Why Do I Spin?

I was asked a question on Ravelry the other day, which made me stop and think…the question was ‘why do I spin my own yarn?’

To be honest, I was quite taken aback to be asked this – and judging from 99.9% of the replies to this question from other Ravellers, I was not alone in being surprised. There were also a great many answers from other spinners…which ranged from ‘its meditative’ and ‘its relaxing’ to ‘it allows me to make exactly what I want’ and also ‘its cheaper’. But why did I start spinning?

It started last year, when I was looking for some yarn to weave with. Something a bit mad and funky to use as a focal point in a shawl. I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t find it, and I spent a LONG time looking…I found something similar but it wasn’t right, so I decided that I may be better off learning how to spin and producing my own yarn.

After putting out a request for a spinning teacher on Ravelry, I was lucky to be contacted by a lady who lives just up the road who was willing to teach me (and for that I will be eternally grateful), and it just kind of snowballed from there. My early attempts were a complete monstrosity, but I hung in there and soon got the hang of it and started to use my own yarn in my weaving and knitting. It was a revelation!

I firmly believe that using a handspun yarn in a project gives it a bit of an edge. Most of the yarns can’t be replicated, so each item is a true original piece, and there is something about the texture of a handspun yarn which I think is beautiful….and, yeah, it is meditative and relaxing once you master the foot and hand co-ordination and get into the rhythm of it. I can also make yarn exactly how thick I want in the colours I want – what’s not to like?

But then, I also started thinking about my stash of yarn…there is very little in there that is from one of the major yarn producers such as Debbie Bliss, Wendy, King Cole or any number of other firms…nope, most of mine is from independent hand-dyers or from people who farm their own sheep/alpacas and then get the fleece spun up in a textile mill. I just like the uniqueness of it all…and, as I don’t tend to knit jumpers, I don’t need to buy a bazillion balls all in one yarn which can get expensive (mainly cos I am a yarn snob, and don’t tend to buy acrylic yarn)

As an example, earlier this week I made up a ‘Frankenskein’ yarn out of some odd bits and bobs that I had left over from other projects…I just spun up whatever came out of the box regardless of colour and then plied two bobbins of yarn together….the result is not something you would find in a bricks and mortar yarn shop…and I like that..

IMAG0014

….So, I guess I spin because I like unique yarn that tells a bit of a story.

 

 

Advertisements

Spinning up a Storm

I have started to spin up all the goodies that I bought at Wonderwool last weekend..and having great fun in the process 🙂

I have been experimenting a bit with the yarns, and the first one I am going to share is a ‘Frankenskein’! It is spun from random merino tops, picked at random from a bag and then spun into a couple of singles before being plied….and I am really pleased with it:

IMAG0005
I love the random colour combinations after plying!

The second yarn was spun after a play on my new drum carder (aka Fenella Fellorick). I took a selection of fibres in various shades of blue, along with white, grey, black and yellow and carded them into batts ready for spinning. The spinning was left as a single…mainly cos I love knitting with singles:

IMAG0023
Again…I love the way the colours merge together

In all I spun up 5 skeins this week, some of which are 2-ply chunkier yarns and a couple of them are singles, but the weather being so rubbish – cos I have a week off work – has meant it has been a problem setting them and also photographing them. This weekend is supposed to be a bit better weatherwise, and if it is I will be sharing more of my yarns with you 🙂

The Sun Has Got It’s Hat On (fingers crossed)!

I am keen to start experimenting with dyeing yarn, and with this in mind I acquired a Solar Dyeing Kit when I was at Wonderwool at the weekend.

The thought behind this form of dyeing is to allow the sun’s heat to do all the work of dyeing the cloth/fibre….over a period of months. Think of it as slow-dyeing!

So, earlier this morning I had a play with my kit. Thankfully, after reading the instructions I realised that the jar the dyestuffs go in doesn’t have to go outside, and that a warm, sunny, windowsill would do. I  put some rusty nails and some Persian Berries at the bottom of the jar, followed by the fibre – which is some undyed White Eider fleece – then made up a muslin bag of Logwood chips to go on top of the fleece. A mordant of alum and cream of tartar was then blended and added to the jar which was then topped up with warm water…and placed on a warm, sunny windowsill (in my studio).

