Handspinning, A Very Useful Skill

my first two-ply

I am a history buff.  I can’t keep my hands out of the pie.  I have done everything from medieval recreation to taking an archaeology-themed vacation.  When I was 16, no less.

The ingenuity of people in the past is endlessly fascinating to me.  I love to discover how similar we still are in all the little ways that matter most.

I am drawn to stories and depictions of how people survived, thrived, lived, loved, and fought from neolithic England to colonial Michigan.

I think my interest in history is entwined with my interest in homesteading skills, like making jam, growing vegetables, sewing, knitting … and spinning wool into yarn.

The funny thing is, I resisted handspinning for more than 10 years.  A friend tried to teach me on a drop spindle, but I didn’t take to it and chose to focus on weaving for a while instead.  As I got deeper and deeper into knitting — and reading blogs about knitting, and looking at pictures of handspun — and began to think I might want to try spinning again.  Maybe I was more of a wheel spinner?

I looked into taking classes.  The Spinning Loft was still located in Michigan then, but I had very young children at home and it seemed impossible at that time to get to a class that was 40 minutes away.  I went to check out a local fiber guild, Spinner’s Flock, where they plopped me in front of a Louet S10 and gave me a quick lesson.  My friends and I practiced treadling and drafting, and we spun some spectacularly chunky, uneven “art” yarn.  I went home with a fire in my head and practiced spinning on a drop spindle.  It wasn’t so bad after all!

my first handspun

At next month’s meeting, I signed up to be a member, paid for a wheel rental, and took home the Louet where I promptly spun up some lovely singles — then accidentally plied in the same direction and got some super twisted funky art yarn that is pretty much unusable.  I suppose now I know how to fix it.  But it’s nice to see where we’ve come from, eh?

crazy orange art yarn

Renting a wheel every month wasn’t feasible for me because I couldn’t go to every guild meeting (those darn kids!). I resolved to spend more time with my drop spindle, which although slower production-wise, was making me MUCH better at drafting.  Ultimately I was getting more yarn for my wool by slowing down.

At a Spinner’s Flock Fleece Fair sale, I bought myself a colorful braid of hand-dyed combed top and spun it up on my drop spindle.  Determined to try plying again, I wound my first two cops off onto toilet paper tubes.  I then turned a shoebox, a couple of 14″ knitting needles, and the cardboard tube bobbins into a rustic, homemade lazy kate and plied off onto my spindle.  It was so exciting.  I felt like I was finally, really making my own yarn.

my first two-ply

And I had no idea what to do with my new handspun!  I could only guess at the gauge and it was obvious that I didn’t have much yardage.  Excited to keep playing with spinning, I shrugged this problem off.  I would figure it out later. (And I did.  Am.)

I eventually borrowed a wheel (an Ashford Traveller), gave it back, borrowed another wheel (the Majacraft Suzie Pro that I am still using), and was gifted a broken wheel that I quickly got repaired (the Louet S15 that I still use).

my spinning wheels

I spin on my wheels more than I spindle, but I have great respect for the power of the spindle.  For thousands of years, people made clothing by hand — starting with fiber and a spindle.

ancient spindle whorl

Today I know spindlers who can really cruise and it’s not always an obvious equation that wheel spinning is faster than drop spinning.  For those of us who don’t do this for a living, production has a lot more to do with how much time you spend at spinning than how quickly you can crank out the twists per inch.

 

 

Great Lakes Fiber News for February & March 2018

Great Lakes Fiber Arts News - February and March 2018

Here are the fiber events happening in the Great Lakes region in February and March.  This is not an exhaustive list!  If you have a fiber event in the Great Lakes region that you’d like to share, click here to tell me about it.

Woolfolk Wool Elements Trunk Show at Spun

Friday February 2 – Sunday February 11, 2018

407 N. Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Wool Elements showcases an sophisticated palette of natural wool colors in easy to knit and infinitely wearable accessories.  Happy hour reception on Friday February 9th from 4-6pm.

