Tag Archives: handspun

Fuchsia shock…

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated. But it’s also a little easier now, since we made a few changes here to make it more readable. I’ve got a new computer to play with, too. I call it the Dreaded Grey Beastie, because it is.  A useful, helpful beast, too…

Meanwhile, even though it’s the heat of summer, I’ve still been spinning a lot. Mostly to help me relax. Every time I check the news there’s new reasons to unplug and do something else for a while.  I’ve been spinning magenta and fuchsia yarns, with lots of sparkle and fluff.

Fuchsia yarn
Fuchsia merino and angora yarn with sparkles

It seems my hunger for this color is shared by lots of people. When I bring a spindle to work, my coworkers glom onto the bright color. I sold the yarn in the photo, and people asked for more like it. I’ve already had to dye another kettleful of this shade, and now I’m out of magenta dye. (Which means I have to brave the big, gorgeous selections of Halcyon Yarns to get more. *mock sobbing*)

You think I’d get tired of this particular color…but funny enough, I’m not. Not even close. It’s just so hypnotically attractive.

Yesss….good…let the Hypnoyarn fill your mind…

I must be out of my mind, spinning all this wool in July.  But–but–fuchsia!!

Knitting in the workplace…

See this pretty thing?

Danse macabre
The darkest dark, the reddest red, the sparkliest sparkly!!

It started it’s dark and sparkly life in a basement of a museum, surrounded by coffee and polyester sweaters and noise.  Lots and lots of noise…

Breaktime Knitting
Not pictured: a handheld radio, a cup of tea, gurgling pipes overhead and my frowny little face as I try to concentrate…

I usually bring knitting to my job, to help me unwind between breaks and to sneak a little time into my various projects. More often than not it’s something I spun up myself that demands to be made into something right this minute. Yarn can be pushy like that. So very pushy. This yarn was a dark black, red and white spiral-ply I spun up from one of the beautiful batts at Butterflygirl Designs on Etsy. I’ve bought from her for years, and her goods are always so good. One of the nice things about handspun yarn is that you can keep your stitches pretty simple and let the yarn do all the work of being pretty…

Workplace knitting has it’s own challenges. It’s noisier than home, of course. There’s lots of traffic, and the possibility of spills, crumbs, overcurious coworkers poking at your project, moving it or distracting you enough to drop a stitch or two. I’ve lost count of the times on a break where I answer a workplace question while my hands are moving, and when I look down…I messed up that yarn over. Again. Drat it all. And I mutter quietly to myself when I think nobody can hear me. (But of course my coworkers can totally hear me. I can tell by the snickering)

Then there are the usual jokes.  Requests to knit whole sweaters for 20 bucks, or nothing. Various eyerolls, “only grandmas knit” or “knitting nerd” comments. The occasional vampire-slayer remarks. (I actually like these remarks because I get to brandish a knitting needle in a mildly threatening fashion.) But sometimes there are the people who sidle over and gently pet the yarn, or ask if I have time to crank out some wristwarmers for them, or can I make a goofy gutmonster for a birthday or something. I love these people.They get extra guts in their knitted gutmonsters.

Mostly I just like the peace. After I get into the groove a little bit, I can float right off into a nice soft realm of stitches and fluffy textures and away from the workaday life for a little while. I feel a little more rested on a break where I’m working on something. And when I’m finished, I just glow with a little well-earned pride. A moment in a gloomy basement redolent with the smell of burned coffee and old pizza can be the brightest part of my day when I bind off that last stitch…



Tutorial: How to spin with a drop spindle…

Ahhh, today is wonderful…dark, rainy, gloomy! Just the right kind of day to do some spinning! What’s that, you say? Don’t spin? But you’re dying to learn? *rubs hands together* Eeeeeexcellent…

Don’t be frightened–spinning is easy to learn and takes very little money to start. By now you probably have a nice little spindle you’ve made, all by yourself, with instructions from my last tutorial. Or you can buy them online–there’s all kinds of gorgeous spindles out there for beginners for reasonable prices. Wool is also easy to come by on the net–before long you’ll have your favorite suppliers to stock you up on demand, but I started out with the mother-ship of spinning acoutrements, the website at Halcyon Yarn. They have everything you need, and I do mean everything. But for a starter yarn, go easy and cheap–no alpaca or camel or angora or yak, not yet. Blue-faced Leister is a great beginners wool, as is Icelandic and Romney.