IMAG0008
Great colours within 5 minutes!

I was quite impressed that ‘something’ appeared to happen straight away. The bottom of the jar went a vibrant shade of orange and the top of the jar turned a slightly less vibrant orange…which was interesting, as the colours I chose were to produce a green and purple fibre. However, I have just had a quick look at it and after an hour or so, the sunny side of the jar is turning purple and yellow, with the intense orange still at the bottom – its fascinating! I am looking forward to seeing how the colours develop over the coming few months.

In the meantime, I am going to give my studio window a damn good clean…its filthy!

 

On the Tidy Side

This week is proving to be quite a busy one at Fat Lady Towers!

Remember I was trying to reduce the stash to help raise funds for the Welsh Air Ambulance? Well, that took a whole day! However, the result of the stashdown is two bags of yarn, as well as a few books and magazines that will be donated to a good cause…and a much more organised stash of the yarn that is staying with me.

Whilst I was sorting the stash I thought I may as well continue to have a flippin’ good clean of my workspace….and that has taken three days. Still, I am now sat here typing this in a serene and tidy room as opposed to the complete mess it was earlier in the week…all of which has not left much time for getting anything made.

I did have a skein of my hand-spun that was crying out to be made into a scarf though, and I finally managed to get it off the needles and blocked earlier today…

IMAG0022
Its full of colour!

The yarn was spun from a combination of lots and lots of remnants of merino, lambswool and recycled sari silks that I wanted to use up. I just tossed them into one of my beloved plastic buckets and spun up whatever came to hand. Once the yarn was spun it was knit up into an asymmetric triangle on large needles, with the odd ‘point’ added to give it a bit more interest. I am really pleased with the results 🙂

Well, its not long to go until Wonderwool (three sleeps….not that I’m excited or anything), and I am planning on treating myself to some more lovely fluff to spin up…I will definitely be sharing my new stash with you soon – watch this space!

Going Round in Circles

Despite the fact that I have been shovelling chocolate into my face like a woman possessed this Easter, I have also been reading up on, and researching, my latest weaving obsession…

Yup, ever since I saw some wonderful weaving done on a circular loom on Pinterest – aka The Rabbit Hole of Lost Time – I have been wanting to get my hands on one. I just never knew where to get them from…until I found one on a search for a new reed for my loom the other day. So, as well as the reed I was after, I ordered one of the circular looms too..it arrived a few days after the reed (not sure why), and it was love at first sight!

circular_loom_maja_sm_2013

I was quite excited about it, so I warped it up straight away and had a play on it with a bit of my hand spun yarn…

IMAG0056
Alpaca warp and my  hand spun in the weft

…it was a very interesting weave to do, but I am planning on doing some pretty wacky things with it.

This is because I came across some fabulous free downloads on the Woolwench blog. She has some great ideas on how to get the most out of the loom and she does some incredible things with it (she was one of the co-creators of it).  The downloadable e-books also showcase other fibre artists who have made some fantastic items with it, you should check out the website as its very inspirational. You need to sign up to get your hands on the downloads, but if you don’t want to do this, the gallery of her work is amazing.

For now though, I have just finished winding some linen into a ball and have chosen some beads from my bead stash to do a bit of weaving with…..I can’t wait to see if what is in my head can form on the loom…..just off to give it a go!

Oh, and if anyone knows where I can get my hands on a triangular loom, I will be eternally grateful!! 🙂

A Bit of Excitement

There was a little flurry of excitement chez moi on Saturday morning…in fact, it was so exciting that I let my toast go cold and forgot about my brew!

A few days prior to this momentous event, I had ordered myself some new weaving bits and bobs, and was waiting for them to be delivered some time in the near future. Well, some of it arrived on Saturday morning.

I was like a kid in a sweetshop!

Anyway, the first item out of a very long box was a 5 dpi reed for my loom…this was fairly exciting as I have been meaning to get one for quite some time. I like a bit of texture in my weaving, and a heddle of this width would allow me to weave with thicker yarns, whilst leaving larger gaps between thinner yarns……but, the main event was (insert drum-roll here) A MULTI DENT HEDDLE!! It was a little bit on the expensive side, as I could have got three heddles for the price of this one….but, seeing as I was one of the people sending emails to the makers pleading for them to make one, it was only fair that I fork out for one once they had produced it.

