Wednesday, July 18, 2012

For the Love of Yarn

Do you love yarn? Of course, I could be wrong but I think yarn is what attracts most knitters. It certainly keeps us knitting.  

I knit for years with lots of different yarns, enchanted by the colors, the texture, the touch. I suddenly thought if I could spin my own yarns I would never run out of yarn and it would be cheaper.

Okay, so that last bit has not worked out. Some fibers are more expensive than commercial yarns, but the rest is true. Not only do I not run out of yarns, I can make yarns that machines cannot. I can make multi-colored yarns that do not pool. I can tailor a yarn for a specific project. I have learned way more than just the technique of spinning such as fiber characteristics, the history of sheep, the politics of cotton, what yarn works best for which project, how to best care for different yarns and their end product. The list goes on. Spinning has been such a gift for me not only in what I have learned but also in relaxation and the stress relief it brings.

Being human when we are I in love with something we want to share it. I am here to promote learning to spin. I will start with spindle spinning.

Spindle Spinning is portable, inexpensive, fun and relaxing. A spindle can do anything a wheel can do and maybe more. When wheels were first introduced weavers considered spindle spun yarn superior to wheel spun. Spindles are lovely and a connection to the past. They are among the most ancient of manmade tools and probably inspired the invention of the wheel. 

There are many different types of spindles. Spindles can be supported, that is, held in a bowl or on the ground while spinning. The spindles above are for spinning fine yarns. These can be very fast. These are great to learn on, especially for spinning cotton.

Spindles can also be suspended. Suspended spindles (also known as drop spindles) can have the whorl at the top, the bottom or even the middle. Top whorl spindles can be rolled on the thigh for faster spinning. For a beginner a spindle such as these can be stopped while learning. Otherwise, you really do let drop it and use both hands for drafting - that is pulling the fibers out while letting twist go in. It is the twist that holds the fiber together and makes yarn.

Spinning wheels are the next technological step up from spindles.  You can start spinning with a spindle or a wheel although it helps to practice drafting with a spindle first.

There are lots of ways to learn to spin - wool festivals, fiber shops, friends. I hope I have at least stimulated your interest. At Kiwi Knitting Company, Spin Doctor is there once a month to get you started.

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