Thursday, May 29, 2014

Something new!

Or maybe something old. Well it's not a new craft, nor is it exactly new to me . . . but it is something new to my blog.

What is it?

Spinning yarn.

No really. Spinning yarn, like from wool that I can use to make stuff with. For reals.

So how did this happen? I got the idea of seeing if dog fur could be spun (yes it can if it is long enough). I had originally wanted to have a lady I know from our Yack & Yarn group spin it up. Then I realized, hey I could do that myself. So I looked into the various models of spinning wheel. I had a drop spindle from a kit my mom got me like 20 years ago. Ok I might exaggerate, but I don't remember when I got it. I spun up almost all of the roving that came with the spindle and then rolled it into a ball and tossed it in the closet. I wasn't happy with the thin/thick of the yarn and it was a lot harsher than the nice, even commercially available yarns I was used to. I still don't like the texture of it, but I can appreciate the "art yarn" look now. I probably will never use said yarn, but I'll keep it So . . . which one to get? There are lots of different models and options out there. Wood, pvc pipe, probably even metal. Double treadle? Single treadle? What kind of tension? Scotch? Irish? Double drive? Saxony wheel? Castle wheel? Travel wheel? It can get overwhelming when you are learning this stuff. I did like some of the ones I saw, look-wise at least. There was one with cheerful/busy bumblebees and bee hives on them, I do sort of like that since it is a motif found lots of places in Utah (due to the Mormons, of course) and that's where I was born. And there was one that had lovely carved roses on the upright that was really pretty. Not that I particularly wanted to spend lots of money. I can always save up for something later if I need to.

So . . . my main ideas were that I wanted something portable, like so I take it to Yack & Yarn with me. Ok yes, a drop spindle is the most portable . . . but it takes so long to make anything with it . . . so a portable wheel. Though the Saxony wheels are cool looking, I'd probably want to get one if I had a house of my own.

Next thing, double vs single treadle. Each configuration has its proponents and detractors. The research I did suggests the more efficient treadling would be the double treadle. Since one foot pushes down while the other foot comes up, so with the exceptions of the most extreme up/down, the energy being put into the yarn is more continual. Though my dad did have a good suggestion if he were going to do a wheel - put a toe clip or a strap on the end of the pedal like they have on a bicycle. That way, your foot can push down and pull up, doubling the energy used. My dad is rather smart like that. So I went with the double treadle, if you hadn't figured that out.

Next, and really most important, cost.

I am kind of cheap. Not build my own cheap because my level of skill with woodworking tools is not up to par, but cheap enough to research a lot into cost/durability/etc. And one of the sites I looked at was the Babe's Fiber Garden. They have wheels made of pvc pipe and wheelchair wheels. Would it be nice to have a wooden wheel. Of course. But those run about $350 - 2000 or more. (Like the Golding wheels - it'd be afraid to spin on one of those as they're so expensive! But so pretty.)

So what did I go with? Factoring all the bits in, I went with a Babe's production double treadle in white. It has the double treadle and, while a bit bulkier than I originally thought, is relatively portable being 8.2 pounds. And the cost was in my price range - $325 including s/h. So I ordered it and waited for her to get here like an expectant mother. And put her together and named her "Matilda". I had to go to Yack & Yarn to see how to start my fiber in person, but once I did, no power in the verse could stop me from learning more spincraft. Evidently I am a natural . . . the lady who showed me how had been spinning for like 26 years and mine looked pretty much like hers when she put her bobbin next to mine. How cool is that?

Here's the stock photo, but Matilda looks like this:

I had originally wanted to get their Charhka (like the little spinning wheels Ghandi invented) but it has a spindle instead of a bobbin. And I'm not sure I'm yet ready to start learning that. Though I do know, when I do, I'll get the Babe's one, so it'll match Matilda. Evidently, they're supposedly good for spinning cotton and spinning it really thin. And that's something I'm really rather interested in.

I still have - and use - my original drop spindle from the kit. It is a bottom whorl drop spindle. And yes, if you draft your fiber too thin, it can pull apart and drop . . . hence the name. The shaft on my original spindle is a slight bit oblong. I can still use it just fine, but I have a feeling that's got more to do with that I think I have the ability to spin on anything. Is that my mutant power? The power of spinning yarn? I could live with that.

So . . . here's my original drop spindle with some of the first yarn I spun after I learned how to spin on my wheel. I wasn't going to post fibery pics yet, but I don't have one without fiber on it. This is the first "sweet tarts" yarn I made on this spindle. I went back to the store and found more and am in the process of spinning more. Malabrigo Nube in the color Baya Electrica.

And then I decided I ought to see how a top whorl drop spindle suits me. I found one - really much nicer than the price suggests, they were right about that in the ad - on eBay. I really, really like it. Actually, I like it enough to go back and get a bottom one to match this one:

You can see that the hook on the top whorl one is near the whorl while the bottom one (with the yarn) is far away. It's just a slight difference in how I pop my wrist/where I hold it between them to make sure they don't wobble.

I've learned how to better ply my yarn. I've learned how to Navajo ply it. I'm getting better and better at spinning. Soon I'll get cards or combs or something and learn how to blend fibers. I need to blend the pommy fur with wool, as their fur is really hair and doesn't retain the memory like wool. I also want to combine fibers in different ways. And to use different fibers. Not just wool or alpaca (tho that's lovely to use), but camel, yak, dog, mohair, angora and just about anything that has long enough fiber. And what about milk protein? Yes, they make fiber out of that! But not just animal fiber. I want to branch out into plant-based fibers as well. Like cotton or bamboo (which people know about) . . . but also rose, corn, and banana. I want to combine milk protein with corn and maybe even banana and call it my "breakfast cereal" yarn. So many things I want to do and try!

And I'm looking forward to Spinzilla. This is a week long "spin as much as you can" event. If there weren't already 2 people off that week, I'd have asked for it at work. It starts at 12:01 am on Oct 6th and goes to 12:00 Oct 12th. This is the 2nd time and the first year, there were like 600 people in both teams and rogue spinners and they did like 1.4 million or so yards of yarn. I don't remember, but it was something like that. I think I might do a rogue spinner this year.


  1. Looks nice. I brought a drop spindle a little while ago but need heaps more practice lol:)