Spinning Tuesdays

Maryland Sheep and Wool is this Weekend

Maryland Sheep and Wool!

Maryland Sheep and Wool!

Maryland Sheep and Wool is one of the high holy fiber shows. Spinners talk about it with a sigh in their voice. This is the first big show, the cracking open of the fiber season. Spinners, knitters and other fiber folk burst out of their winter cocoons and throw themselves on fiber, yarn and sheep with the glee of a 5 year old at a birthday party.

I have never been to Maryland Sheep and Wool, it coincides with a big publishing week in New York. My husband is always gone and I have kids still in school, so Maryland will have to wait.

Every year I pretend I’m going to Maryland,  I scour the vendors and I make a shopping plan. It’s fun and no credit card is needed!

If I were going this year here are some of the things I’d check out:

  • The fleece sale. Yep, I’ve finally tripped and landed in the need for fleece. It’s going to be a dangerous spring and summer for my bank account.
  • Anyone selling sheep cheese. Another new desire. I’m reading and tasting all that I can.
  • The WooLee Winder booth. The have a new e-spinner, and I want to touch it.
  • The Bosworth Booth. I also have the itch for a new spindle.
  • Spunky Eclectic. For as many years as I ‘ve been spinning Amy’s fiber I only get it online. I’ve never seen it in the wild.
  • Into the Whirled. My stash of Cris’ fiber is dangerously low.
  • Cooperative Press. Shannon has released so many new books, I want to see them all.
  • Moving Mud. The have glass darning needles now and I might need a pair of new earrings.
  • The Ross Farm. My stash needs to be fed some rare breed roving.

That’s just a few, and it doesn’t count my favorite ways to find things to buy, other spinners. At any fiber show or sale my absolutely favorite thing is when I run across a spinning friend and I follow them on their show quest. That’s how I’ve found the best surprises.

Who’s going to Maryland and what is on your list?


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Ply Away – The Haul!

I taught at Ply Away this weekend and it was amazing. It’s the biggest spinning-only retreat running right now and there were about 300 spinners swarming the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City. I taught 5 classes full of wonderful spinners.  There was also a marketplace. I usually don’t shop when I teach because I’m surrounded by fiber all day, but I tripped a little at this market.

Plyaway haul

Ply Away haul

I got a Clemes and Clemes blending board (squee!) I’ve wanted one for a long time and I need it for a work project, so there’s one heading my way. Huckleberry Knits was there with her new Targhee/Silk blend- 6 braids came home with me. I’ve never seen so much of her fiber in person.  There was a pen store in the mall attached to the hotel, many, many spinners went crazy in there. I got two pens and two new inks. I had to get that pair of socks too, they made me laugh out loud.

Ply Away Saturday Night Spin In

Ply Away Saturday Night Spin In – So Many Spinners!


What did you spin (or buy ) this weekend?

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Woolen or Worsted? Forward or Backward?

2 and 3 ply yarns.

2 and 3 ply yarns, woolen spun.


How do you draft? My default draft is woolen. I used to never draft worsted, but I have learned to (almost) love it. The type of draft can change so many things about your yarn, you better believe I use drafting style to help create the yarn I want to knit with.

When I draft woolen I draft backwards, when I draft worsted I usually draft backwards too. Some spinners find that odd, I’ve even heard the word, wrong.

So tell me how do you draft and in which direction?





Spin those singles!

Spin those singles!

Have you seen Amy King’s new Craftsy class Spinning Stupendous Singles? Amy is my singles spinning hero and this class is great.

If you are new to spinning singles, need some reminders or practice, or want tips to make your singles better, grab your wheel and fiber and settle in for an informative and fun few hours.

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The Knittyspin Library

When I was teaching at Yarn Fest I ran into quite a few people who had never heard of Knittyspin, actually I ran into quit a few people who had never heard of Knitty!

I want to post a little reminder about Knittyspin. In every issues of Knitty there is a column about a spinning topic, usually written by me, Jillian, and one or two knitting patterns designed for handspun yarn. Just like Knitty all of those patterns are archived in the Knitty library and are free! There are almost 90 Knittyspin patterns in our library, take a look.

So many pretty patterns for handspun!

So many pretty patterns for handspun!

Already know and love Knittyspin and our library of patterns? Pass the word on to your spinning and knitting friends!

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Why I Love Teaching

I’m just back from teaching at the Interweave Yarn Fest. I had a blast and couldn’t have asked for better or more enthusiastic students! My friend, fellow teacher, amazing weaver and author, Stephanie Flynn Sokolov captured a photo of me in one of my classes that pretty much sums up why I love teaching.

Happy student, happy teacher!

Happy student, happy teacher!

I get to help spinners spin yarns they want to use and spin yarns they didn’t think they could spin. This photo is from my Big Yarns class and look at that fat yarn my student just finished. Want to see why she’s smiling like that?

Before and after yarn

Before and after yarn

I know it’s blurry, but see that fine line between the green arrow and the point of the scissors? That is her default yarn, 2-ply lace weight. She was sure she couldn’t spin bigger, but poof, we got her there. Happy spinners make happy teachers!

I love my job!


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Unloved Fiber – Who Doesn’t Love a Party?

A pile of fiber ready to party!

A pile of fiber ready to party!

I got a lot of great suggestions when I asked about what to do with no longer loved stash fiber, fiber that is compacted or just not your favorite anymore. Lots suggested giving it away or selling it, over dyeing or carding. There were two great suggestion for felted fiber – using it for insulation and making dryer balls.

No one mentioned one of my favorite stash refreshers – a carding party! All you need are a couple of carders and a few friends that have unloved stash. My gang piles everything into the middle of a room, positions the carders around the outside and we take turns making batts.

This is especially great for those odds and ends of fiber that aren’t enough to make something on their own.

Eventually the pile gets separated into colors, and funky add-ins like sparkle or saari silk are kept in their own pile. It is great fun and everyone goes home with a pile of batts.

When I was in college we used to have clothes trading parties. I was thinking of doing something like that for fiber that is more swapable than cardable. Has anyone had a fiber trading party?


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Wool Spinning in Donegal

When I spun today instead of watching Scandal or something on Netflix (how is season two of Daredevil?) I watched this 30 minute film from 1978 about spinning in Donegal Ireland. Have you seen it? There’s a bit about sheep, a chunk about prepping wool and spinning on a great wheel and a bit about natural dyeing, particularly with lichen.

It is fascinating and I’m surprised how much is packed into a half an hour. I will never whine about wanting the newest, shiniest spinning tools again, these women got it all done with tools their mother’s used and just the basic tools at that.

Give it a watch and tell me what was interesting to you!

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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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