Fresh air

It’s such a joy to spin on a wheel that’s functioning properly. After I finished a hank of yarn from my thrift store roving on the Traditional and felt confident that the new drive band would work, I cut the old drive band off of my Ashford Traveler and made a new one for it. I was a little less confident that my cone o’drive-band (as I’ve come to think of it) would do the job because my Traveler is a double drive but ooh it’s so much better than before.

I made a mistake in my last post. I said that I had one spinning wheel limping along. That wasn’t accurate. I was limping along. I know better than to let things go. I know to keep my tools in good repair. I have been fighting for so long with this stupid decreased sense of self worth because I allowed people to dictate to me what my priorities should have been, and where my money should have gone, and what I should have been doing with my time. That was a foolish thing on my part, but as so often happens when one is vulnerable it’s easier to take direction than to use critical thinking skills. It was my bad and I’ll own it.

The state of my favorite spinning wheel so accurately reflected my emotional state.

The funny thing is it’s when I’m spinning that I have time to repair, to fully do the math and use my critical thinking skills because the anxious fearful part of my mind is occupied. I realize things like I no longer have to watch what I say on my blog because my son is less than 6 months away from turning 18 and the threat of his father (my ex-boyfriend) trying to take him away from me has already come and gone. By the way, my ex is a tool; he told our nine year old child that he (my son) was an accident and should have never been born. I also have apologized profusely to my son for having him with the wrong man. My son accepted my apology.

Oh, and he was the one that several years ago stalked my blogs and wrote a nasty comment pretending to be my friend Steve and implying that he would tell all my new online friends what a bad girl I was. Like you can’t figure that out from the fact that I had a child out of wedlock? Or maybe from the domain name That I reached the legal age of consent in the nineties?

Slut-shaming is so 1980.

Personally I think it would be far more shameful if I were a drug dependent emotionally and physically abusive manipulative jack ass.

Typing this post out is just so therapeutic.

It’s been almost as therapeutic as spinning has been on a freshly polished and tuned up spinning wheel with a brand new drive band. I’m so relaxed and I have yarn to show for it.

Thrift shopping

When I sift through the craft sections of thrift stores I never know what I’m going to find. Last year I found two bags of wool roving in a Goodwill store, the first is just a plain white wool and the second is the heathered blue wool currently on the Ashford Traditional spinning wheel. It’s not the finest or fanciest stuff I’ve ever handled, and slightly felted from storage, but two pounds of wool roving that doesn’t suck for less than $10 makes for a nice surprise.

new drive band and wool roving on ashford traditional spinning wheelEven better though was finding a partial cone of some cotton warp for $3.99 a few weeks ago and when comparing it to the drive band on my Ashford Traveler realizing I don’t need to buy a drive band for the Traditional. I would feel like I’ve broken the code, that I’ve discovered the mysterious land where drive bands are spawned however, the cone was unlabeled so I’m not quite sure. Still, I’ll take what I can get since I’m clearly too cheap to buy a single drive band  for either spinning wheel when I have at least one limping along.

I like the symmetry of it. If my wool roving and cotton warp hadn’t been unwanted and donated to the shop then I wouldn’t have been able to keep them out of the landfill and happily spinning today.

Beading yarn

Usually when I spin beaded yarn, I add the beads just prior to plying by threading them  all at one time on to one ply and distributing the beads as I ply. There’s nothing wrong with that particular method, it works well although dealing with a large heavy cluster of beads during plying can be a pain.

single ply beaded camel on the bobbinThis time around I’m adding the beads to the single as I’m spinning. Since the beads hang a little on the orifice and the flyer hooks and I want them fairly close together in the finished yarn I’m adding little clusters of 6 beads every now and again and the plan is to redistribute them as single beads during plying. If I had to stop every 4-6″ of spinning to thread a single seed bead onto the single it would drive me insane.

I started by spinning about 3 yards of a plain single, broke the single from the cloud and threaded on a dental floss threader and used it as a needle for the seed beads, removed the threader, joined the cloud back to the single, and spun some more. I found that skipping the extraneous steps of threading on the threader and then removing it by just leaving it in place in front of the orifice makes the whole process just a little more graceful.

This is a labor and focus intensive yarn to make, I’m hoping the finished yarn will be worth the time and effort.

Even more camel, because… camel!

Camel down is good and camel yarn is even better. Since this batch has been well dehaired there’s nary a prickle and the finished yarn is so soft and warm.

I haven’t done much spinning for the past few months. I’ve mainly been focusing on learning machine knitting and trying to organize my studio in a way that makes sense, which turns out to be extremely challenging since my furniture options are limited. I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of having my sewing machines and fabrics out and decided to keep my knitting and machine knitting supplies within easy reach.  This kind of creative outlet triage always leaves me a little nervous, as if I’m going to miss out on making something awesome or utterly necessary because I can’t quite do whatever it is that I might want to do in the near future.

