Spinning Tuesdays

Learning to Spin

Misty Mountain Farm BFL in color Pumpkin spice.

Amy and Jillian – and many of my friends around the knitting world – are avid spinners, and it seemed inevitable that I would eventually want to give it a try.

I knew that Rhinebeck is a big spinning event, so I decided that my objective for the trip would be to learn to spindle spin.

I did some research into what to look for in a spindle and some fiber, and set myself the most excellent task of shopping.

The lovely TsockTsarina got me hooked up with a plain and simple GnomeSpun spindle, and I bought myself some gorgoeous Blue Faced Leicester roving – since the experts told me that it was easy for beginners.  I chose a color inspired by the wonderful fall foliage I was seeing around.

On the Saturday evening, I sat down with some spinning friends from the shop Shall We Knit. The fabulous Lise opened up her bag of tricks, and pulled out some green Shetland (also very beginner-friendly), and got me started.

In action, with excellent coaching from Lise.

And after a few false starts, some fumbling around, and much laughter, I was starting to get the hang of it. I was making something that looked like something you could knit with.

After an hour watching me play with the top whorl spindle, Lise quietly offered up a second spindle to try: a Jenkins Turkish Delight. I had no idea: this is the spinning equivalent of offering a learner driver the keys to a Cadillac. I was immediately hooked. Being a clever sort, Lise had bought it for me, expecting I might enjoy using it.

We worked together for a couple of evenings, me spindling, Lise providing coaching and supportive laughter, and by the end of the weekend, I had made my first yarn!

I had about 6 yards of a maybe worsted weight, slightly slubby, hand-dyed green Shetland.

I made yarn! I am a spinner!

Naturally, I wanted to knit something with it. Something I could keep and show off… spinner extraordinaire Denny suggested a leaf. It’s a perfect leafy color, and I knitted it at a leafy time of year… and so…

Very proud!

my first project with my first handspun! A leaf, with a pin on the back to make it a brooch. I will be wearing it with pride on my coat this winter.

I’m saving the BFL roving until I am feeling a bit more confident. I’m going to visit my friends at Shall We Knit this weekend, and my spindles are definitely going with me.

Spinning Tuesdays: Corespinning with a Spindle?

In a recent class I took  someone talked about Sarah Anderson’s method of corespinning that she calls Wrap and Roll.

The basic idea is to wrap your core on a spindle, suspend it between your knees as you spin and let the extra twist put into your core yarn untwist via the spindle. It was mentioned in passing, but the idea kept knocking on my brain, so I went and looked it up on You Tube.

Sure enough, I found a video, not by Sarah herself but by someone who had taken her class.

I sat down and tried it. I knew it would be fiddly to get started, so I sat out in the sun and tried to just go with it.

I used 2-ply laceweight as my core and wound it on a favorite Indigo Hound spindle.

Indigo Hound spindle wrapped with core yarn

After a few false starts, I got it working. The spindle unspun the extra twist I put into the core.

Spindle hanging between my knees as I spin

I didn’t spin with my knees quite so far apart, I did that for the picture. And no, sadly, it’s not that sunny today.

I made a mistake in choosing my spindle for this project. My spindle has a relatively long shaft and the Sidekick has a lowish orifice. I should have used the lightest, shortest shaft spindle I had because I spent more time than I wanted unwinding and rehooking the core.

But the method works

A little over twisted

The yarn was a little over twisted, somewhere in between the regular core and the unspun core. I think that extra twist was me not being a very relaxed spinner with this method.

I love the idea and now really want to take a class with Sarah Anderson. I can’t imagine what I could learn from the brain that came up with this!


Spinning Tuesdays: The Core of Corespun

On my path to Corespinning Enlightenment – a balanced corespun yarn that I can knit with, I am exploring all of the ways that I’ve been taught in classes , heard about or run across in life or on the internet.

To compare the core and spinning styles of corespinning, I’ll be spinning the different styles of corespinning on my Sidekick using the largest whorl that came with the wheel. I’ll be using the same fiber in each example too, BFL top from Three Waters Farm.

Three Waters Farm BFL, Sangria and City Nights

First up corespinning on a fine 2-ply, two different ways.

Here’s what I used for a core:

Jaggerspun Maine Line

Because spinners are a curious bunch, I’ll show you how I hold my hands when I corespin.

I put the fiber supply on my left side and the core on my right side.

I let the core run over the palm of my hand
When I spin I rest the core and fiber on my index finger
When I need to draft, I drop my right thumb and hold the core and spun fiber briefly, while I draft with my left hand

I know there are spinners who don’t like to fluff, pre draft or attenuate their fibers. I love to fluff fibers, for me it leads to a more even yarn.

For corespinning I strip my top into thirds and fluff it open. I even attentuated just a little.