Beginner's tutorial
A simple drop spindle and a handful of fiber, waiting to be transformed into something wonderful.

The first thing you’ll want to do is fluff up your fibers. If you bought roving in long strips or braids, untie the braids and gently tear the roving into nice, manageable strips. If you have a batt, you can tear off chunks as you spin. Or you can just take locks of wool and use your fingers or a dog comb to make a nice fluffy pile. And take a minute to roll a little fiber around in your fingers. How does it feel? Twirl some around with your hands, and see what feels good to you. That’s how you’ll want your yarn to feel. Now, tie some leftover yarn to your spindle, under the whorl, and loop it through the hook on top. (This is called, the ‘leader” yarn.)Put a slip knot in the top, then thread a little fiber through the loop and pull nice and tight. This will anchor your fiber for spinning…

Spindle ready to spin
A spindle, all ready to spin!

Now, hold the yarn loop with your dominant hand, and let the spindle hang down from the leader yarn. Spin it with your fingers, counterclockwise. Let the twist go up into your fiber. You can stop your spindle anytime and use your fingers to smooth out your yarn. One hand will end up controlling the twist by pinching off the yarn, and the other hand will end up “drafting”; basically pulling at your fiber until it’s the thickness you want. Don’t be too worried about drafting right now–you just want to get the hang of the twisting from the spindle running up into your fiber the way you want.

Spindle with yarn
Spinning up the first bit of yarn. Let the twist from your spindle run up into the fiber.

How’s a good way to tell how your yarn is going? You can let it loop back on itself to see if it feels soft and comfortable. If it feels too tight and harsh, it has too much twist, and you can fix it by letting the twist run further up the fibers. If it’s coming apart, twist it a little more. But trust your fingers; they know what they want your yarn to feel like. You can always stop, untwist all the fiber and start over if it’s not the way you want it.

Looped fiber
This fiber looped onto itself really nicely. it’s not too tight, not too loose.

Running out of fiber? Add a little more! Just take your next bit of fiber and layer it over the end of your yarn. Give your spindle a spin and watch the twist run up into the new addition. Wool wants to hang onto wool, and you can keep adding on and on until your spindle is full or you’re tired of spinning, whichever comes first.

New fiber!
New fiber added onto the first bit of fiber. The twist holds everything together!

Now, while you’re spinning and spinning, you’ll make mistakes for sure. Your wool will be lumpy. You’ll drop your spindle a dozen times or more. Your hands won’t know what to do. Just keep at it–eventually your hands will find a rhythm that makes sense, and things will get much easier. My rhythm goes like this: “Spin the spindle, pinch the yarn, pull the fibers”. The pinching is to stop the twist going further than I want it too, the pulling is to even out the next fibers to be spun up. And you can stop whenever you want, start back up whenever you want, and keep going until you can no longer fit anything onto your spindle.

Very full spindle
A very, very, very full spindle…

So what do you do with your spindle full of yarn? You can wind your new yarn into a ball as it is and knit with it. I usually prefer to set the twist–I wrap it around a niddy-noddy, a wonderful tool used to measure and skein up yarn, then take the yarn off, give it a good gentle soak in lukewarm water, *very* gently wring out the water and hang it in my shower to dry. (I use clothes hangars to weigh down the bottom of the skein so the yarn doesn’t kink.) When it’s dry, it’s nicely balanced and much easier to use. You can use that first yarn to make a funky potholder, or a headband, or a little bag to put in spinning fluff for later. But be proud of that first wonderful, lumpy, blobby yarn, and be proud of yourself!! Not everybody sticks it out with something new, and you just did!!

(If you have any extra questions about spinning, or get stuck and need a little coaching, ask me in the comments section!! I’ll walk you through any fiber kinks you run into. But I think you’ll do better than you expected.)