I’ll admit my nervousness in this area is not entirely rational. It’s habit. One day I may manage to wrap my head around the idea that I don’t need to do everything and make everything for myself. One day. Some day.

camel yarn, 2 skeins on the left represent yarn unwashed, and two skeins on the right have been "bloomed" (washed and hung to dry, creating a slight halo)I’m not quite sure how much of this fiber I’ve spun up at this point. My faithful postage scale was bitten by a rabid squirrel and had to be put down. USPS tracking tells me that the new one I ordered is in the Medford sorting facility. So close, still not quite here is it?

Back to the business of yarnage: The two skeins on the left are straight off the bobbin and the two skeins on the right have been washed in plain water, thwapped on the side of the tub and allowed to drip dry. Since camel doesn’t felt; the twist in the fibers redistributes causing the yarn to bloom and creating a soft mild halo.

camel yarn, close up: unwashed on the left and finished bloomed yarn on the rightI try to keep the halo present but unobtrusive, since ultimately I prefer using camel for embossed and lace patterns (ideally: embossed lace patterns.) That little halo creates little pockets of air which is important if one wants a scarf or shawl that can be worn both to insulate against too much sun or too little. Wool tends to have the same quality of keeping the wearer’s body temperature in a fairly comfortable range but because it’s weightier than camel down people tend to think of it as a winter only fiber.

In the close-up photo the difference between bloomed (on the right) and straight-off-the-bobbin yarn on the left is a little easier to distinguish.

I should probably mention that thwapping any down yarn (yes, even cashmere and yak) may result in tangles and breakage. The safest way that I’ve figured out to get the twist redistributing thwap is to figure-8 tie the yarn in at least three places, wet the yarn with plain water (without soap or fiber rinses of any sort), squeeze out the excess without wringing or twisting, let out a primal scream and hit the smooth inside of the wash tub not the edges or a counter, move hand position by quarters around the tied skein and repeat 4-6 times. Yes, you have to do the primal scream or your yarn will be ruined.

After thwapping I always rinse my yarn one last time so that any loose fibers come off in the water and give it a gentle squeeze out before hanging on the shower curtain rod to dry.

Camel down yarn

I spun three full bobbins of camel down, then plied them to create two hanks of yarn, now I’m back to spinning more bobbins so I can have more yarn. I find that if I can fill up three bobbins of singles, that gives me about 360 yards of plied yarn if I completely fill two bobbins.

I love having extra bobbins for these occasions.

If this sounds like a massive amount of spinning for a relatively short and fine fiber, it is. This is all part of my very intentional procrastination process, a special little way of not making eye contact with the boxes in my craft room that desperately need to be unpacked and sorted and stowed in some reasonable manner so I can actually use my craft room.

This is a sensible procrastination because I have absolutely nothing in the way of storage. I have no organizers. I have nothing to put things in, nothing to put things on. Nothing.

My big craft table is currently serving as the dining room table, the Rubbermaid drawers (that I hated) were adopted by my husband, I have a shelf and chest of drawers waiting to be refinished, and I’m still waiting for shelf brackets so I can put my collection of vintage crates on the walls.

Spinning from the cloud

Camel down single yarnI think I’ve spun just enough of the Bluefaced Leicester needed for a nice shawl. BFL is wonderful wool and I have nothing against it; I just had a hankering to work on something else. Sometimes it’s hard to remember I have choices. I went for so long economizing on everything that I grew to believe I had one option or none at all, even when my rational mind knows better. It’s very weird to be able to switch gears because I want to and not because I ran out of wool.

It’s nice too.

I have been itching to dive into the camel down. I’d bought some from R. H. Lindsay’s before and liked it so much that I was bummed when they stopped carrying it, and completely ecstatic when they restocked it. This is the first time I’ve opened up the bag, now I’m beyond ecstatic because it is even better than the first batch.

The original batch, although dehaired, still had some very fine hairs remaining, this batch has far fewer hairs, hardly any at all.

The camel down itself spins up much the same as the first batch and so incredibly soft. It’s like sifting baby powder through my fingers. I really appreciate the double-drive on my Traveler when I spin from the cloud long draw. Some spinners have trouble adjusting from single drive/scotch tension to double drive, but the adjustment period is completely worth it for super fine fibers as they can all too easily compact into a super hard wiry single when inch wormed out on a single drive. Long draw allows everything to stay soft and airy and preserves the loft even when adding a lot of extra twist, and a double drive allows for the fine tuning required.

Sampling plied yarn

woven hand spun wool samples side by side on black background

I was hoping I would be able to get away with a 2-ply yarn (on the left) with the BFL wool in good conscience but after making the 3-ply sample (pictured right) and comparing the two, I like the 3-ply so much more.

Re-spinning the first bobbin of wool is really what killed my motivation last night, I just didn’t need that one extra step. Not that I regret doing it, I would have totally regretted it had I left it with too little twist in parts.

