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 🙂

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 🙂

 

It’s a Stashdown!!

Around this time of year I start getting a bit fidgety…the way that kids do when they know its nearly Christmas and there are only a few sleeps to go. My reason for getting fidgety is that Wonderwool is almost here! YAY!!

However, the excitement is tempered by a bit of panic. Where am I going to put all the goodies that I want to buy? My little workroom can only hold so many boxes of yarn and still allow me to be able to move in it…so, I have made a decision. I am going to have a clear out of the stash, and donate my unwanted balls to the Welsh Air Ambulance stand at Wonderwool. Living where I do, the Air Ambulance is a vital lifeline as the nearest hospital is a minimum of an hours drive away, so raising money for it is a really good cause as you never know if one day you may need to use it.

Hopefully, it’ll mean that my work room will no longer resemble this:

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Another reason for the stashdown is because whilst sorting out some random balls earlier today, I was hit by the realisation that my stash contains stuff that I am probably never going to knit or weave with..and now that I am also spinning my own yarn, the yarn is just going to sit there taking up room that more productive yarn could be using….basically, like most knitters I have stash that was started when I first got back into knitting….you know, the cheap balls made from clown barf to the really chunky stuff that would make anyone wearing it look like a Michelin man…to the stuff that you get given and can’t think up an excuse to turn down and the stuff that you receive in Ravelry swaps (from other people who may or may not have been having their own stashdown).

Now, don’t get me wrong..I will still have stash, but it will be of a more controlled nature….right up until I hit Wonderwool 😉

Oh, and if you are heading along too, then please visit the Air Ambulance stand in the interactive area and drop some pennies their way – thanks!

Flower Power

Good grief! Where did last week go? I spent a chunk of the week in a different city for work…which meant I didn’t get much time to do anything yarn based 😦

However, crochet is fairly portable, so I managed to squeeze in a few flowers and leaves in order to make a necklace.

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I like to make them a teensy bit 3d!

I  love making floral necklaces….back in the day, I used to do a fair bit of patchwork and quilting, so sitting down with a needle and thread is something of a treat. I find sewing quite relaxing as its quite meditative and it focuses your attention…if it doesn’t grab your attention then it hurts your finger with constant stabbing…

…and a sore finger means its painful to do any knitting, weaving or spinning 😉

 

 

Humble Huipile

 

I weave in the freeform ‘Saori’ style, which allows weavers to express themselves. Each piece of fabric made is completely unique and a work of art…well, back in the depths of last year, I was weaving away at a length of fabric in shades of grey, black and brown with hints of blue and yellow thrown in to liven it up a bit…but when I finished it, I was unsure what to do with it.

Well, that particular problem was solved this week when I sat down, cut it up and sewed it into a top:

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ViviLnk

 

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ViviLnk

 

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ViviLnk

I am pleased with how it turned out…even more so when my good friend, Naomi, said that it reminded her of a ‘huipile’. At first I had to look up what she was on about, and when I read that they are a traditional South American garment comprising a square cut blouse that is hand woven and heavily decorated with embroidery,  I was thrilled with the comparison.

However, the comparison has left me with a dilemma! The fact that the original ones are woven and then embroidered has got me thinking that maybe I should weave another piece of fabric, turn it into a top and then embroider it……I am quite excited about the prospect of doing that 🙂

 

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!

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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…

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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:

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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:

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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….

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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!