Spinning

I ordered myself a drop spindle and some fiber. I don’t expect not to suck at it, but I really want to learn to spin. Not even well. I don’t need to learn how to spin well. But I want to make some yarn. I want to know what that process is like.

Which, I think, means that my efforts to enclose everyone in afghans are probably slowing down. Or changing shape. I want something different from my fiber work, even if I can’t say for certain what different will look like.

Which, too, is where I am with my fiction.

Maybe with life.

I forgot my prescriptions at work and had to go yesterday to dig them out of my desk. I took the dog. He was such a good boy, but so nervous. He didn’t particularly like the elevator and he seemed worried when I dropped his leash once we were off the elevator (but there literally was no place for him to go but the other end of the hallway). But also excited.

I admire the way he doesn’t let his nervousness stop him from having adventures. He just makes his nervousness a part of the experience.

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11 thoughts on “Spinning

  1. Drop spindle! They’re awesome. I highly highly highly recommend checking out Abby Franquement’s videos (or her book, which was loaned to me by the woman who got me started on spinning). She’s a good teacher.

  2. Thank you! I’ve been looking for a good resource. The amount of videos that are just “spin your spindle, draft some fibers” is… ugh… Finally, I found a video where the spinner went into a lot of detail talking about drafting and how you can move your fingers to change the thickness of your yarn and how to evaluate the fiber length in order to draft a consistent yarn and I was like “Finally, this is the kind of information I need.” But I only found one video of hers.

    And I still haven’t found a really good resource on setting the twist. Some people are like, “Just get your yarn thoroughly wet and then let it dry.” And some folks are like “put it in very hot water and then very cold water and then very hot water and back and forth until it’s done.” (Okay, but I’m new. What is “done?”) And then one person was all “You have to thwack it on the ground as hard as you can, over and over.” No one else has mentioned thwacking. Do I have to do this? How do I know if I have to do this? My floors are filthy and covered in dog hair. Can I thwack against a counter or a table?

    I’m both excited and confused about everything.

  3. Hm. I tend to overtwist a little when I spin single-strand (less on a drop spindle, more on a wheel), and then, in the plying, it works itself out and makes rational yarn. I’ve done triple ply, but usually stop at double.

    I do not thwack anything, but I do soak the plied skein for 20 minutes (or until I remember that I’m soaking a skein) and gently squeeze it out, then just let it drip dry (like you do when you dye). That’s been enough to work out any extra kink from the twist/ply process. I would be afraid to thwack; I work with a lot BFL wool blend, and it felts when you thwack it. I don’t remember what Franquement suggests, but I am pretty sure there is no twacking.

    The first couple times I spun, the yarn was all over the place for thickness. My first hank was a lumpy little horror. My friend, who runs Blarney Yarn and is a fiber goddess (and the source of the Franquement books), laughed at me and said, “You will never make something like that again, so treasure it.”

  4. I ordered a Franquement book on your recommendation. I also think I may have ordered way too much yarn to start with, but I got excited about the prospect of dying it. I guess if I decide spinning’s not for me, I can always find a spinner to give it to.

    And I’m utterly perplexed by why so many spinners hate barber-poling. One of the reasons I so want to learn how to spin is because the barber-poling looks so damn awesome. I can dye a solid yarn or a regular variegated yarn.

    But I’ve never seen a commercial yarn that barber-poles in the same satisfying way that hand-spun yarn does.

    I’m so excited. I want everything I ordered to get here immediately.

  5. It’s my understanding that the thwacking and the hot to cold shocks are intended to cause a small amount of felting. A lightly felted yarn is less splitty than handspun sometimes is. You stop when you like what you have. I always thwack mine. Against the inside of my bathtub usually.

    If you have more fibre than you want to spin… Wet felting is amazing and magical and you might like it.

  6. Lord, I love the internet. I just express some confusion and Rivikah comes along and explains. And gives me a clean space where I can thwack if I need to. Thank you!

  7. Rivikah, do you happen to have any references on the history of this thwacking? I’m serious–histories of cloth-making emphasize felting the woven/knitted result, not the thread/yarn itself, and I’d like to know moooooooore.

  8. The little research I’ve done to soothe my curiosity suggests that it’s really important for lofty yarns, fine yarns, and yarns spun with short staple lengths–that you are trying to make sure that the fibers have both twist and felt to keep them together.

    I also read that, if you’re not great at plying, thwacking can even out your ply twist.

    It seems like a good tool to have in your spinning arsenal, but not necessary for all kinds of yarns.

  9. I’d not count on it being any kind of historical technique. I barely even remember where I got the idea from…Ask the Bellwether maybe? (http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-do-you-make-good-looking-2-ply-yarn.html#.W-42ZNQrKWg)

    One thing that I find interesting about historical vs modern spinning is that so much of historical spinning was destined for woven fabric whereas modern handspun, I’d guess, is most often knitted or crocheted. So historically, I’d guess historical spinning rarely gets finished because they’re not making yarn, they’re making fabric. So they’re not finished yet.

    If you want a felted or fulled fabric in the end, I suspect you’d better not felt as yarn. My wet felting experiments suggest that your yarn would forever remain much more felted within the strands of the yarn itself and might resist grabbing onto the neighbouring strands.

    Knitting (or crocheting) tends to have…different properties and goals.

  10. Thanks, Rivikah, that’s interesting. Knitting is only about a thousand years old, give or take. So there were millennia of spinning that could only be aimed at weaving, and I imagine that spinning techniques aimed at knitting had to be retrofiitted onto some very old habits.

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