Spinning Tuesdays

How KnittyBlog Readers Organize Their Stashes

Spinning the stash down

Spinning the stash down

In February I felt like my stash was going to eat me alive if I didn’t tame it. I asked all of you how you organize your spinning stash and here’s what you said.

  • A few people ‘don’t have a very big stash’ and just spin for projects. Clearly this lifestyle will not work for me.
  • Most spinners sort by fiber, keeping commercially prepped and fleeces separate.
  • A couple of you sort by color and one person said she sorts by dyer.
  • A bunch of you have your whole (or most of it) stash on Ravelry. That seems like a crazy amount of work.
  • Lots of Knitty spinners use big Rubbermaid bins that are numbered for easy fiber finding.
  • The spinners closest to my heart have their stashes stashed all over the house.

No one mentioned using a spreadsheet to keep track of fiber. I do that with my teaching fiber and am considering it for my personal fiber too. I think bins are the way to go. Right now, I’m inclined to sort by dyer in the instances I have a lot by a particular one. But other than that I’ll sort by fiber.

Some of my extra handspun.

More yarn, less stash



Here’s my next stash-based question – What do you do with fiber that is not so great anymore? Fiber that is compacted or in a color or fiber you aren’t too fond of any longer? Do you give it away or trade with other spinners? Combine it into new colorways or make batts or, gasp, just chuck it?

Inquiring spinners want to know!

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What Is Your Favorite Spindle?

No, this isn’t a new Monty Python movie. It’s feeling like spring here in Michigan and there is something about spring that makes me want to spin on a spindle.

Maybe it’s the run-away-to-the-woods feeling I get when the weather changes, or I get convinced that I can spin a sweater’s worth of yarn on a spindle like Sarah Swett.

When the weather starts warming up, I dust off my spindles and spin on them. I also dream about adding to my spindle flock. I have about 40 right now, some I use a lot. Some I don’t use very much, but wouldn’t get rid of them because they have too many memories wound up on them (see what I did there?).

Do you spindle spin all year round, or just at certain times? Do you have a favorite spindle? A favorite thing to spin for on a spindle? What spindle should I get this year?

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Yarn Fest is Almost Here – Will You Be Spinning with Me?

All the plies

All the plies

Happy March! Spring is on it’s way even though here in Michigan there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground this morning.

Interweave’s Yarn Fest is coming up, will I see any of you in my classes? I still have a few openings. Here’s what I’m teaching:

Spin a Funky Chicken: Beginning Texture and Art Yarn Spinning (Thursday morning): This class was suggested by a student from last year. Not sure if texture or art yarns are for you? Want to just give it a little try? This is your class. We’ll do a little thick and thin spinning, a little spiral, a little core spinning. Just a taste, a little step off of the path of smooth yarns.

Twist and Ply: The Difference Ply and Twist Direction Make to Your Knitting(Thursday afternoon): This is the class where I share some of my favorite a-ha spinning moments. I always knew the number of plies and the direction of twist had an impact on my knitting, but I didn’t realize how much until I spun samples and looked at them side by side. Come see and spin your own samples.

Yarnitecture : Building Exactly the Yarn You Want (Friday all day):  This class will walk you through all the steps of choosing,

mmmmm, batts!

mmmmm, batts!

fiber, preparation, draft, ply and finish for creating the yarn you want to knit. Looking to knit lace or cables? Come and see how each decision along the way will help you make a better yarn. We also spend a lot of time working with color, whipping variegated braids into shape. This is the class that my new book is based on. It’s coming out this summer from Storey Publishing.

I like Big Yarn and I Cannot Lie: Spinning Big and Lofty Yarn (Saturday morning): You only have to spin giant yarns in this class if you want to. My aim in this class is to get you spinning yarns that are big for you! If you are a lace weight spinner, worsted weight may seem huge and I will get you there. This is a great class too, if you are a worsted drafter who wants to work on your woolen drafting skills because woolen=fluffy.

Batts in the Belfry: Spinning Batts (Sunday morning): Want to dig into batt spinning, but don’t want to use your own stash? In  this class you get 7 different good-sized batts. Enough batts to spin in class with the lessons and still have some take home to practice so you feel confident spinning any type of batt you buy.


