Spinning Tuesdays

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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Jillian’s Spinning: Sheep, Dyeing and My One Fiber Goal for 2016

I read a lot about spinning and fiber on the internet while traveling over the holidays, smartphones and free wifi sure make waiting for planes a great time to catch up!

To kick off a year where I’d like to be more in touch with the bigger fiber community, here a re a few articles that caught my eye.


Becka Rahn’s food color dyed samples, beautiful, no?

Fiber Artist Becka Rahn has a fantastic blog post and chart about dyeing with food color.

From Outside magazine an article, The Resurrection of the American Wool Industry, speaks to the US outdoor apparel industry moving to American grown and processed wool for their clothes.

Have you added your name and location the the WhoSpins website? Right now it’s a map of North American spinners only, but they are working on adding the rest of the world.

I’m sure you’ve seen it, but don’t miss this beautiful obituary of spinning giant Alden Amos

Need some pretty pictures this first full week of 2016? Christopher Payne has a gorgeous portfolio of textile mills.


Do you have any fiber goals for the new year? I have one, make bigger things with my handspun. I’ve been locked in to making swatches for teaching, videos and my book and becasue I love it that I don’t have many things to wear that are handspun. This year there will be handspun things. What do you have on your list?







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Jillian’s Spinning: Inspired by Travel

My family was lucky enough to travel big this holiday to Portland, Oregon. These days I travel more for teaching and not as often as I’d like with our whole family. We had big extended family time on this trip, welcoming a new perfect baby boy. We had lots of smaller group time and wandering time. It was lovely.

A knitter beside me. Socks, I think.

A knitter beside me. Socks, I think.

Portland is a place where there is knitting and fiber everywhere. Almost everyone I saw was wearing something handknit. There were lots and lots of hats, socks, sweaters and scarves. And people knit everywhere, just as part of their day. I never see this more than in the Pacific Northwest. Last night we were having our last vacation dinner in a bustling brew pub and I counted several knitters working on small projects. Including three knitters at the table next to me.

It’s something that I am taking to heart for 2016, taking projects along and working on them as a part of my every day, not waiting for a mythical perfect time. I’m planning on using a lot of yarn this year.

Do you have a new approach to fiber for 2016?

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Jillian’s Spinning: My Favorite Books of the Year 2015

Jillian's Favorite Books of the Year

Jillian’s Favorite Books of the Year

Longtime Knitty readers know that I write most of the book reviews for Knitty. I am a craft book lover, my house is filled with bookcases, library carts and stacks of books. In all of the years I’ve reviewed books for Knitty it never gets old; I still am thrilled when a book shaped package comes in the mail. The books I’ve shown above are my favorites for this year. They represent, above all, a passion for their topic. They are original and the how-to parts of the how-to books are spot on. They all, self published or big publisher published, have a personalty, they convey the joy each writer has for their subject. They are all books that I have learned from, that I have, or will, read from cover to cover more than once. They brought more to my life than a craft, they brought knowledge and tapped into my curiosity.

Here’s the list with links:

You might notice that there is not a spinning book on that list. It’s not becasue no wonderful spinning books were published this year because there were. It’s because the spinning world lost a great this year and I want to honor him by choosing his book, still one of the best ever published, as my spinning book of the year.

If you haven’t read the beautiful words Margalit Fox wrote for the New York Times, take a minute to read about a man who brought so much life to our craft.

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Jillian’s Spinning: Yarn Fest 2016 Early Bird Pricing

Early bird pricing ends January 15th!

Early bird pricing ends January 15th!

Don’t forget that Early Bird pricing for Interweave Yarn Fest ends on January 15th. You probably need a fiber getaway this year, don’t you?

Kate and I are both teaching there again this year. We had a little bit of fun in and out of the classroom last year, plus I spent time just sighing at the Rocky Mountains.

Perfect Socks

Perfect Socks

Kate’s teaching:

  • Custom Fit Socks
  • Two Socks, Side By Side
  • Two Socks in One: The War & Peace Method
  • Custom Fit Socks
  • Math for Knitters
  • The Pi Shawl
Spin a Funky Chicken

Spin a Funky Chicken

I’m teaching:

  • Spin a Funky Chicken: Beginning Texture and Art Yarn Spinning
    • This class was suggested by one of my Yarn Fest students last year.
  • Twist & Ply: The Difference Ply and Direction Make to Your Knitting
  • Yarnitecture: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want
    • This class is based on my book coming out in July! I just might have some samples and pages to show.
  • I Like Big Yarn and I Cannot Lie: Spinning Big and Lofty Yarns
  • Cheaper by the Dozen: Twelve Ways to Spin Variegated Top
  • Batts in the Belfry: Spinning Batts

I’m already organizing my teaching fiber. Let me know if you are taking a class!

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