Sauder Village Fiber Fest

Sauder Village Knitting and Fiber Arts Retreat

Friday February 9 – Sunday February 11, 2018

The Sauder Heritage Inn is a cozy environment for a fiber retreat.  There’s plenty of space, a great breakfast, a hot tub to soak in, and Sauder Village right next door for a ramble through living history of the area. Registration is available for 2 or 3 day attendance.

Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock Trunk Show at the Michigan Fibre Studio

Saturday February 10 – Saturday February 24, 2018

1503 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI
Come check out the beautiful range of colors available on Sweet Georgia’s most popular base yarn, Tough Love Sock.  Four samples from Sweet Georgia’s studio in Vancouver, BC, will be available for fondling!  Michigan Fibre Studio is open until midnight on February 23rd.

InterKnit Machine Knitter’s Guild

Saturday February 10, 2018, 10am-12pm

College of DuPage
SRC 1005, 425 Fawell Blvd, Glen Ellyn, IL
“The Interknit Machine Knitting Guild was founded in the fall of 1995 and established for the support, education, and fellowship of machine knitters of all experience and expertise levels, regardless of the make or model of machine used.”

Spinner’s Flock February Guild Meeting

Saturday February 10, 2018, 10am-1pm

Beach Middle School
445 Mayer Dr, Chelsea, MI 48118
Spinner’s Flock monthly guild meetings are a great way to connect with area spinners, weavers, needlefelters, and shepherds.  There is a learner’s circle for spinners every month with wheels provided by the guild. Guests and new members are always welcome!

alpaca shearing

Buckeye Alpaca Show

Saturday February 10 – Sunday February 11, 2018

Arena Complex
Summit County Fairgrounds, Tallmadge, OH
The Buckeye Alpaca Show celebrates all that is camelid with a fleece competition, live auctions, and — or course — vendors.

Northern Fiber Arts Retreat

Wednesday February 14 – Sunday February 18, 2018

This cozy retreat on the shore of Lake Superior features more than two dozen classes about spinning, knitting, felting, sewing, and more.  As of early February, there were still many classes with space available.

Spinner's Flock Fleece Fair

Winter Fleece Fair

Saturday February 17, 2018, 10am-4pm

Beach Middle School
445 Mayer Dr, Chelsea, MI 48118
I’ve been going to this sale for 20 years and it doesn’t get more local than this.  The Fleece Fair is a GREAT place to buy fleece (raw and washed), roving, combed top, fiber tools of all kids, and books from local makers and shepherds. That room full of color and wool in the middle a Michigan winter is a truly a balm for the soul.  The prices are really good too.

fingerless mitts for beginning knitters

Beginning Knitting Class — taught by me!

Thursdays February 22 & March 3, 2018 11am-1pm

Spun
407 N. Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
I love to teach beginning knitters. There’s nothing like that moment when everything clicks together!  In this class, taught over two sessions, I guide you through the basics of how to knit and we work on making a simple pair of fingerless mitts that incorporates these essentials skills.

Roving Indiana: Yarn Crawl

Friday February 23 – Sunday March 11, 2018

Encompassing 13 yarn shops in 10 cities, the Roving Indiana Yarn Crawl is 17-day celebration of all things woolly!  Check out the website for special events, limited edition yarn for the crawl, project ideas, and a pattern to knit your own passport holder.

Creative Spirit Fiber Festival

Friday February 23 – Saturday February 24, 2018

Calvary Lutheran Church
2508 Washington Ave SE, Bemidji, MN
“Come celebrate the best in fiber arts! Friday: in-depth classes taught by experienced instructors (pre-registration required). Saturday: Just $10 admission gets attendees into a vendor market filled with fiber-related items, free mini classes, trunk shows, demos, coffee and homemade treats, door prizes and more.”

