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Archive for December, 2015

These are a few of my favorite things: #49 – Spinning and Fibers (or how to get really twisted and love it!)

People are often surprised when they learn I know how to spin.  Why?  Well, it’s a sighting nearly as uncommon as spotting a unicorn.  Now, to say I know how to spin doesn’t mean I know a lot about spinning or that I even spin well.

Basically, I know some fundamentals about spinning.  This has been important to me as a weaver since I believe it’s critical to know about the materials one is weaving with to make the most appropriate choices in order to achieve the best results.  Too often I’ve seen what could have been amazing projects impacted because the appropriate yarns were not selected.

If you’re going to make something, it’s invaluable to understand your ingredients . . . and that is what yarn is . . . an ingredient in weaving.  After all, don’t you want a contractor to choose the correct wood to build your house?  How about a pastry chef that isn’t aware of the impact of combining salt directly with yeast?  Ingredients make a big difference.

Make the incorrect decision about ingredients and one could be looking at wasted time and materials and thinking “Whoa, baby!  What did I just make?”  For example, want to know why your silk warp may be breaking?  Guess what?  It may have nothing to do with the quality of the silk.  It could very well be how you’re weaving with it.  Why did the fringe on your chenille scarf turn into feeble threads over time?  Well, do you know how a chenille yarn is made?  Did your alpaca shawl look stunning on the loom, but transformed itself into something quite different later on?  Understanding the fiber is critical to knowing how to properly finish your fabric.

This brings me to my latest (and next to last) favorite thing – resources to help you better understanding your yarn and fibers.  Fortunately, there are a multitude of free resources to help you at the Spin-Off website which may be found at Spinning Daily.  Below is a preview of what you will find there.

First, where to start . . .

A Guide to Handspun Yarn:  Types of Yarn and How to Spin Them – http://www.spinningdaily.com/types-of-yarn

Did you know that spinners draft?  Well, it certainly is different from how weavers draft?  They also draw.  I like this as a resource for becoming acquainted with spinning terms and lexicon.

Guide to Handspun Yarn

How to Make Yarn for Beginners:  Spinning Yarn for Beginners – http://www.spinningdaily.com/beginner-spinning-wheel-tips

Do you know the difference between a rolag and a batt?  It has to do with how they’re made.  How about the difference between a high-whorl and a low-whorl drop spindle?  Interested in knowing how to choose your first spinning wheel?  Check out this free ebook for answers to those questions . . . plus, much more!

How to Make Yarn

An Introduction to Spinning Wheels: How to Use and How to Choose a Spinning Wheel – http://www.spinningdaily.com/Spinning-Wheels/

This free ebook duplicates a bit of information found in the previous ebook; however, it provides some terrific insight into troubleshooting and a detailed list Great Spinning Wheel Roundup that lists spinning wheel manufacturers and information on some of their wheels and other products.

Intro to Spinning Wheels

Drop Spindle Spinning:  Learn How to Spin with Drop Spindles – http://www.spinningdaily.com/drop-spindle-spinning

Spinning wheels can be expensive; however, one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to get started on spinning.  Try a drop spindle instead.  After all, they’re extremely portable.  I’ve never mastered a drop spindle, but I do remember my first experience trying to spin on a spindle made from a stick skewered through a potato.  Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.  Maybe improving my drop spindle spinning is something to tackle in the New Year.

Drop Spindle

DIY Spinning Equipment (How to Make a DIY Yarn Swift, Drop Spindle & Yarn Balance) – http://www.spinningdaily.com/diy-yarn-spinning-equipment

As with many activities, there may be a need for additional equipment once you get started.  A yarn swift is invaluable for working with skeins of yarn.  A yarn balance is helpful in taking the mystery out of yarns.  Making your own may be a cost-effective and fun way yo better equip yourself. Plus, the drop spindle they show you how to make is much better than a stick skewered through a potato.

DIY Spinning Equipment

How to Ply Yarn:  From Plying on a Drop Spindle to Creating Plied Yarns on a Wheel – http://www.spinningdaily.com/plying

Why ply a yarn?  Well, for many reasons.  Plied yarns are often stronger that singles.  And, plying yarns can introduce a whole host of design opportunities for creating truly unique yarns.

Ply Yarn

To better understand your yarns, you may need to focus on the type of fiber you’re working with.

Wool – There’s not just one, but two excellent resources to help you better understand wool.  It’s the first fiber I spun over 40 years ago.

A Guide to Processing Wool to Make Wool Roving:  Washing Wool, Carding Wool, and Combing Wool – http://www.spinningdaily.com/processing-wool/

Processing Wool

A Guide to Spinning Wool:  Learn How to Spin Wool from Rare Sheep Breeds and Other Wool Fibers – http://www.spinningdaily.com/spinning-wool


All About Spinning Cotton:  A Guide to Cotton Spinning + Free Naturally Colored Cotton Yarn Patterns – http://www.spinningdaily.com/spinning-cotton

I undervalued cotton for many years.  I just thought cotton was cotton.  Then I discovered the wide range of cotton and the beautiful colors.


A Guide to Spinning Flax:  Linen Spun from Flax Fibershttp://www.spinningdaily.com/spinning-flax-linen


A Guide for Spinning Alpaca:  Fiber from Huacaya Alpaca to Suri Alpaca (and beyond)  – http://www.spinningdaily.com/spinning-alpaca-fiber


A Guide to Spinning Silk Fibers + Free Knitting, Weaving, Crochet, and Embroidery Projects Using Silk Fiber –http://www.spinningdaily.com/spinning-silk/

Silk Fibers

And, a little something from Handwoven magazine . . .

Tricks of the the Trade:  One weaver’s approach to spinning   http://www.weavingtoday.com/media/p/3667.aspx

It’s a one-page article about spinning, but written with weavers in mind.

Basically, from what I’ve shared with you today, I think it’s easy to say that Spin-Off and its website  Spinning Daily provide the beginning of a substantial library to get you started on learning more about spinning and fibers.

Before I end this blog post, I would like to add a few more things about spinning.

First, I want to give a big shout-out to Ply magazine, Jacey Boggs Faulkner (Publisher/Director/Editor in Chief), and everyone else that makes Ply happen.   It’s a beautiful magazine and designed for those that are serious about spinning and having serious fun at the same time.  http://plymagazine.com

Second, I have really enjoyed Sara Lamb’s book Spin to Weave:  The Weaver’s Guide to Making Yarn.  It’s not free; however, the print version of the book is currently on sale today for $4.99 through Interweave’s on-line store.  At that price, I’m sure supplies are limited for the print version


Last, but certainly not least . . . the spinning world recently lost one of it’s icons, Alden Amos.  I have heard many fiber artists rave about his spinning wheels.  I’ve haven’t had the opportunity to spin on one – yet.  Perhaps it’s just a matter of time.  The link below will take you to his obituary in The New York Times.


As 2015 wraps up and we prepare for 2016, maybe learning more about spinning and fibers will help take you to the next level as a fiber artist.



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