Stripped and fluffed

I spun 2 samples of yarn this week. Remember, my goal is to get as balanced of a corespun to knit with that I can get. One sample I spun with the core right off of the cone, which further twists an already plied (twisted) core. One sample I unplied the core by running it through my wheel in the opposite direction it was plied. Even fresh off of the wheel – the difference was dramatic.

My biggest challenge is to treadle slowly enough to not overtwist the core, but have enough twist in the core to grab the fiber. I get in to the zone of working my hands and find that soon my feet are going at a regular spinning rhythm instead of a slower corespinning rhythm.

On the left - regular spun core, on the right - unplied core

I don’t set my corespun under tension. I want to knit with it, and I find a squiggly, pig tailed yarn made to be straight by setting it with tension or weight – springs right back to it’s curly ways with the slightest re-wetting. Just like my hair in humidity.

I soak my yarn in hot water for a few minutes, snap it on my hands a couple of times then hang it outside.

The regular core yarn on the left would skew mightily when knit. The unplied core yarn on the right would play well with knitting.

Have you tried corespinning yet? What tips do you have? What do you use the yarn for?


Spinning Tuesdays: Phat Fiber Corespun

Remember this pile of fiber from my Phat Fiber Bollywood box?

Almost 8 ounces of Bollywood inspired fiber

It’s become about 220 yards of corespun yarn

220 yards of corespun with swatch

Closer on the yarn:

Wrappy goodness

the swatch:

I want to wrap around you


I am well and truly hooked on the corespun. The knitting was unexpected like a lot of knitting with handspun. I used needles at least a size or two bigger than I would with commercially spun yarn of the same size. I think handspun yarn takes deeper breaths and fills up more space. The yarn I’ve made is going to become a scarf with a bit of shaping, maybe crescent, so it hangs on a little.

Over the next few weeks here on the blog, I’m going to go back through all of the ways I learned to corespun this year, so you can find your favorite way to wrap up your yarn.

Spinning Tuesdays: Double Marl

For someone who doesn’t care for the look of marled yarns, I spend a lot of time playing with them. I think I like the idea that it’s an easy way to blend color.

During my class with Amy King she showed us what I like to call a double marl. It’s fun, it’s easy and the results are gorgeous.

I chose 2 variegated BFL/silk Abstract Fibers tops. One that I liked and one, not so much.

Abstract Fibers BFL/Silk

I stripped the fiber into pinky width strips

Pinky-sized strips

I held the two strips together as a spun my singles, creating a marled single. Then plied the singles together in a 2-ply. The effect is densely mixed up colors. My favorite kind of marl so far.

A little bit of gorgeous

Look at the difference between a regular marl and double marl.

Double marl on the left, regular marl on the right

I like this way of marling so much I spun 8 ounces. I think next time I’ll choose colorways that have fewer colors in common, just to see what happens.


Spinning Tuesdays: Dissecting Yarn with Amy King

Last Saturday I took a class with Amy King of Spunky Eclectic and Spin Control fame.

The class was called Reading Your Yarn and it was about learning to dissect millspun yarns and reproduce them. I have to admit this really had never occurred to me. Sometimes I pick a yarn apart to look at plys, but never anything beyond that.

We looked at prep, twist, spinning technique and ply.

We all brought a yarn or two we really like to take apart and try to make. I brought Osprey by Quince & Co., because I just bought it am in deep love. It’s a springy 3-ply with more loft than any 3-ply that I’ve ever worked with.

Osprey from Quince & Co

Untwisted I could see that it’s a 3-ply with a lot of woolen characteristics. Because it’s a millspun yarn, the finished yarn is a lot smoother than a handspun woolen. It was spun from a woolen prep, there is lots of air in each ply. It’s slightly over twisted from a balance yarn.

Osprey untwisted

Without doing exact measurements. I spun  Pear Tree merino roving woolen and plied it 3-ply.

Pear Tree merino spun woolen

I didn’t ply twisted enough to get the springy feeling throughout my skein, but I can see a few spots where I got it just right.

Needs a little more twist, but it's close

I love this yarn. It’s soft with loft, but would have much better stitch definition than any handspun woolen yarn that I’ve knit with. I’m dreaming about a slouchy cabled hat.

Of course, since this class I’ve been picking apart every commercial yarn I come across in my house.

Does everyone else already pick commercial yarns apart and try to replicate them in handspun? Am I late to yet another spinning party?

Spinning Tuesdays: Spin in Public and Briar Rose Winner

The spinner who will be happily spinning Briar Rose Fibers silk is Deborah from Illinois.

Thanks to Briar Rose Fibers for a wonderful prize!

I took to the streets, (well a hallway really – it was chilly) with my spinning pals for World Wide Spin In Public Day. Amy came down from Toronto and met her new Sidekick. We spun at The Spinning Loft where there were treats and sales and at any given time 20+ spinners. I only took a few pictures because I was spinning.