Duluth Fiber Handcrafters Guild Meeting

Monday March 5, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm

Ruth Maney Room, Duluth Depot
506 W Michigan St, Duluth, MN
Guest speaking Anita Stech of Cut Loose Creations will talk to the guild about the environmental impact of clothing disposal and how artists are upcycling discarded items and working to reduce clothing pollution.

Jay County Fiber Arts Festival

Friday March 9 – Saturday March 10, 2018

Jay Community Center
115 E. Water St., Portland, IN
Two days of sheep, classes, shopping, art, and storytelling — what’s not to love?  Better yet, author, teacher, and fiber artist Kate Larson is giving a free lecture at 6pm Friday evening.  Not to be missed if you can get there!

machine knitting

InterKnit Machine Knitter’s Guild

Saturday March 10, 2018, 10am-12pm

College of DuPage
SRC 1005, 425 Fawell Blvd, Glen Ellyn, IL
“The Interknit Machine Knitting Guild was founded in the fall of 1995 and established for the support, education, and fellowship of machine knitters of all experience and expertise levels, regardless of the make or model of machine used.”

Spinner’s Flock March Guild Meeting

Saturday March 10, 2018, 10am-1pm

Beach Middle School
445 Mayer Dr, Chelsea, MI 48118
Spinner’s Flock monthly guild meetings are a great way to connect with area spinners, weavers, needlefelters, and shepherds.  There is a learner’s circle for spinners every month with wheels provided by the guild. Guests and new members are always welcome!

Cedarburg Spur Fiber Arts Trail

Friday March 16 – Saturday March 17, 2018

Cedarburg, Grafton, and Thiensville, WI
This festival “celebrates the opening of ‘Commemorating His Purple Reign: A Textural Tribute to Prince’ exhibit at Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Art. Free Admission on Friday and Saturday. Tour local maker spaces and galleries. Shop local makers and businesses. Drop-in make and take sessions. Full-day and half-day textile workshops. See the 1860s carding mill in action at the Cedarburg Woolen Mill.”

Madison Knitters Guild Knit-In

Friday March 16 – Sunday March 18, 2018

Alliant Energy Center
1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison, WI
Classes with nationally recognized teachers Susan B. Anderson, Kate Larson, Laura Linneman, Patty Lyons, and Laura Nelkin.  Plus demos, knit-alongs, luncheons, mini skein exchange, stitch marker swap, evening games, and 30 fabulous vendors.

For the Love of Fiber

Saturday March 17, 2018, 10am-5pm

Ramada Inn and Conference Center
1450 S Atherton St, State College, PA
This one-day event celebrates all things woolly with a finished object fashion show, classes, and vendors.

Threaded Streams Fiber Arts Trail Creativity Weekend

Friday March 22 – Sunday March 24, 2018

Baraboo, Portage, Prairie du Sac, and Lodi, WI
Discover maker stories, local textile history, classes, workshops, and demonstrations in this multi-destinaton getaway.

Black Swamp Spinner’s Guild Market Day and Fiber Fair

Saturday March 24, 2018, 9am-4pm

Junior Fair Building, Wood County Fairgrounds
13800 W Poe Rd, Bowling Green, OH
Market Day is a friendly show bringing together wonderful vendors from around the Great Lakes region.  Highly recommended!

Got a tip on a fiber event in the Great Lakes region that you’d like to share? Drop me a note using this contact form.

Great Lakes Fiber News for January & February 2018

Learn to knit with these simple fingerless mitts

Great Lakes Fiber News January 2018

Here are the fiber events happening in the Great Lakes region in January and February.  This is not an exhaustive list!  If you have fiber news for the Great Lakes region that you’d like to share, click here to tell me about it.

Shawl Knit-a-Long at The Yarn Stop

Saturday January 6 — Saturday February 10, 2018

The Yarn Stop
25 S Main St, Clawson, MI 48017
The Yarn Stop in Clawson, Michigan, is hosting a KAL to make a beautiful shawl.  There are prizes!  You can register on the website; yarn must be purchased at The Yarn Stop.

