Thursday, December 18, 2008

Two-Fisted Spinning?

Laura's holding onto my singles while I'm helping Sue, so we get Sue straightened out and then I have to hold her singles... Then of course I feel stupid for having Laura continue to hold on to mine, so look what I end up with...
And it was much funnier when Sue ended up holding onto her own yarn and my yarn and they sort of self-spun together. But I broke them apart too quickly for someone to snap a pic.
I can hear you now - run, do not walk to therapy and get a life! Well, I'll tell you...spinning IS therapy. It's either the wool or me, of us is going to have tension. I'm twisted to begin with. And who are you to talk? You got nothin` better to do than read my blog. So...

Stash Buster

As a new spinner, it's typical to be really enthusiastic about it and experiment a lot to build skill. What do you end up with? A great big yarn stash! What to do? Weaving is great stash buster - uses a lot of yarn, as I found out. Also, it's a versatile craft, and much faster than knitting.

My husband Dave and I had a great time weaving at Misty Mountain. Both newbies, we were surprised how long it takes to prepare the loom, getting the warp set. The equipment can be intimidating and the setup is not intuitive, but Linda and Leanna Witt, the owners and instructors for the class, were so encouraging that I felt extremely comfortable and I could just go for it and have fun.

Below are some pics - we are measuring out the warp and putting the warp on the loom. More pics to come in follow-on posts. Thank you to my friend Sue for the pictures - she's got a great new camera, and since I forgot to bring any camera at all we wouldn't have pics without Sue.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

`Tis the Season

A great version of `Twas the Night Before Christmas, from the fiber-holic point of view.

Knitter's Night Before Christmas:

I'm about the zillionth person to post it or a link to it, and amazingly nobody really knows the original author.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

But Can You Dance to It?

The ambience is important when I'm spinning. It's great to have company and chat, and it can also be nice to spin in solitude. I enjoy listening to audio books and music. Spinning over the last several days has been a soothing experience because I have been accompanied by the music from La Belle Dame Sans Merci - Peg Loughran and static & silence and reading writing and arithmetic - both from The Sundays.

I'd like to know what you enjoy listening to when you're trying to get that spinning rhythm going. Is it your usual favorite genre of music? Is it the same music you listen to while driving? Does it depend on your mood? Can it help you spin better (or worse, if the music is wrong)?


Dear readers, a follow up from an earlier blog .... ("Slippery Purple Slope", October 23, 2008). I had much better results than I anticipated. Here are two full bobbins.

I decided to simply ply the singles together, for a two-ply yarn instead of Navajo ply. I think it's a very pretty yarn, and very soft. I believe I will get more than three bobbins full of plied yarn.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

These are pictures of the yarn and some of the fiber I dyed at the class at Misty Mountain. The brightly colored (red and blue) yarn is sock weight. The fuzzy looking blue and green is mohair yarn. The third picture is fiber, dyed in red, blue, and gray.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dying for More Dyeing

I took a wonderful class on Saturday at Misty Mountain Farm on dyeing techniques. Leanna and Linda Witt led the class. I had never tried dyeing anything before (except, maybe, food like frosting). The class was great for a novice like me because of all the information the Witts packed in. In only four hours, we learned two techniques for dyeing yarn and two techniques for dyeing fiber. I got to keep the yarn and fiber that I dyed, I had great fun, and the knowledge will be very useful. Kudos to Leanna and Linda! Check out their Web site for more fiber arts classes:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Glass Spinning Wheel

I saw a post on the Ravelry group Beginner Spinners about a glass spinning wheel and I just had to check it out. A video about the artist Andy Paiko and his work is on the Web site of the Oregon Public Broadcasting station. Very interesting - he is incredible.
Certainly not a portable wheel, but I wouldn't turn it down ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Shame on me for not keeping up with my blog. Excuses: travel, life, yadaah. I am gratified to see that since I last caught up, I have a couple of new responses to blog entries. One from my brother - he is apparently enjoying the toque! I'm happy for that - it's all about the user experience. I'll be interested to hear if strangers comment on it. Another entry is from a friend, Glaucia, whom I met through Ravelry. Glaucia lives in Lisbon, Portugal. I'm really glad to hear from her, and I certainly wouldn't want to disappoint by producing an inferior blog.

