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View From My Wheel: Friends

Everyone was alseep when I took the picture, shhhh.

I just got back from a blissful weekend away with fiber friends. There were seven of us holed up in a cabin for 2 1/2 days, doing nothing but fiber, watching movies and overloading on carbs.

This weekend got me thinking about how I spin with friends. Spinning with friends is all about relaxing. It’s impossible for me to learn or teach something new, because I might miss out on my share of the conversation.

I did find I can practice skills that I already have a seed planted for in my head and hands, thick and thin or trimming my yarn diameter. But something new or something not in my realm of my usual woolen yarn was a no go. I brought some beautiful merino/silk I wanted to spin as a fine worsted yarn, and as many times as I touched it, I couldn’t even take it out of my spinning bag.

For me the key is the calm and easy feeling I get when I spin with my friends. It’s my grown up version of a playground. When kids play on a playground they are 100% there with their friends, playing their favorite games, nothing else matters. When I spin with my fiber tribe it’s the same, I am 100% there, my hands doing what they love best, and my heart happy and light. Why spin something new?

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What’s Your Groove?

Not too long ago my friend Erica & I both spun worsted weight-ish types of yarn. We’re both part of a group of fiber friends who meet weekly at a coffee shop to spin, knit and generally laugh off our weekly stresses. Our worsted weight yarns, hers worsted spun, mine woolen, were our groove yarns, our sitting on the couch go-to yarns. What our hands and wheels just spun when left to their own devices.

Erica decided she wanted to spin thinner, she used smaller whorls and weekly I could see her yarn getting finer and finer. I decided to spin fat lofty yarns, I took some classes and practiced a lot and my yarn got thicker and thicker. I didn’t think our groove yarns had traveled that far apart on the the wpi road, until I shot this issue’s Fiber Fiesta. Take a look at our versions of Three Waters Farm, Lynne Vogel LTD, BFL/Tussah:

These mamas have a brand new groove

Erica’s has a wpi of 20, mine a wpi of 5. I say were were successful in finding our new groove yarns.

This weekend coming up, our little fiber group is going away for a long spinning weekend, four days of spinning with friends. I think I’ll take a smaller whorl or two and see if I can’t get started on another new groove.

What’s your groove yarn?

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How do you sort your stash?

my new stash spot. blink and you'll miss it

I’ve culled and reorganized my main floor  stash space.

As I was deciding on what to keep upstairs and what to banish to the basement stash, I realized I have very particular ideas about the sorting of my fiber stash.

For my new upstairs stash I have:

  • a cubby of my own handspun yarn, waiting to be patterns
  • all of my Briar Rose fiber, because I wanted all of something for that feeling of abundance and it’s gorgeous
  • a cubby of new to me fiber, right now it’s Southern Cross fiber
  • a cubby of inspirational fiber, right now it’s Lynne Vogel fiber
  • most of my spinning tools – bobbins, niddys, etc
  • a cone of yarn for core spinning
  • my last round of dyed by me fiber because I like to stare at it

Downstairs I also have:

  • fleeces
  • fiber to dye
  • fiber to card into batts
  • 8oz+ of the same colorway
  • luxury fiber
  • more specific dyers: Spunky Eclectic, Hello Yarn, Lorna’s Laces, Abby Batts, more Lynne Vogel
  • natural colored fiber that will stay natural

I also have a stash for Knittyspin.

So I’m happy that while it may not look, or sometimes feel, like my stash is organized, there is certainly a method to my madness.

How do you organize your fiber?

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Stash Control and a New Shelf

I don’t know about you, but I love to have all of my spinning stash around me. Well, a lot of it anyway. I’m lucky enough to have a family that understands the need for piles of stash.

We have an inactive fireplace in our family room that I have claimed , using the hearth as my stash home. Not in any organized fashion, mind you. Though I organize it periodically, it never stays that way. It’s subject to whims, shopping trips and current deadline projects.

Um, where's the fireplace?

Because I know you’ll understand, here is an un-doctored, un-neatened photo of my fireplace stash.

You spinners who are in long term relationships know what’s coming, right? My husband wants the fireplace back, all of it.

I really don’t need all of that space and now we have a mischievous puppy, so my stash and tools should be more contained.

Are you kidding me?!

We surveyed the rooms and spaces on our main floor and came up with this for me.

Yep, that’s my stash space. It’s 6 feet tall and those shelves are only 12″ wide. Of course, I may take out all of the shelves and just stuff fiber from top to bottom, we’ll see.

I do have secondary stash storage (don’t pretend that you don’t) in the basement, so I have a place for the overflow to go. But some days, many days actually, it’s about surrounding yourself with your fuzzy love.

This also means I need to organize my basement stash (again) to be able to find anything.

What tips do the more organized, yet still big stashers, have for me?

And my basement stash, 20+ years of yarn, fiber and books?

I’m not showing — a girl needs her fiber secrets, after all.

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Keeping Track with Tags

Another excuse to go to the office supply store.

Sometimes it’s the little things that save your sanity in knitting.

The humble hang tag has come to my rescue many times.

I’m a process knitter. Which is a nice way of saying I love to knit but it take me a while to finish projects. I might have a dozen or so projects and swatches for future projects going at once.

I’ve tried keeping track of it all with sticky notes, with notebooks, with computer programs, for me, none of that works because they are all separate from the knitted piece.

When I start a project or swatch I attach a hang tag after a few rows of knitting. I note the pattern name, yarn, needle size, etc on one side for a project that’s pattern based. I note the stitch pattern, book name and page number and needle sizes for a swatch project.

