All Spun Up

I may have found a new obsession, an obsession to compliment my already formed knitting habit. Any guesses?

That’s right, spinning! I took a drop spindle class over the weekend and while I won’t say it was an instant success, it was definitely addictive. The process of spinning involves taking fleece that’s been washed and prepared and making it into yarn. When it comes to knitting I’ve always been very interested in the fibre itself, but the thing that really made me want to try my hand at spinning was reading about the Yarn Harlot’s Jacob Damask. To me, it’s the ultimate example in making something by hand, from start to finish. She picked the wool, separated it by colour, spun it into yarn and then made a beautiful shawl from her efforts. It’s truly stunning. Since seeing that I knew that I needed to at least learn the skills that would enable me to try such a feat. (Maybe not with a full shawl, but perhaps a nice coaster or something, just to say that I’d done it).

Enter the drop spindle.

This simple tool has been around for centuries and is the oldest tool for making yarn. That’s right, all that Egyptian linen needed to be made from yarn; yarn that was produced with one of these.

The class was more of a ‘learn by doing’ affair. After a brief introduction to the process, (and I mean brief), we were let loose on a pile of fleece with our new top whorl spindles. Enter the sound of wood hitting the floor.

The best part of the class was the variety of fleece that our teacher brought. It was a great lesson in just how different wool can feel from different breeds. The Shetland wasn’t soft, but was relatively easy to spin because it so easily grabbed ahold of the other fibers (Think felting wool). The Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) which I have been dying to make a pair of socks with, was much softer (almost silky compared to the Shetland), but it was also more slippery to try to spin. Then there was the actual silk. I haven’t tried to spin in yet because if I think the BFL is slippery, well that I can’t imagine what I’ll think of the silk, but just holding it in my hand is like a dream. It’s like holding the softest and almost weightless cotton ball in your hand.

Top: Merino blends
Bottom left to right: Shetland, BFL, Silk

Ta da! My first handspun single! Not pretty to look at, but I gives me quite the sense of accomplishment. If I thought knitting something out of a ‘piece of string’ was good, being able to make that string out of a ‘ball of fluff’ is even better!

Since going home I’ve found a few more resources that provided additional info and tips that the class just didn’t address. This first video of a two part series provides a great visual explanation of getting started with a drop spindle.

Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning is a resource to learn both drop spindle and wheel spinning. I found it helpful to differentiate the different type of drafting and getting a visual on what my hands should be doing during the process.

And that’s my latest effort. I used a different spindle that I had picked up months ago. It’s a bit heavier and is notched, which I found much easier to work with. The yarn is still nowhere near consistent, but it’s an improvement from the first batch. The thought spinning enough to ply two singles together and then having enough to actually make something is still a dream, but I’m one step closer!

My name is Jessica and I’m a knitter, AND a spinner!

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FO: Dahlia Cardigan

I’m proud to say that I have finished up my Dahlia Cardigan. Despite a rocky start, in which I had to redo the back lace panel 3 times, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I substituted the yarn. It called for a cotton blend in Manos Serena, but I used Mirasol Nuna, which is a blend of wool, bamboo and silk. The result is a fabric that’s soft, has a great sheen and has lots of drape.

Here’s the lace panel being blocked. You can get a sense of the sheen in the yarn. (Some of it is due to the flash). It’s also probably the truest colour representation. It’s a bluish-purple.

This is it all blocked out. Just waiting for it to dry so I can seam and wear it!

And of course, the focal point of the cardigan, the lace back.

This sweater has a very different construction. You begin with the back panel, then pick up along the side edges and start knitting out to make the fronts. The sleeves are afterthought sleeves, made as you would make an afterthought heel. To do so, you knit with waste yarn as wide as you want the opening and then once the project is done, you remove the waste yarn, picking up the stitches on either side and start knitting in the round. It’s a great way to keep the drape and flow of the pattern and still be able to have a sleeve. However, there are pros and cons to everything. It lacks the structure a standard sleeve has at the shoulder. I find it sits a little weird when I wear it, but that could be because I didn’t place them exactly where I’d like. I think I would have made them a bit longer, or higher had I known what I know now.

Even so, I’m still very pleased with the end result. I’ve had to pace myself and not wear it everyday!

You can find the pattern on Ravelry.