Meanwhile - about spinning, I posted in October about a fiber that I was having trouble spinning on my Ashford Traditional. The fiber is very slippery. I tried it on my Louet Victoria and I'm having greater success. I have spun nearly a bobbin full as of Wed. 19 November. I think the big difference is that the Louet Victoria has the Scotch tension. That is allowing more control over spin and the rate at which the fiber is drawn onto the bobbin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Banana Blue

I like the yarn I spun from some bright blue/purple corriedale cross fiber I got at Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts. The shade of blue is a lot like bananas under UV light - wow! Check out
The yarn was spun on my Louet Victoria wheel, and plied on my Ashford traditional double drive. I plied it using the Navajo ply technique and it resulted in about 12 plied twists per inch in the yarn.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Slippery Purple Slope

I am currently spinning this fiber, which I got from Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts in September. Wow, it's slippery stuff - a bit more challenging than spinning corriedale. Unfortunately I am not sure of the fiber blend. The color combination is pretty. It isn't making a variegated yarn, so I don't intend to Navajo ply it. I think this will be one where I ply two singles together. Webs, um, well, Web page is Lots of goodies on the site. Before you are tempted, be sure you have reaffirmed that you DO NOT NEED ANOTHER SPINNING WHEEL...

Friday, October 17, 2008


A milestone - I completed my first garment (okay, accessory really) out of my own handspun. It's brown and white fiber, spun rather unevenly. I forgive myself for that since it was one of my initial attempts at spinning. The benefit was that it had a rustic tweedy look when I knit it up. I didn't have much of it so I decided to make a simple hat. Being very textured yarn it looked best in stockinette stitch. Here is the picture - the hat modeled on its new owner, my very own brother Ed. He was very gracious about accepting it as a gift (thanks, bro!). He recognized it as a toque. Below is the picture of the yarn I knit it from.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spinning at Great Falls

Once again great weather on Monday, and we celebrated the holiday spinning al fresco at Great Falls National Park, Virginia. Laura and I fielded questions from lots of curious folks. We can only hope that we are sparking a spinning revolution (get it? hah!). We were both spinning wool blend with some Corriedale. And (surprise), neither of us is quite sure what we will make out of the yarn we are spinning.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spinning at Arts Safari

The wonderful weather Saturday made it a great day to volunteer at the Arts Safari at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. The description of the event is at:
Members of Fluff `n Nonsense demonstrated spinning and gave kids an opportunity to try it out for themselves.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

One-Handed Technique

At the show in Montpelier, I saw an interesting book, Spinning for Softness and Speed, by Paula Simmons. Interesting concepts, basically focusing on avoiding using fingers to pinch the yarn and control the twist. Instead, allow the fiber to twist with the wheel and use only one hand to draft the yarn back, ahead of the twist so the twist doesn't go into the source. You can read more in the book itself about the advantages of this approach. Basically, the author states that it allows faster spinning, and automatically avoids overtwist, making the yarn softer.
I tried the technique - during the presidential "town hall" debate, no less! I found it difficult, and still hadn't gotten it after a couple of hours. The yarn frequently just separated so it was pulled into the bobbin and I was left holding the fiber. The main problem may have been with my tension - I was using my Ashford Traditional double drive, which makes it a little difficult to fine-tune the speed at which the wheel is taking up the fiber. I tried using different amounts of fiber to draft/spin. My end product was uneven, unfortunately. I think I'll be persistent, and try it out on my Louet Victoria, which has Scotch tension. Here is a photo of my initial attempt:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Use the Force!!

Flash of insight - you can use your wheel (probably) as a tensioned lazy kate!! I found it a big help while practicing more Navajo plying. Using the wheel, I took off the drive band and put on my bobbin with the singles, with the Scotch tension on the bobbin. I set up my other wheel to ply on. It worked great, holding at bay the twisty curlicues that were so bothersome when I was doing the Navajo plying previously. The flyer on the wheel I was using as a kate didn't move as I pulled the yarn during plying.

