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..

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

 

 

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:

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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:

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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).

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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!

 

It’s Christmas (kind of)!

Today I woke up in a fit of excitement!

For today is Yarnmas, aka Wonderwool Wales, and its one of the highlights of my yarny year. It’s held not far from where I live…and, luckily, today the weather wasn’t too bad, which makes a nice change.

I went with my Dad, who does a sterling job as my porter – although, he is quite fascinated by all the yarn and people, so he doesn’t mind too much…well, that’s what he says.

There was a bit of a mishap when we arrived, as those of us with pre-paid tickets were left queuing to get in for a long time, whilst people buying them on the door were going through much quicker. Around us tempers were starting to fray BIG time, until finally someone came along and sorted the problem out…and then we were in!

I dropped off my donations to the Welsh Air Ambulance stand…and then I was like a kid in a sweetie shop. I made my way around the hall looking out for the odd bargain, and was soon shopping in earnest. I have plans to start a venture selling my hand-spun yarn, so I was mainly looking to buy fibres and bits and bobs for spinning instead of actual yarn, and I was  spoiled for choice. Lots of independent producers and dyers were there and the choice was amazing…here is the spinny stuff that I bought:

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Lots of colour and texture!

I think it’ll keep me busy for a while!

I also got spoiled by my Dad…I have been hankering after a drum carder for quite some time, and jokingly told Dad that I wanted one for my birthday….well, he only went a bought me one! I am beside with my excitement about this little beauty:

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Just looking at the photo of it makes me happy!

Not only that, but I want to give dyeing my own yarn a go, so he also bought me a solar dyeing kit (which SHOULD work in the Arctic region known as  Mid-Wales), as well as a package of natural dye materials:

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I’ll be experimenting soon….

How lucky am I? Not only that, but he is not making me wait for my birthday in a few weeks, so I can use them straight away…which is fab, as I have a week off work now so I can have a play with my new toys and fluff…I have a feeling that I will be happily covered in a fine halo of fluff all week 😉

I had a brilliant time, and will definitely be going again next year…and Dad, if you are reading this, then thanks! You are the best Dad in the world 🙂

 

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….

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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!