Cascades Trunk Show by Quince & Co

Monday January 8 – Monday January 22, 2018

Yarn Harbor
4629 E. Superior St, Duluth, MN 55804
“The Cascades Trunk Show by Quince arrives on January 8 and runs until the 22nd.  This Pacific Northwest inspired palette is a showcase of five knits in Quince’s arresting blue hues, from darkest Slate to pale Mist.”

Yarn Party Pop Up

Friday January 12, 2018, 12pm-7pm

Streetkitchen
2722 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912
“Yarn Party is a combination of trunk show, stitch n bitch, and demonstrations hosted by Icemelon’s Stash, V Yarns, Mint Rain hand dyed yarns, Anomalous Mind, and Chasing Acorns. The fabulous Lexy Carl will be teaching mini workshops on how to make your own spindle and how to spin yarn as well!”

Spinner's Flock guild meeting

Spinner’s Flock January Guild Meeting

Saturday January 13, 2018, 10am-1pm

Beach Middle School
445 Mayer Dr, Chelsea, MI 48118
Spinner’s Flock monthly guild meetings are a great way to connect with area spinners, weavers, needlefelters, and shepherds.  There is a learner’s circle for spinners every month with wheels provided by the guild. Guests and new members are always welcome!

Warm Paws thrummed mitten

Thrummed Mittens Class

Wednesdays January 17 & 24, 2018, 11am-1pm — SOLD OUT

Spun
407 N. Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
I am teaching my popular class on how to knit thrummed mittens using my Warm Paws pattern. Spun is a wonderfully warm and inviting yarn shop located in the Kerrytown district of downtown Ann Arbor.

Shibui Trunk Show and Yarn Tasting

Saturday January 20, 2018, 11am-2pm

The Purple Purl
1162 Queen St. E. Toronto, ON. M4M 1L4
“We are delighted to be carrying a selection of the decadent and delightful Shibui yarns! We will be hosting a yarn tasting event so you can get your hands on this lovely stuff and try it out on the needles to see what you may just NEED to make of it next!”

Winter Wine and Wool at Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Winter Wine and Wool

Saturday January 27, 2018, 10am-5pm

Sandhill Crane Vineyards
4724 Walz Rd, Jackson, MI 49201
What could be a better pairing?  This is an awesome event full of delicious victuals, beautiful fiber products, and welcoming community of vinters, dyers, designers, and customers.

Sauder Village Knitting and Fiber Arts Retreat

Friday February 9 – Sunday February 11, 2018

The Sauder Heritage Inn is a cozy environment for a fiber retreat.  There’s plenty of space, a great breakfast, a hot tub to soak in, and Sauder Village right next door for a ramble through living history of the area. Registration is available for 2 or 3 day attendance.

Spinner’s Flock February Guild Meeting

Saturday February 10, 2018, 10am-1pm

Beach Middle School
445 Mayer Dr, Chelsea, MI 48118
Spinner’s Flock monthly guild meetings are a great way to connect with area spinners, weavers, needlefelters, and shepherds.  There is a learner’s circle for spinners every month with wheels provided by the guild. Guests and new members are always welcome!

Buckeye Alpaca Show

Saturday February 10 – Sunday February 11, 2018

Arena Complex
Summit County Fairgrounds, Tallmadge, OH
The Buckeye Alpaca Show celebrates all that is camelid with a fleece competition, live auctions, and — or course — vendors.

Winter Fleece Fair

Saturday February 17, 2018, 10am-4pm

Beach Middle School
445 Mayer Dr, Chelsea, MI 48118
I’ve been going to this sale for 20 years and it doesn’t get more local than this.  The Fleece Fair is a GREAT place to buy fleece (raw and washed), roving, combed top, fiber tools of all kids, and books from local makers and shepherds. That room full of color and wool in the middle a Michigan winter is a truly a balm for the soul.  The prices are really good too.

Learn to knit with these simple fingerless mitts

Beginning Knitting Class — taught by me!