Fluff `n Nonsense at Barnes and Noble

The Fluff `n Nonsense group met at Barnes and Noble on Monday October 6. The alcove we were allocated was great, and had a nice big table. About 10 people showed up and there was time for round-robin introductions. It looks so serious, but really, NOT.

Montpelier Fiber Festival

We had a great time at the Montpelier Fiber Festival Sunday October 5th. There were plenty of vendors, but the crowds were not overwhelming. The weather was great. I really want to thank Misty Mountain Farms for letting us set up for some spinning in their tent. The photos: Sue (in the dark sweater), Justin and me, practicing spinning, and an alpaca.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Means, Motive and Opportunity

If you know cats, you'll understand. I thought it was safe, I was just going to step out for a minute. Sure, I was in the middle of plying but they won't bother it, WILL they? Only to return to it - wrapped around my chair ... inspiring this warped version of a song by the Bobs, "There's a nose ring in my soup":

I’ve never touched a more fabulous fiber
Compliments on the yarn
The softness is better than yak from the Khyber
The twist is just right, so balanced and nice

I’m not used to Navajo plying
What way to loop the yarn next?
Counter clockwise, my wheel really flying
But one thing is strange that I wish I could change

There is cat spit in this yarn
There is cat spit in this yarn
And the slime of it is giving me pause
Was the singles gnawed by some tiny jaws?
There is cat spit in this yarn

You must listen to the original (abridged):
(click on the speaker picture)
The official Bobs site is - the lyrics to Nose Ring are there, direct link is

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Color is important to me when I choose fiber. It's the first thing that catches my eye. But what color yarn will I get? The colors turn out somewhat muted, because they blend as they're spun together. The fiber in the first picture is very bright, but once it's spun it's not quite as bright, as you can see in the second picture. If you ply the yarn, the method of plying the yarn makes a difference too. With variegated color as shown in the photos, the Navajo plying method preserves the color gradation - a transition from one color to the next. Navajo plying creates a three-ply yarn, as in the third picture. Variegated fiber plied as a two-ply yarn creates an effect with a blend of contrasting complementary colors. Washing changes the color of the yarn too, because quite a bit of dye can come out.
Though it's not obvious, perhaps you can see in the photos the subtle change in color from the original fiber to the spun yarn and then the Navajo-plied yarn (the final product).
For more on the Navajo plying method, check out the video on

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Poem (or Song)

Here is a link to a spinning poem/song I found on the Web site of the Hampshire (England) guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Grease Monkey

Spinning is social activity - don't let those embarrassing squeaks from your wheel spoil your evening. Different wheels have different points where you should lube them. Some wheels have manuals and other references to help. I found a guide for my Ashford Traditional wheel at - specifically a guide on where to oil it! It was a bit trickier for my Louet Victoria - it came with instructions but no mention of oiling it. I couldn't find any information on the Louet Web site, A good retailer can be an important source of advice, and I had been told that it had sealed bearings and wouldn't need oiling. Since it was squeaking a bit, though, I wanted find out if oiling might help. I found this page which corroborated the no lube instruction. That goes to show - LISTEN to experts, such as Linda at Misty Mountain Farms (thank you, Linda!). It seemed to me the treadles were squeaking and I think it's safe to oil parts except the sealed bearings, so I oiled the joints of the treadle axles. You can see a treadle below in the first picture. I oiled where the black metal part is joined to the treadle. I also oiled the joint where the right treadle is connected to the con rod, which you can see in the second picture below. My last piece of advice on this - don't go overboard with the oil. Listen to the wheel and determine what's making the squeak before dousing it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

End Result - The Sequel

I did more research to determine whether it's important to spin from a specific end of the fiber. I split a sliver of fiber into two parts, then deliberately spun from one end of the first part and the opposite end of the second part. In other words, part one was <======<, and part two was, >=====>. I did not detect a significant difference in how they spun up. What did make a different was pre-drafting the fiber. Pre-drafting seemed to me to make it easier to spin quickly. I think it also made it easier to avoid slubs. I know, Sue told me - and she was right!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kay Anderson, Spinning in Scotland

Check out this great 9 minute video on uTube, of a woman demonstrating spinning.

