thankfully I heard about the class and thought if it's possible for me to learn this was my best shot. Beth is a wonderful teacher (I was in her plying class earlier this year) and I bought some special fiber just for spinning on a spindle:

It looks really red in this picture but it's really neon orange, neon pink and a little bit of red. I should wear sunglasses when spinning this stuff! But it's good quality fiber (Spinner's Hill of course) and I thought the colors would be fun for learning.

There were 6 of us in the class, some with no spinning experience at all and some, like me, who had spun on a wheel before. It was a good mix with everyone struggling but staying positive, no two people had the same color fiber. I didn't swear the entire time - big achievement there! Beth gave us each a hand made spindle that was heavier than the one I had. That made it so much easier to learn on. Once I understood the "park and draft" method I could then figure out which hand wanted to be where (I'm right handed but spin left handed) and then I got it like a big light bulb moment. It began to feel like a fluid movement and I no longer wanted to park it, I was fine just spinning and winding, spinning and winding, etc.

I proceeded to spin for the rest of the weekend off and on just making sure it wasn't a fluke and that I really had absorbed all of the information. I even got to the point of letting my son spin the spindle for me and wind the yarn on, he loved it for about 20 minutes. Here's the handmade spindle and my spinning from that short amount of time:

I'd like to spin up an ounce at a time and ply it back on itself using a center pull ball for practice resulting in 4 smallish skeins of yarn. The hard part will be not shopping for fancy spindles ($50 to $250ish a piece) in the meantime. I've promised my self to finish up this 4 ounces of fiber that I bought before buying any other spindles just to make sure it's something that I will continue to like doing. But I have started looking in a couple places . . . Golding spindles with Celtic themes are tempting as are the Bosworth spindles made from Moose antlers or exotic woods. I'm not shopping, I'm just researching for Christmas 2012 :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spinning: My New Passion

Ever since I linked up my blog to my Facebook account I've been shy about posting. If you're reading this in Facebook and you don't care about knitting or spinning or yarn/fiber in general you may want to just hide me now :)

Back in the spring I got really flustered because I loved to spin but the resulting yarn wasn't anything I would ever knit with. It hit me that I wasn't plying correctly so I asked for a class from my local yarn shop. That class was my last straw, either I could make yarn that I liked or I was going to stop spinning. Thankfully I had a great teacher and it turned out well. The only bad thing is that now my free time is torn between wanting to spin and wanting to knit. I left the store that day with this:

It's a very basic braid of Colinette roving that I liked the color variations on. When I took my time and used what I learned to ply I ended up with yarn that I would actually knit with (Ravelry link with all of the specs):

It was a huge revelation that yes I can spin and yes I can make a nice yarn. I kind of went a little crazy buying fiber from there. I joined a fiber club with 6 monthly shipments, I purchased a bunch of Spinner's Hill roving from the Yarn Cupboard and I bought even more from the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock.

My biggest problem was finding time now for both spinning and knitting. I need to have some structure around my crafting otherwise I start feeling overwhelmed. I ended up working out an every other night schedule with alternating spinning and knitting. It's working out ok so far with a few changes when my husband is out of town for work.

One of the nice things to come out of this discovery process is that I really enjoy listening to audio books while I spin at night. It's a great way to keep my mind engaged and keep up with my love for books. I found that my local library had a digital media section on their website so I've checked out a ton of audio books all for free that can be downloaded to my iPod. The trade off is that they don't have a huge selection but I am listening to authors that I would have normally not tried before. So far the science fiction & fantasy genre has fit me best but James Patterson's Women's Murder Club was an interesting find. I've listened to the first 3 books in that series and while it's not amazing writing it is very entertaining with the twists and turns.

I'm currently working on the first half of this 4 ounce braid from Spinner's Hill:

I had a hard time photographing the colors. In person it's a deep, dark purple that transitions to a slightly medium purple. Not my normal color choice but it's good to get outside of your comfort zone once in a while. I'm looking forward to seeing how the resulting yarn will look with a blend of the dark purples. It's spinning so nicely I haven't even needed to pre-draft the fibers. I just split it in half, weighed the halves so I could be as close as possible and then started spinning. I'm hoping to have this one done in time for Christmas as a gift but I'm not going to rush the process.