Thursdays February 22 & March 3, 2018 11am-1pm

Spun
407 N. Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
I love to teach beginning knitters. There’s nothing like that moment when everything clicks together!  In this class, taught over two sessions, I guide you through the basics of how to knit and we work on making a simple pair of fingerless mitts that incorporates these essentials skills.

Roving Indiana: Yarn Crawl

Friday February 23 – Sunday March 11, 2018

Encompassing 13 yarn shops in 10 cities, the Roving Indiana Yarn Crawl is 17-day celebration of all things woolly!  Check out the website for special events, limited edition yarn for the crawl, project ideas, and a pattern to knit your own passport holder.

Open Knitting at Skeins on Main

Thursdays, starting at 6pm

428 S. Main St, Rochester, MI 48307
“Join us for an evening of laughter, friendship, and maybe even a little knitting or crochet.  There’s no fee to attend.  This is not a class, so no instructor is provided.”

Sit & Knit at The Village Yarn & Fiber Shop

Thursdays, 6:30-9pm

350 W Commercial St, East Rochester, NY 14445
“Come join us on Thursday evenings with your current project to socialize and make some new friends! We’ll have treats and coffee to enjoy while you relax and work on your projects. Knitting, crocheting, spinning – everything to do with yarn and fiber is welcome!”

Got a tip on a fiber event in the Great Lakes region that you’d like to share? Drop me a note using this contact form.

Reflecting on My Summer Spinning Ramage

Photo of a soft, fluffy pile of cormo pencil roving

My summer of family fun was also filled with lots of spinning.  I was just in the mood for it and enjoying myself immensely.

First up was “Frothy,” a delicious, pink blend of Cormo, Border Leicester, Coopworth, and silk from Fiber Trends that I finished plying in early June.

“Frothy” called to me in the depths of winter and although I don’t think of myself as a pink girl, I couldn’t resist her siren song.  I’m so glad I didn’t.  This was fun to spin, fun to ply, and I keep looking at it and petting it and dreaming of what this 500+ yards of DK weight yarn will become.  Probably a shawl.

“Frothy” was spun up on the Majacraft Suzie Pro that I am fostering for a friend of a friend.  So I decided that the next project would be on my own Louet S15, who hadn’t been used all winter.  I chose another Fiber Trends roving that I picked up in February at the Spinner’s Flock Fleece Fair.  Called “Peacock,” it’s a blend of alpaca and wool in wild, but subdued colors, kind of like a tartan: burgundy, blue, orange, yellow.

Photo of fiber on a spindle

The alpaca in “Peacock” was too slippy for my mighty Louet S15, which kept ripping it out of my hands, making the the spinning No Fun.  After about of week, I did the big girl thing and switched tools, to my Schacht Hi-Lo spindle.  Now we are getting on.  Spindle projects are always slow going for me because it is not the project I reach for first.  Here in early October, the “Peacock” spindling is still ongoing, with no end in sight.

In mid-August I decided to clear out some leftover singles and practice my navajo plying.  I made quick work of Rambouillet leftovers and then took on the wheel-spun Peacock singles.  I’m happy with how these turned out although I struggled to get the n-ply going.

Then I started spinning the green glitter mohair batt (wool/mohair/silk noils/glitter).  This was one of those fibers I probably would have never bought for myself and I am so glad Julie destashed it in my direction because I learned a lot!  First, mohair is fun and easy to spin owing to its looooong staple length.  Second, a little bit of glitter (like angelina or firestar, not confetti) isn’t obnoxious at all; it just peeks out here and there.  Third, I might want to try making some blended batts of my own soon.  Just for the fun of it.

I spun this 8 oz up in about a week, which is pretty fast for my multicraftual self. It was so fun that it had my full attention — while watching Life on Mars with Matt in the evening (I like the UK original version better, but we ultimately watched both series).