It's rich with information - it shows her choosing a fleece, carding, and demonstrating a couple of different methods of using a spinning wheel, like the long draw. She even uses the word "rolag" - go ahead, look it up, you know you want to!

Note: I had problems with the video sound volume, so I had to turn up my speakers. You may too.


So this is finished product - the brown and white I spun and plied myself. It's mostly wool with some silk. The brown was wool, and the white fiber was a blend of wool and silk. I am thinking about using it for a hat or a scarf. The other photo is also yarn I spun myself. It's not plied, so it's referred to as singles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

End Result...

I tried two of the fibers I have, to figure out whether there was a right end and wrong end to draft from. That is, whether one end would be easier, therefore the correct end to draft from. My humble opinion, um, not really any difference. This is likely to be highly dependent on how the fiber was prepared. So I plan to keep the principle in mind. When I am working with a new fiber, I think it's a good idea to pre-draft a bit from each end, and if one proves easier, draft and spin from that end.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Right End and Wrong End

I read in a book that there was a right end and a wrong end to fiber - an end you should draft from and the, well, the other end. I haven't found the book reference (perhaps I will find and post the title later), but I did find a reference on the Web. Check out
Some great information on alpacas, and the site references The Joy of Handspinning. With drum carded or commercially processed fiber, you should draft from the end that pulls out more easily - that simple! At least it seems to be...I've got fiber to practice with, and I'll post my experience trying to detect a difference.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Slippery Slope

I first experienced spinning only about a year ago. At a small fiber festival I saw spinning supplies and I was interested in trying to spin. I wasn't convinced it was for me, and I didn't want to invest a lot. I bought a book, a drop spindle, and some fiber to practice with. That was a basic recipe for disaster, since I just couldn't catch on to the principles of spinning and controlling the drop spindle. It can be rough going. But, judge for yourself - here are links to some good videos on using a drop spindle:

Since my initial experience with the drop spindle, I started hanging out with knitters at Nature's Yarns in Fairfax, Virginia. A spinning group meets there too, and as with knitters, all are extremely generous with their knowledge, resources, and supplies. I was coaxed into trying a spinning wheel. I was intimidated, and uptight about spinning in front of the entire group, and the result was not good. But I am tenacious (some would call it bull-headed, but not to my face...), and I eventually tried the spinning wheel again. Somewhere along the line I got hooked - and became the proud owner of a second-hand wheel, an Ashford Traditional double-drive.

There is no doubt - on this journey, it is the influence of other enthusiasts that has made the difference. Everyone in the spinning group has done something to bring me into the fold and share their passion - they have lent me wheels, sold me equipment, given me fiber to spin, laughed with me, and explained and demonstrated techniques. I really want to thank all my mentors in the group! If you're a new spinner or want to learn, find mentors! If you are already a spinner and a mentor, you deserve huge thanks.

NOTE: I'm still horrible using a drop spindle.

Why Spin?

Your mileage may vary, but I sure love spinning. Why?
  • Socializing I love an opportunity to chat and joke while I have something to occupy my hands.
  • Creativity I can create decorative yarns with unique colors and textures for my knitting.
  • Economy I have found that you can save some money spinning your own yarn for your fiber projects. And, for the same money, you get to enjoy the fiber while spinning, and again while knitting it up or whatever.
  • Equipment Right now I'd better admit to being somewhat into the technology. I have had quite a bit of fun comparing the way different spinning wheels work and the comparative advantages. What I really appreciate, though, are the simplicity of the mechanisms and the ingenuity of the designs.
  • Challenge For me spinning presents an enjoyable challenge as I learn about different fiber blends and spinning techniques.


Welcome to Twist & Shout, the journey of a new spinner. I was introduced to spinning through knitting, and I hope I can inspire you by sharing some of my experiences and insights. I'm dedicating this blog to Sue H., who inspired me to spin!