Esteemed author and tech editing goddess Kate Atherley is teaching at Yarn Fest, too. She has spots in some of her classes as well. Here’s her list:

  • Custom Fit Socks (3 hours): Thursday Morning
  • Two Socks, Side By Side (3 hours): Thursday Afternoon
  • Two Socks in One: The War & Peace Method (3 hours): Friday Morning & Saturday Morning
  • Custom Fit Socks (3 hours): Friday Afternoon
  • Math for Knitters (3 hours): Saturday Afternoon
  • The Pi Shawl (3 hours): Sunday


I hope to spin with you!

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90,000-Year-Old String Found

Spinning is older than scientists thought.

Spinning is older than scientists thought.

Scientists have found string they believe to be 90,000 years old in south-east France. Bruce Hardy and his team from Kenyon College found, “..0.7-millimetre-long plant fibres that are twisted together …” An article in New Scientist goes on to say that these fibers are not naturally twisted together in nature.

Which of course means that spinning and spinners have been around a lot longer than originally thought.


Do you remember your first yarn? I didn’t keep mine, though I wish I did. It was a mess and beautiful all in one mishmashed ball. It was an unknown breed, not soft at all and white. I made a lumpy bumpy yarn on my new to me Reeves castle wheel. It felt like magic.

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Twist Angle Gauge: EsZee Twist Tool

I just go back from teaching at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival and it was wonderful!

In several of my classes I talk about twist angle and teach spinners how to measure it. There was one tool I brought along this time that really helped spinners to see the angle of twist in their yarn. It’s nifty little device called the Eszee Twist Tool by Camaj Fiber Arts.

It comes as part of the bigger kit with a booklet that helps a spinner design a yarn they have in mind.

Eszee Twist Tool

Eszee Twist Tool

The info in the booklet is very good indeed, but the tool that helps measure all of the things yarn-y is one of my favorite things. It has a WPI gauge, a yarn thickness guide, a twist angle gauge and a magnifying card. Of course a spinner can build their own kit with all of these things, but having it all together as a couple of pieces of slim plastic is just too good for this not-too-organized-with my-tools spinner to pass up.

In fact to be the most perfect tool for me to measure my yarn, it’s missing only one thing.

The friend of aging eyes.

The friend of aging eyes.

My best fiber friend – the headlamp.

What is your favorite yarn measuring tool?

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My Fiber Stash is Alive – What Are Your Tips to Tame It?

Some organized fiber. I'm not prepared to show you my 'before' stash photo yet.

Some organized fiber. I’m not prepared to show you my ‘before’ stash photo yet.

My fiber stash is a beast out of control! I have lots of fiber, most of it dyed braids, but there are batts and natural bumps too, plus a few bags of fleece.

I have an overwhelming need to reorganize my stash. Right now it’s organized by fiber and some of it is grouped by dyer. I have it stored in big zipper bags from Ikea, but I really don’t like it. I reorganize at least once a year, changing up storage containers and what fiber hangs out with what fiber. Usually while I’m organizing, I make a plan to spin down my stash that is so grandiose and complex that I never do it.

I always do this reorganization during the winter, every wnter. I think I get cabin fever and need to immerse myself in color, literally. I really do like touching it all!

This year before I dive into my winter ritual, I want to ask all of you – how do you organize your spinning stash? How do you spin down your stash?

I’ll share your tips here so we can all benefit from the collective spinning smarts!


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Stopover KAL Haunted by Kate

Bag of Stopover

Bag of Stopover

My spinning wheel sits idle because I fell down the #bangoutasweater KAL that the merry makers over at Mason Dixon Knitting cooked up.

The idea is to knit a quick sweater, just get it done, They chose Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Stopover, an Icelandic style sweater that’s 3 1/2 stitches to the inch on US 10.5 needles, knit in the round. I’m in the throes of grey Michigan winter, I have plenty of other deadline work to do and, hey, look it’s shiny……

I jumped. I decided to knit the sweater for my daughter for more of a chance of finishing because of love and guilt, also a Lopi pullover doesn’t work well with my hot flashes.

I expected to be much farther along than three rows by this time, even knitting in little bits, but I was haunted by Kate. Kate Atherley is the the Queen of Tech Editors, IMHO, and an amazing teacher. She insists that things be done correctly if you want your knitting to actually fit.



I kept trying to half-ass my gauge swatch for this sweater. Do I really need one? Yes. Can I do it flat? No.


Color options

Color options

I really only cared about what colors I was going to use. I did a big swatch for that.

