Saturday, October 10, 2009

Spinning at Alexandria Arts Safari

I had a very pleasant afternoon doing spinning demonstration at the Alexandria Arts Safari. The event is at the Torpedo Factory, a venue in Alexandria, Virginia for artisans. The Arts Safari is geared towards kids. The parents seem to really enjoy it too, though, as their kids learn about and even try different crafts including the textile arts.

The weather was somewhat chilly and drizzly but there was a good crowd, a pretty much constant stream to chat with. We provided explanations and demonstration. The was an opportunity to touch different fibers like silk, wool and alpaca, make felted necklaces, and make yarn to tie as bracelets.

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Ode to Low-Tech

Of course I think about spinning A LOT, and today the thought I had is that I like it partly because it is low-tech. That's what flashed in my mind as I was pumping gas - yes, pumping gas. Gee (I was thinking), I'm enjoying this SO much more - or at least it's less annoying - than when I fill up at one of those places with the gas pumps that talk to me. Also - power toothbrushes. I have to confess I haven't tried one, but I'm simply against the idea. Oh, and I have a car with a lot of sensors and sometimes that gets annoying.

So - though I love my computer and gadgets, I like going low-tech. I like powering the spinning wheel myself - I don't foresee myself buying an electric wheel. I like the fact that a drop spindle has no moving parts. I like working with wool and thinking about the animal it came from. For me there's even some interest generated in having to deal with the bits and pieces of hay and everything in the fiber.

Please take my poll and let me know how you feel about power toothbrushes. I need to know if I have some backing on this extremely important issue.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shades of Gray

This yarn is spun from a fiber blend that includes some from the sheep at Star Gazing Farm. It is a perendale sheep breed, blended with mohair (which is from a goat). You can read some interesting information about the perendale breed at wikipedia: The fiber was so much fun to spin. The dark gray blended with the white to create a barber shop pole effect on some of it, but I also got plain white or plain gray on other parts. I decided to ply it as a three-ply.

Autumn Leaves

This yarn I spun from fiber I dyed at a dyeing workshop at Misty Mountain Farm. We used chemical dyes - sorry, I don't remember what colors I used for this one and I'm not sure what type of sheep the wool is from. It was really interesting to work with the fiber because it wasn't combed when we dyed it - the locks had been clean but were not otherwise prepared. After the dyeing session, I let it dry thoroughly but then I wasn't quite sure how to deal with it since all the wool was sort of tangled together. I didn't want to put it through a carder because that could cause the colors to blend too much and appear muddy. With encouragement from my friend Sue, I just picked it up and started spinning. I fluffed it up and teased it out a bit before spinning then used the woolen method, letting it sort of draft itself. It was slow going - there was lots of bits and pieces of vegetable matter and quite a bit of dust in the fiber which fell out as I spun it. I decided to navajo ply it, to get gradiations in color. It's sort of thick and thin novelty yarn. I think it looks like autumn leaves.

Gruff Yarn

This is yarn I spun from Gruff, a sheep from Star Gazing Farm. Gruff is a romney breed. Our sheep-to-shawl team was to use Gruff for our competition at Maryland Sheep and Wool in May 2009, so our team practiced spinning Gruff's raw locks (unwashed, hand combed). For this yarn, though, I spun from clean wool that had been carded - put through a drum carder 3 or 4 times. We spun it at a demonstration at Star Gazing Farm in July. It was nice to spin - I used a woolen technique and it came out soft and fluffy. To learn more about the romney breed, take a look at or check out the American Romney Breeders Association

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Four-Ply Yarn

At the homespun yarn party (Savage Mills, MD, March 2009), I purchased a wool and bamboo fiber. I decided to try it on my drop spindle. Once I had enough I wanted to test plying it, and decided to try a four-ply yarn. This means four different threads plied together. I swatched it, and you can see the result in the photo.
I think it's a great tweed. It turned out that it sort of self-striped.

New Party Tricks with Spinning Wheels

So, loyal readers will know I spin on a wheel (I own two), and on a drop spindle (I own several). But I've found that once I have fiber spun on a drop spindle, it's hard to get it prepared for plying. There is no device that makes it easy to hold a drop spindle and ply from it or from several.

One technique I've tried is winding the spun fiber onto a core (an empty toilet paper roll, if you must know). However, it's not that easy to ply from. Since I think it's sometimes easier to spin using a lazy kate (built to hold bobbins), I decided I'd try to wind from my spindle onto a bobbin. So I configured my Ashford Traditional double-drive to spin the bobbin but not the flyer.

To do this, the double-drive band must be placed around the bobbin only. For spinning one band is placed around the bobbin and one band around the whorl, so the bobbin and the flyer both spin. But, with the band only around the bobbin, the flyer doesn't move. See, in the photo the flyer is the wood with the hooks in it - like arms. You can see the drive band - it is the pink band horizontal in the picture. The whorl is the piece with the two grooves, in the center of the photo. It is slightly darker wood than the bobbin.

Here's the technique:
1. I put the empty bobbin in place.
2. I placed the band around the bobbin
3. I attached the thread I'd spun on the drop spindle, to the leader on the bobbin.
4. I started treadling, clockwise
5. Continued treadling and winding onto the bobbin until all the fiber was off the spindle.

Simple as that. The flyer never moved so it didn't get in the way as the thread wound onto the bobbin. I found it was somewhat difficult to hold the spindle in place and let it spin as the fiber wound off, but I managed it with a little finesse.