I am aware that the casual, non-weaving reader will wonder what the hell I am on about, but this piece of weaving loveliness will transform my life (kind of)! Basically it is a reed for my loom that comes with lots of little bits of heddle, that I can chop and change to my hearts desire. So, if I fancy weaving something quite fine and then decide it needs to have a really thick bit of yarn running though it I can insert a piece into the heddle that will allow me to do just that…… and, yeah, I know it makes me sound really geeky, but I am already in love with it!

This morning I used it for the very first time….behold the magnificence in all its unwarped glory:

IMAG0035
Can you see what I mean about it having different sized bits? I went a bit nuts and decided to have some thick sections, some thin sections and some pretty flippin’ huge sections!

I have an idea in my head of something I want to weave (and knit….more of that in a later post), so I fumbled around in the box of green yarn…and then had an extra fumble in the box of brown yarn (yes, my yarn stash is colour coded into various boxes….), and then I had a bit of fun warping the loom.

Here it is..all ready for action:

IMAG0037
Ooooh, there is going to be some nice texture in the weave!

Now all I have to do is weave it….but I am going to save that treat for tomorrow. I don’t want to spontaneously combust with excitement!

If you want to have a look at the new heddle, check them out here: Heddle, they are available quite widely, so I imagine that your favourite supplier will have them in stock 🙂

Making Yarn

Now, I am no expert spinner, and I don’t claim that my yarn is perfect – but I really enjoy the process of spinning and creating yarn out of what is, basically, fluff !  I was lucky enough to be taught to spin by a lady who lives nearby, and who has been spinning for decades….she found me via a plea that I put out on Ravelry for someone who would be kind enough to teach me to spin, and invited me round to her house.

Her lounge was full of spinning wheels (well, there were at least 4 in there), and she had set one up in the dining room for me to have a go on. She was very patient, and taught me the basics over a period of about 2 hours. Then, she completely blew my socks off by offering to lend me the wheel that I had been practising on, for as long as it took me to find my own wheel. I practically bit her hand off in my eagerness to take her up on the offer.

So, another fibre obsession was born.

I began to read all I could about spinning, and when I came into contact with other spinners I asked them for all the advice they could think of….and basically it boiled down to a few points:

“Don’t be afraid to try because you are afraid of ‘wasting’ fibre – sheep will always grow more”.

“There are no spinning police! If the way you want to spin works for you, then that is the way that you spin – there is no right or wrong way to spin”.

“Once you get good at spinning you won’t be able to spin thick yarn”.

Now, I never actually believed that last one…until I got a bit better at spinning, but its true! Now that I actually want to spin art yarns, I have to remind myself to keep the yarn on the chunky side!

Here is some yarn that I spun last week….

il_570xN.798744450_se5v

 

A few weeks later, I did manage to find a wheel of my own (a Haldane ‘Lewis’)….but I also ended up buying the wheel that I was lent by my spinning guru too….so now I have two wheels….perhaps I’ll end up with wheels placed all over the house too?

Let’s Get Started….

I think it is pretty fair to say that I like to have a bit of colour in my life…and this definitely applies when it comes to yarn. Basically, the more colours it has in it, the more I like it! So, when it comes to spinning my own yarn I do like to include a fair few colours in it.

I recently had a tidy up of my ‘fluff stash’, and came across some rolags I had made a while back out of some leftover bits and bobs…so I thought I would spin them up into a lovely soft single yarn (a yarn which is loosely spun and unplied). The only problem was they were maybe a little bit too mad on the colour choices – which in my book is not a bad thing – but, its not everyone’s cup of tea, which meant I had to look for a pattern that would allow the yarn to sing its little heart out…and I just couldn’t find it!

Eventually, I just decided to knit a scarf, on the bias, with quite thick 12 mm needles, and every so often I would add a bit of interest by inserting ‘teeth’…I think it worked out pretty well:

I deliberately spun the yarn to include various lumps and bumps, and also changed the thickness in places so that some parts could be quite dense and some areas quite ‘lacey’ when it was knitted. I think the final result is quite eye-catching, and just shows what you can do with one skein of hand spun art yarn.

However, if you do know of any patterns that would look great in a hand spun art yarn, let me know!