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Organizing Spinning Tools at the Hardware Store – Retractable Key Ring

I could spend just as much time organizing my spinning tools as I do spinning. One of my favorite places to hunt for ways to organize my tools (and to look for new tools) is the hardware store.

One of my favorites is the retractable key ring.

 

Schneider and his retractable key ring

 

I might have a little thing about retractable key rings that goes back to my childhood viewing of One Day at a Time. I was simultaneously delighted and horrified that Schneider regularly broke into Ann Romano’s apartment, uninvited, using a pass key that he had on – his retractable key ring. It was practical, a little dangerous and very, very cool to 12 year old me.

 

 

 

 

Retractable key ring and new spinning gauges ready to go.

 

Imagine my delight when I figured out a way to use one for spinning. When I bought my Twist Angle Gauge and WPI Guage from Hipstrings, I noticed that they had holes drilled into the top. I remembered an old WPI guage I had that came on a retractable cord and it all clicked.

I took myself to my local hardware store and hunted in the key section until I found the perfect, light and small , with a clip on the back, retractable key ring. I thought about getting, for old times sake, a big silver metal one like Schneider’s, but I knew it would weigh down my tool kit.

 

Gauges assembled and ready to spool and retract

 

 

It took me 2 minutes to put it all together in the parking lot. Yes, I brought it with me, I was excited. Now I have a set of gauges to keep at hand, hanging on my wheel, on a lanyard or on an apron while I’m spinning and an excellent throwback to my childhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now if someone could tell me how to incorporate my other childhood tool obsession into my spinning…….

A steel money changer. I’ve always wanted one.

 

Interested in going to PLY Away this year? Classes are up! Registration is in October, so you have some time to plan your perfect retreat. I’m teaching a two day spinning variegated braids class, it’s going to be fun……..

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A Stash of One’s Own Is Out Today!

Go hug your stash today!

 

Clara Parkes new book of essay A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with and Letting Go of Yarn is out today! It should be a fiber world holiday. We should all get the day off to read the book, eat cake and frolic in our stashes.

Go buy this book, read it and then contemplate your stash, cake is optional.

This is a book of essay, but Clara isn’t the only writer examining their stashes and feelings in this book. Check out the list of authors:

Stash authors – Spinning stash too!

 

As you can see with my subtle added artwork that it’s not just knitters writing in the book. I am a knitter too, but my essay is about my spinning stash.

The topics in this book vary wildly, it’s not just “I have a huge stash (or a tiny stash) and you should too”, every author poured their hearts through their fingers as they wrote their essays.

If you read the book, let me know what you think!

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Lorna’s Laces New Fiber

Top to bottom: Angora/Wool, Alpaca, BFL

 

Have you heard that Lorna’s Laces has new spinning fiber?

 

I got a little surprise box in the mail and had to share before I’ve even spun any. I think it’s just beautiful. There is 100% BFL, 100% Alpaca, and a 70 Angora/30 Wool blend, all are top.

I’ll report back after I’ve spun these beauties in the meantime let me know if you spot any in the wild!

 

I’m heading off to teach at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool tomorrow and it’s my first time at that show. Is there anything I shouldn’t miss on the road, any must-visit vendors or any restaurants I should try?

 

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Knitting a Net

Bare Naked Wools roadtrip

So much is going on in the world right now and I’m really feeling it. Plus, my oldest just left for college,  5 hours away. I’m feeling a little lost and a little sad. So I’m knitting, just swatches.

BNW Better Breakfast worsted

I have a project coming up that needs swatches and I have gorgeous Bare Naked Wools yarns to use. So I used them for more than just my project-to-be.

 

On the drive to college I hand wound all of my yarns. One the way home I knit swatches. Spinning, knitting and fiber don’t always work for me when I’m agitated and emotional, but this time it was perfect. It was both mindful and mindless.

The yarns were all smooth and spun from interesting blends and the swatches were straight stockinette. This time a little merino/alpaca blend is just what I needed to knit a little net for my heart.

 

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3 Tips for Drumcarding Top

This weekend I managed to combine two things, getting to know my Struach Finest Motorized drumcarder a little better and working on fiber prep for my Knittyspin column for the next issue – spoiler alert, there are batts.

I’m using dyed Corriedale top from Louet in my batts, and here are three things that made carding easier for me.

Think thin layers

 

 

Fluff top until it’s sheer. I fluffed my top until I could see through it. Lots of thin layers make batts more even, and it’s kinder to your carder. I make sure I can see the yellow warning sticker through my fiber.

 

 

A little guidance

 

 

Long pieces of top need a little help. I just rest my hand on the fiber when I use a long piece. If I let it go on it’s own it would bunch and become uneven. If I pull or add too much pressure I play tug a war with the fiber (and the motor). I make sure not to push (more bunching) too.

 

 

 

One pass is all it takes

 

Using little bits? Handcards are a drumcarders best friend. For some of my batts I used just little bits of top (3″-4″), I found that if I did just one pass on my handcards first, just opening the fiber, the color spreads much more evenly in the batt.

 

What tips do you have for drumcarding top?

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New to Me: Jeri Brock Spindles and Hobbeldehoy Battlings

Hobbeldehoy battlings on a Jeri Brock Turk

The marketplace at the Super Summer Knitogether was one good sized room (22 vendors), but it was mighty.  I found many vendors I’ve never seen in real life and some completely new to me. This weekend I spent time with a couple that are new to me. I spun Hobbeldehoy Battlings on a Jeri Brock Turkish Spindle.