About two weeks later — slowed down by the start of the school year, etc — I navajo plied the leftover singles.  That was a lot less successful (it’s worse in real life than in these pictures).  I’m not sure why, but maybe it needed more twist in the ply.  No tears though, this was just a practice with leftovers and gives me stuff to think about.

I also navajo plied (on the wheel) some leftovers from the yarn I spindle-spun for Julie as a thank you gift.  Also less successful, also done on the same night as the green glitter mohair n-ply so another theory I have is that I was just off my game that night.

This clearing out of leftovers was all in preparation to finish a years-old project.  I got this red and gray probably-Tunis from a local vendor when she closed up shop.  Red is not really my color so this was purely for the practice of spinning.  I started spinning it on an friend’s Ashford Traveler, even plied up two skeins of it, then wound the remaining singles on to cardboard tubes when the wheel went back to its owner.

 

 

 

I wound the singles on to my Louet bobbins, had some trouble with directionality and I think I had to ply that last skein the opposite way of what I normally do, but no worries, I am just making yarn, not winning prizes here.  One of the things I tried while spinning this fiber was playing around with blending the red and grey in some areas and separating the colors in other areas.  I am interested to see how that looks when knit up.  The wool is a bit scratchy, so it is definitely destined for outerwear.

Now I am working on spinning some dark grey cormo pencil roving.  This wool is very clean and smooth and soft.  So soft!  At first it was a bit of a challenge to spin on my mighty Louet S15.  I really like spinning on that wheel, but it has a powerful take up owing to its bobbin-led drive.  But I found that if I get just the right draw on the cormo, it’s not a fight.  I’m already halfway through!

What’s on your wheel or spindle?

Well, well, well…

It has been a quiet year (here, anyway) with a beautiful, but hard-to-read theme.

How about we change things up?

A new theme and renewed purpose.

After thirteen years–lucky, lucky thirteen–working in traditional publishing, I am stretching my wings to encompass the online realm.  Right now, let us simply enjoy each other’s company, shall we?  In two years’ time, my little people will all be in school and I will be able to devote myself to my freelance career fulltime.  Yikes!  So this is the time to enjoy.  The time when my seven-year-old son still says “I love you, Mom,” while we’re walking home from school (as he did today).

What have you been enjoying lately?

I’ve been sinking deeper and deeper into the soft abyss of spinning.  I have been blessed to borrow two spinning wheels and be given another–simultaneously–this past year.  Talk about wow.  So it is time to give back before there’s some sort of karmic backlash, like a rubberband snapping back into my face.

The borrowed wheels are an Ashford Traveller (very easy to spin on!) and a Majacraft Suzie Pro (the Cadillac of spinning wheels, as one friend put it).  Then someone was cleaning her house and gifted me with a Louet S15 that she had bought second-hand and never used.  It needed love and repairs but–OMG!  It was mine!

Through my local fiber guild, Spinner’s Flock, I got in touch with Linda of Cape House Farms, a local Louet dealer.  She fixed my baby up right and told me it was more than 30 years old.  I went straight from Linda’s beautiful property to Knit Night, my heart so light and bubbly with excitement, my arms full of combed Border Leicester that she gave me to play with–and I discovered that I couldn’t spin on this wheel to save my life!

Cue violins.  Pass the antacids.

Luckily there is always knitting to get my back (love you BFF!) so I wasn’t empty-handed that evening.  But after closing down the coffeeshop, I stayed up late doing research.  I learned that most Louets, the S15 included, are bobbin-led wheels.  The other two I’ve been using are flyer-led.  I made a few small adjustments to my drafting and treadeling and–behold!–Rapunzel is back in the house.

Rapunzel reference aside, I make no great claims to my spinning quality.  I am simply enjoying the process.  First question out of everyone’s mouth when I show them my spinning is “what are you going to make?”  Fair enough.  If you asked me about the angle of twist or Z/S spin, I would just look at you cross-eyed anyway.  But I have no answer to this popular question.  I left the last guild meeting wearing my latest skeins of yarn like a cowl and that worked well enough.

Until I got too warm.