Our hostess, telling stories and spinning thread-fine yarn.

Fleece, spinners and Amy with that second cup of coffee she shouldn't have had.
A Schacht threepeat featuring Amy and her new Sidekick. Yes, she loves it.
More spinners. Check out Erica's new to her Majacraft - a Tiny Tim, no longer made, but adorable.

We made a few new spinners answered lots of questions about spinning and ate cupcakes. What did you do for Spin in Public Day?


Spinning Tuesdays: Say Hello to Fall with Silk

Did you know that Briar Rose Fibers now has silk fiber? She’s dyeing silk bricks.

I have loved Chris’ sense of color for a long time – deep organic shades. I frequently call it shades of dirt, but not in a bad way – it’s rich and multi-hued with color grounded in browns.

When Chris starts something new she sometimes sends me a little to play with, here’s my silk:

Greens, golds and blues on a silk brick


I dug in my stash for some Briar Rose fiber to blend it by plying with and came up with two possibilities in BFL.

Darker and lighter purple-ish colorways

Just from looking at the photo which one would you choose? I bet on the darker colorway, it has more colors that are similar, and it’s closer tonally for less marling. I spun finer than I usually do, woolen for the BFL and worsted for the silk.

Lighter colorway plied with silk
Darker colorway plied with silk

I was surprised (aren’t I always?) about a couple of things. The lighter colorway didn’t marl with the silk, they blended together really well, especially in the knitted swatch. The darker colorway didn’t pop with the silk like I expected, too many colors too close in tone. But I do like them both.

BFL-silk swatches

I can’t decide. I think I like them both equally, and I think they would look beautiful worked in something together.

What’s your vote?

To celebrate the beginning of fall (and my kids going back to school!) Briar Rose Fibers is giving away one dyed silk brick to a lucky Knitty Blog reader. The prize value is $45.00 US.

The usual rules apply: Leave a comment to this post before midnight, eastern time, on Thursday, September 8, 2011. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the reader answers correctly s/he will win a dyed silk brick from Briar Rose Fibers.



Spinning Tuesdays: Phat Fiber Fluff Box

I got a Phat Fiber Fluff Box in the mail. Did you hear me squee?

Don’t know what Phat Fiber is? There is a detailed description here, but in a nutshell it is a box of samples, either fiber, yarn or a mix. Fiber artists contribute a certain number of small samples that they have dyed, carded and packaged as they are inspired by the theme of the month. Phat Fiber boxes go on sale once a month and there is a limited number of each box, so you have to click quickly.

The theme for August is Bollywood!

Look at the beautiful box full of fiber:

Phat Fiber Fluff Box for August

20 little fiber packages, not counting the extra goodies like buttons, henna and a cool bangle to wrap in handspun.

I knew you wanted a closer look

The fiber artists that contributed obviously had fun with the theme, it shows in fiber sample and  in the individual packaging. The detail is wonderful from special fonts and photos to silk ribbons to tiny bells.

Packaging details - look at the tiny bells

Unwrapped the fiber looks like this : 7.75 ounces of fiber to spin.

Almost 8 ounces of fiber - look at the sparkle!

The variety of fiber combinations and color is huge. So what doesn a spinner do with .5 ounce amounts of 20 different fiber blends?

This spinner corespins.

Corespinning in the sunshine

I plan to corespin all of the fiber, grabbing the fiber randomly from a big bowl. Sometimes I use all of the .5 ounce in one shot, sometimes I only use half. I am amazed at how it’s all coming together. Corespinning really showcases the fibers and makes a cool looking yarn. I am working on making my corespun yarn balance so I can use it to knit with.

Anyone have tips for balancing corespun yarn?

Let me talk about the collection of fiber artists that contributed to this particular box.

I am an unapologetic fiber wh*re – I have a big stash, I look at fiber and touch fiber every day, I talk about fiber and fiber people every day (yes, I love my job) , but most of the fiber folks in this box of fine fluff were new to me.  I love that.

Spinning Tuesdays: Dyeing with Deb Menz

This past weekend I took a 3-day dye class with Deb Menz. I am still recovering. She completely cracked my brain open about dyeing color. I’ve perused her books   but I find it hard to learn solely from a book, especially about a topic that intimidates me.

This class was intense, 2 full dyeing days and an entire day assembling a 33 page dye book.

Here’s a quick photo essay of the class:

Deb talks about process
We had four dyeing stations and Beth let us make a mess
We dyed lots of mini skeins in quart jars
The Spin Doctor interviewed Deb for her podcast
We hung our mini skeins everywhere to dry
Many sample sheets make a book
We went home with 400 different samples to ponder
Deb explains how to use the dye book

Deb told us that she’s winding up her days as a traveling teacher. If you get the chance to take a class from her do it, it will be the most exhausting and fulfilling 3 days that you’ve ever treated yourself to.