The battlings come in a pack of 8 and totaled 2 ounces. These were a blend of Polwarth, silk, bamboo and sparkle. The colorway is Banned Books. They  were like candy to spin, the perfect amount in each battling for spindling without tangling and so well prepared that I could just shake and spin. The colors blend beautifully into a tweedy yarn.

You can tell from the photo that I’m still a newbie on Turkish spindles. I buy them and then don’t use them much. I find them a little intimidating. I dream of having beautifully wound cops like Evanita Montalvo. I have a lot practicing to do.

 

 

Fly, pig, fly!

Jeri’s spindle begged to be spun, so I spun on it this weekend. It’s easy to flick and it spun for a long, long time. The wood is silky smooth (mine is Sycamore) and is finished with the same delicious smelling oil that Schacht uses on their wheels.

Her spindles all feature scrollwork cutout designs, many with a sense of humor.  Besides being an excellent spinner the spindle I bought from Jeri reminds me not to take my spinning self so seriously.

What did you spin this weekend?

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Top to Batt: More Adventures in Carding

knittyblog top to batt

I spent a little time this week playing with my new Strauch carder. It turns and cards like butter. My first getting-to-know-you playtime was turning top into a batt. I split an Into the Whirled, Falkland, semi-solid top in half and made a 2 0unce batt. It was quick and easy; it only took two passes to turn combed top into a fluffy woolen batt.

I read the directions and followed all of the suggestions and it made a super puffy batt.

 

knittyblog top and batt

Fluffy and smooth

Look at the difference between the top and the batt, even the color changed! I can’t wait to spin them both and maybe figure out a way to use them together.

I’m planning on making several different batts this weekend, some striped and some a more kitchen sink style. I have so much fun stuff to card in my stash!

 

 

Are you coming to Wisconsin Sheep and Wool September 8-10?

There is still space in a couple of my classes: Twist & Ply on Friday afternoon and Fractal Frolic on Saturday afternoon. I hope to see you there!

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New to Me Tool: Strauch Motorized Finest Drum Carder

 

I’m quivering like a terrier as I write this. Sitting on my dining room table is a newly unboxed electric drum carder. Not just any carder a Strauch Finest, the one I’ve been lusting after for years.

Why am I not elbows deep in fiber with whisps flying all over the house? Because this is a tool that I want to last and to really know how to use before I jump in with my Soul Train line dance of woolen prepping excitement.

I am determined to go slowly ,to read the manual, and work building batts in steps, learning the ins and outs of this amazing machine.

 

 

Why did I pick this carder? A few reasons, first and foremost is word of mouth. I’ve only ever heard positive things about Strauch carders, how they

Three reasons I love this carder already.

operate, how they age and customer service. I borrowed one and made a whole bunch of batts and it’s true, it performed without a hitch, even when I got fiber stuck or wrapped where it shouldn’t be. And a motorized carder, sigh, it just flows. There are a few other reasons I went with this carder.

The chain drive, I have a poly drive on my current carder and the chain is more durable, I find it smoother, and it doesn’t slip. The motor, I knew my next carder would be motorized. The brush attachment, I’ve doing this manually and I like having the bush attached and keeping my fiber tidy and evenly packed. I can’t wait to figure out more reasons to love this carder.

 

This is the Honey Badger side, “Watch out!”

 

But now I’m going to go against my nature of ‘jumping in the deep end and figuring it out’ and learn all the hows and whys as I make fluffy batts. My aim is to make the fluffiest batts possible and to be able to explain batt spinning better from the batt’s point of view to my students in class.

Do you have any drum carding tips for me?

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Useful Tools: Hipstrings’ Precise Spinner’s Control Card and Angle of Twist Gauge

Last week I taught at the legendary Super Summer Knitogether retreat put on by the Knitgrills. One of the many fabulous things about this retreat is teachers get an hour in the marketplace before everyone else. I know! It’s usually so hard to shop when I’m teaching.

I am very excited to finally have my hands on a couple of tools I’ve been coveting for awhile, Hipstrings’ Precise Spinner’s Control Card and Angle of Twist Gauge.   Both are $10 and made of clear acrylic (you can get them in tinted colors).

 

The Control Card is really easy to read on the fly and favors finer yarns. One day someone will make me a control card for my chubby yarns, one that starts with 18 and ends with 2!

It has a hole in the top to hang it on your wheel. The numbers are big enough for me that I can almost just wave my yarn across the back to see the WPI.

 

 

 

 

The Angle of Twist Gauge may be my new best friend. No more trying to see it on my phone or having to get out a magnifying glass to check the twist. If I want to check a basic twist this is what I’ll be using. It’s so easy to use I’ll be checking my twist more often!

If I want to check twist down to individual numbers, I’ll still get out my magnifying glass. I love this so much I may just give it as a holiday gift to all of my spinning pals. I also like that it looks like a rib cage.

I got up to a bunch of fun in Nashville, and there was shopping and barbecue. I will reveal all tomorrow on my personal blog.

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Excited By Bracelets

Purl & Loop’s bracelet loom

This picture may not look like much, but it is a snapshot of a new obsession, weaving bracelets. The super smart folks over at Purl and Loop (the Swatch Maker and Stash Blaster loom people) have designed a little loom intended to make bracelets and I am hooked.

I made a quick bracelet out of corespun and have been experimenting with other weaving techniques in this finite, small space of a loom – it’s so fun! How I know it’s becoming a thing for me? I’m packing to teach at the SSK retreat in Nashville and the only craft I packed is the loom and a handful of Madeline Tosh Unicorn Tails.

I’ve used commercial yarn and handspun. I’ve made them soft and pliable and made them stiffer with more structure. I haven’t started experimenting with closures yet, though I have several ideas.

Are you making bracelets? What yarns do you like to use?

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