Monday, February 11, 2008

Will It Go Round in Circles?

I wanted to talk a little about spinning. A few weeks ago, in a fit of insanity, I decided to learn how to spin. Apparently, tea, crochet, silent film, cooking, reading and steampunk don't afford me enough entertainment. Nope, I needed another hobby. Preferably one that I could justify by saying to myself that I was saving money by making my own yarn, as opposed to admitting that I had found yet another wasy to have my hard-earned cash sucked out of my pocket.

The truth is, learning to spin can get a bit pricey if you don't know what you are doing and have no self-control. You will be tempted by all the pretty drop spindles, wool batts, and other nonsense out there, and forget that you are still only learning to spin. However, for once I must actually have some self-control, because I am not knee deep in wool yet and I only own one spindle (although another one, for spinning silk, is in the mail).

So, I'm going to tell you about my Adventures in Spinning. I bought a Louet top whorl because that's what they had at one of my local shops. I did this while tired and coming off an eight-hour shift, so I didn't even notice if they had any bottom whorls. to explain- a top-whorl spindle looks like an old-fashioned top, only turned upside down, with a hook in the short end. You twist some yarn on the shaft (I found it was easiest to do a hand twist), bring the strand over the whorl up to the hook, twist it a bit more so that the filmy, loose wool (called roving) won't pull apart, and, well, spin. It helps if you have four hands. And an extra foot. Since I don't, I sat on the bed and did it, and it worked out well.

My first bit of yarn came out looking pretty funky, but hey, that's what the learning process is about. I did have some help- I contacted my Ravelry friend Camanomade, and asked her about spinning, and she sent me tons of fiber so that I can actually afford to eat while learning to spin. but, evil creature that she is, she sent me a variety of fibers, to tempt me and make me a yarn junkie. No doubt the first hit is free.

Over the past three weeks I've spun combed wool (which took practice), kid mohair (hard but not too hard, once you realize your strands are supposed to be hairy), combed silk (very slippery- I really needed a lighter spindle), more wool (uncombed, which makes slubby but interesting stuff, and lets you know if you can really spin or not). I'm a zennist, and in Zen it's said that one should have no preferences. I'm finding that having no idea how any of these fibers will behave actually helps a lot, as I have no expectations. I am finding that my product is getting less slubby (bumpy), more smooth, and I'm spinning continuous thread for much longer wtihout the fiber running out. I'm also finding that I can unwork slubs now, and that I'm keeping a much more constant thickness in my product.

I now feel ready to make more professional-looking yarn, which means I'm about to take some of the singles (individual strands of yarn) I've made and ply them (make a thicker strand of yarn). I also did some looking around, and after seeing roving at what were to me ridiculous prices (confirmed to me by Camanomade), I found some nice inexpensive roving online at Knitch. Currently on the spindle is some really soft Corriedale top in silver, which is a really soft fiber and therefore takes some concentration. Eventually, I want to learn how to slub my yarn on purpose so I can make boucle (thick and thin) yarn.

What this all means is that I'm having a lot of fun.


The Mad Crocheter said...

Hee!! Knitch is my LYS!

Seems like EVERYONE I know is taking up spinning right now, so I figure it's only a matter of time till I give in and get a spindle. Gotta get through Lent first though.

Carpenoctem said...

Lent is definitely more important.

What I liked was the the prices looked decent, and the choices of wool were so diverse. Most places only have sheep's wool. This place had choices- and the lichen green merino/silk mix looked gorgeous in the photo. I'd been told by someone knowledgeable that merino is a short fiber and really needs to be mixed with something for tensile strength, and I know silk is strong. Most places simply sell plain unmixed merino and then charge you a lot for painting it.

I should be putting up pictures of my spun skeins on Wednesday so you can see what it looks like. What's important to me is to turn out some yarn that's worth crocheting. Today I really reached that point, and I'm thrilled.

Kristin said...

Yay for learning to spin! I learned in '99, and got back into C&K to ostensibly do something with the yarn I made.

I haven't spun much since the move (though I did get glimpsed on a video about the SCA that the Washington Post made)... Rav/CLF has been keeping my crochet interests going. (snarlingbadger on there)