My knitting brain on a string.

On the reverse of the tag for either type of project I keep track of the row I’ve just finished when I stop knitting.  I add additional tags as I need them.

When I go back to a project after a month (or more) all of my information is there waiting for me.

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5 Tips for a Dye Day

Pile of fiber

Two or three times a year, my fiber gang gets together for a dye day.  Here are 5 tips from our group to yours to keep your dye party running smoothly.

1) Plan and work ahead and after.

Know how many people are coming and what’s for lunch. Mix your dyes ahead of time and soak your fiber the night before. Plan on rising and drying your fiber at home. Just dye and play on dye day.

2) Time and space for all.

No one wants to wait on dye day. Have spots for everyone to work their color magic and enough pots, crock dyers, burners, etc to set the fibers.

3) Have some color ideas, but let it flow.

I usually come with three or four colorways to get started, but inevitably the best colors are those that hit me on the spot. Have a notebook handy to keep track of your colorways. Trust me, you won’t remember.

4) Slow down, you’re having fun.

It’s not a race, it’s not your job. If you work at frenetic pace you won’t enjoy yourself. Bring your wheel or your knitting and take breaks. I’ve learned my actual limits are about half of my dyeing aspirations – so I soak only half of the fiber I think I can get done, and bring dry fiber along. Sometimes I add more fiber to the soaking bucket, but usually not.

5) Try something new.

If you usually pour your dyes, try painting. If you usually steam set, try crock pot dyeing. Challenge yourself to break out of your color rut. You’ll be amazed at how much fun you have just playing.

1.75 lbs of fiber dyed in 5 hours. Next time, not so much purple.

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The View from My Wheel – Vacation Spinning

St John's Lake, Michigan

In my quest to become a more conscious spinner, (I won’t say a better spinner, because I spin just fine, thank you) I’m learning to be aware of what’s going on with my hands, feet and wheel for a certain level of consistency when I want it.

I’d like to be one of those spinners who seem to have a Vulcan mind meld with their wheels. “I’m going to spin a worsted 3-ply that will be a dk weight yarn”, they say, and twist, turn, treadle they do, effortlessly.

My latest observation is that my spinning is influenced dramatically by where I am, who I’m with and others things that are going on around me – the View from My Wheel.

The View from My Wheel on the vacation pictured at left is peaceful solitude. I spun only when I was alone, early in the morning, or when the rest were off swimming or tramping through the woods.

I watched an eagle family who’ve nested on the lake and loons swimming with their chick. My hands moved softly and my feet slowed down, I was able to perfect fat lofty yarn on this vacation, and spin lovely woolen singles.

I couldn’t hurry my spinning. The rushing on this vacation made a mess of my yarn. I couldn’t spin worsted or thick-and-thin yarns. My spinning brain only wanted long, gentle motions. Working in a different style was frustrating and unproductive.

When I went with the spinning that matched the View from My Wheel, it was all smooth sailing and lovely yarn, a feeling of working together with my wheel, not against it. My hands and feet remembered better too, after I got home and spun similar yarn.

Along with all of my regular notes associated with spinning particular yarn, I’m now adding View from My Wheel, because, for me, it makes a difference.

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Tour results are in!

A bowl full of yarn

I didn’t hit my lofty goal for the Tour de Fleece but I spun a whole lot of yarn: 34 ounces.  I spun 22 ounces of the dyed-by-my-hand BFL, 4 ounces of fat 2-ply, 4 ounces of Lynne Vogel colored Merino/Bamboo/Silk, and 4 ounces of lofty thick-and-thin. It was enough and I had fun.

I learned that I need a lot of variety in my spinning. There were days at the wheel when I just couldn’t face any more of my blue/purple BFL, that more than lack of time kept me from spinning my dreamed-about 2 pounds of BFL yarn.

I also learned I need a whole lot more practice on my thick-and-thin yarn.

What about you — did you hit your  Tour de Fleece goal? Any tips for thick-and-thin yarn?

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How Do Your Hands Learn?

6 wpi, Merino/Columbia blend, 100% chubby love

In the past year, I have taken three classes, from three different teachers, that in some part taught spinning fat, lofty yarn.

After ten months, I can finally spin fat, lofty yarn; it takes my hands a long time to learn. I have to watch and listen to other spinners, have teachers watch me and I have to practice, a lot.

I practice by slipping my learning yarn into my daily spinning and I practice by having special learning sessions. Spinning new in between regular spinning works the best for me, it feels like playing. The other feels like have-to spinning.

My hands started learning lofty yarns last September and this skein from last week is the best I’ve done yet.

How do your hands learn?

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Tour Update: 16oz and Counting

Liked the fiber, love the yarn.

I’m 4 oz behind where I want to be for the Tour de Fleece. So far I’ve spun 12oz of my BFL singles and I was hoping for a pound by now. I’m going on a short hang out at a cabin vacation later this week, so I think I can catch up.

Softy Singles

I absolutely love the yarn I’m making. The colors and loft are exactly what I was hoping for. I haven’t finished any of it yet. I want to just slightly full it. I’m hoping it will have a wonderful hand at 5 stitches to the inch, because I’d love to make Goodale.

My last 4oz of the Tour so far are a merino/bamboo from Three Waters Farm in the Lynne Vogel colorway Black Hollyhocks.

How are you doing with your Tour goals?

Black Hollyhocks in merino/bamboo

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