I did a cheater in the round swatch for gauge, looping the yarn behind and always knitting across my swatch. I got gauge on a smaller needle which isn’t surprising since I hardly tension my knitting and I have a wonky purl. Great! Let’s go, let’s cast on.

Then I saw Kate’s smiling face in my mind’s eye. “That swatch isn’t really in the round is it?” Crap, you’re right. I swatched again, in the round, I got gauge, but up 2 needles sizes. All righty, let’s cast on now! She smiles at me, hands me a haunted cup of tea and says, “You, as a spinner, know that the swatch you just knit is going to change when it hits water. That’s a woolen spun yarn knit at a loose gauge.” Arrrgh, you are right, again! I wet blocked my swatch and sure enough that woolen spun Lopi pulled in more than a half a stitch per inch. I swatched a final time, in the round and wet blocked that sucker. Kate didn’t appear to me this time when I was done. I took it as a sign. I cracked a beer and cast on.

Thank you Kate for haunting my knitting and making me do my gauge swatch right!

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Coloring in the Snow

The grey days of winter

The grey days of winter

I know some of you are staring at feet of snow right now, I hope the sun is shining for you and you can stay home and knit.

Winter where I am is gross and grey, sometimes we’re buried under a lot of snow, but it’s always grey, grey, grey. I tell people the winter in Michigan is like living in a Tupperware bowl with the lid on.

This winter I’ve fallen hard for those grown up coloring books. They are fun and they are a great excuse to buy more colored pencils and pens.

Imagine my delight when I found out Kay & Ann of Mason-Dixon Knitting had published a coloring book – for knitters.



A Mason-Dixon coloring book!

A Mason-Dixon coloring book!


Just look at the cover, it makes me so happy!  You know that Kay and Ann are blogging again, right? That makes me happy too. Kay and Ann teamed up with illustrator Juliana Horner to come up with 30 sexy pages of knitting pictures to color.  There’s a lopi, there are mittens, a blanket and that’s all I’m saying. I don’t want you to miss out on the oohing and ahhing when you first flip through.

I find that coloring does help me relax and it’s something I can do with my teenage daughter. She does, however, understand  that the knitting coloring book is just for me.

When Kay sent me a copy of this book, I promptly grabbed a Michael’s coupon and bought myself a new big set of Prismacolor pencils. It was the perfect excuse.

I like playing with different combinations when I color. It helps me visualize color theory when I read about it and it helps me pick colors of fiber and yarn with more confidence.

Are you coloring yet? Do you have the the knitter’s coloring book?

Tell me your favorite coloring book and your favorite pencils or pens to color with!



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A Glass Spinning Wheel

That is glass spinning wheel, a kinetic sculpture by Andy Paiko, It’s in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

There are magnificent still photos of the wheel on Andy Paiko’s website. This time of year it looks like ice to me and that a Snow Queen should be spinning on it.

Thanks to Deb Robsen and the Webs Twitter account for pointing this out!



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Jillian’s Spinning: New Year’s Wheel Love

My little flock of wheels

My little flock of wheels

Sometime during the month of January every year, I gather up all of my wheels and show then a little love. I dust and oil them, at the very least and spend some time spinning on every one of them. If I am feeling particularly enthusiastic I treat them all to a wheel spa like Lee Juvan suggest in this Spinner’s Glossary column, adding the tightening of nuts and bolts, treating the wood, taking my WooLee winder apart and cleaning it. These wheels do a lot of work for me and I like to show some appreciation every once in awhile.

My favorite part of tending to my little herd, is spinning on all of them, one right after the other. I get into a real rut with wheels, lately I’ve just been spinning on my Lendrum. When I spun on my other wheels, I remembered how fine and light a woolen yarn I can spin on my Matchless, how much yarn I can spin, fast, on my Hansen, what range my Sidekick has and how I can wedge it between my people while sitting on the couch. My Suzie Pro, she solved a yarn issue I’d been having. I’ve been unhappy trying to spin a super fat yarn on my Lendrum, it just wasn’t happening for me, but five minutes on my Suzie and it was done.

I forget how differently wheels spin, different from each other and different for each spinner. Which is why when the question comes up about buying a new wheel, there is a chorus of spinners saying, “Try before you buy!”

I’m so grateful that I have a range of wheels to use for work and it only seems right to keep them spinning happily so I can happily spin.

How do you show your wheel love?

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