If you embiggen the photo, you can see that both versions are hairy. Some of the fuzz will go away a little when the yarn is washed and tortured and hung to dry. I don’t usually block plied yarns unless I have a good reason, I figure it’s best to deal with balancing the yarn during spinning and plying and let any unevenness redistribute itself naturally.

I still like the 2-ply, I just like the 3-ply better.

I picked up The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson as a belated birthday gift for myself. I wasn’t spinning a whole lot the first time I read through it so I haven’t tried any new techniques from it. What I did notice when I picked it up again last night is that she says that most people spin their singles z (clockwise) and then ply s (counterclockwise.)

Which is really weird to me, because I’ve heard this parroted since I was 7 years old (possibly before then) and have almost always spun my singles on both a spindle and a wheel counterclockwise and ply clockwise. I suspect most people do spin z and ply s because they’ve heard at one point or another that most people spin that way. Since I’m left handed and started as a spindle spinner I do it the opposite way because it’s easier on my thumb and first finger when I flick the spindle and also when I draft I have more control over the twist (which is true for both spindles and the wheel.)

Notice I said “almost always”? Some fibers are ambidextrous, they will spin s or z equally well, others have a preference. It’s always worthwhile to do a sample up in both directions and see which direction coaxes the fiber into creating a yarn that suits its intended purpose.

Sampling with a Loomette

Loomette with barsI’m not sure why Loomettes are not more popular than Weave-its, I’ll take the convenience of the yarn holding cut in the wood frame over the special pin configuration of a Weave-it any day. Not that I mind going against the grain with this one, because when bidding wars on Weave-it’s break out one can go quietly bid on a decent Loomette and stand a good chance of winning it for a very reasonable price.

That’s not to say that I don’t treat these things like rare Pokémon, because I really do have to catch them all.

I’m also not sure why their popularity waxes and wanes so much. To me small continuous weave looms have so much to offer; they are affordable, portable yarn eaters, easy to use and some are highly collectible. I wonder if it’s because the manufacturers simply decided to focus on more profitable products or if the public was simply not interested?

It boggles the mind that my mom, who had every other conceivable “bloom loom”, lap loom, peg loom and/or kitschy as “seen on TV” weaving and/or craft device from the 70’s and 80’s did not have one of these looms. How is that even possible? Mom had craft items that even she didn’t know what they did.

woven square of BFL woolThese little looms are perfect for swatches of hand spun yarn. Perfect.

Pictured is a sample from the Bluefaced Leicester wool I’ve been spinning up this week. It’s a 2-ply from the singles that I’ve already spun up.

Since it uses less yarn than a knit swatch and it takes only a few minutes to do up a square the Loomette next to my spinning wheel has saved me the heartache of more than one unfortunate plying decision.

I still get to knit gauge swatches though, but later, after the yarn is finished.


Bluefaced Leicester (again)

bluefaced leicester 2nd bobbin

I realized I have no idea how I’m going to take interesting photos of solid roving and yarn when I’m done with this stuff. I have other variegated fibers. I am not sure if this is actually a valid concern or if I’m just trying to sabotage myself. If it’s a valid concern I’ll have to bring out the solids and do some self teaching photo sessions, if it’s just me sabotaging myself I’ll have to bring that up with a mental health professional, because it’s quite the issue for me lately.

I also need to grab some canvas and rollers and paint some different backdrops. While I love my light tent, the flocked nylon backgrounds only go so far and I want to mix things up.

The second bobbin of BFL is going much faster than the first. Since it doesn’t suck to spin so much on my wheel now, I’m more prone to decide I want to spend more of my free time spinning as opposed to doing what I have been doing up to this point which has been spending my free time procrastinating and obsessing.

Actual honest to goodness yarnporn

bfl roving and fine single I would just like to take a moment and say that I love my light tent. I think I’ve done pretty well adjusting to digital photography in general but photographing textiles has it’s own very steep learning curve and having a light tent just puts the cherry on top of my yarn porn sundae.

For the sprinkles on that sundae I’m going to have to buckle down and save for some less wimpy strobes but overall I’m pretty pleased. I shouldn’t complain about the ones I currently have because they are so much better than using the little clip on desk lamps that I was using. I’ll just shut up and be happy now.

This is the first bobbin of BFL, the 2nd one is still on the wheel but I wanted to take a detail shot to demonstrate the nice deep brown color in the fiber that I love so much. Sadly, I have no idea what anyone else’s monitor is going to do to the color of this photograph but I’ve compared it on both my iPhone and my laptop and it looks right when compared to the actual fiber.

bfl roving and single on the bobbinI also love love love not having to run around the house looking for the best lighting and a decent bit of something to use as a background in order to take photographs or postponing my photography until I got one of those perfect overcast days and praying that the kids would decide not to confiscate my white poster board. The poster board drama happened way more than what could possibly be considered normal.