Skill Building for Spinners

This year I’m very excited to be taking part in and helping to lead the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder Spin-along. Each month we’ll be focused on a different skill, providing helpful links, q & a, encouragement, and troubleshooting along the way. Not only is this an awesome way to spin some of my beautiful Three Waters Farm fibers, it’s also a fantastic way to really spend some time spinning intentionally, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of my spinning and becoming a better spinner.

Most spinners you talk to will say their #1 goal is to spin a yarn that it could be mistaken for mill spun, or at least something that looks like the control involved could not possibly have been executed by human hands. I’ve got opinions on that as an ultimate goal and how to define a good handspun yarn, but those are for another day. Today I want to start to talk a little bit about how we make that could-be-mistaken-for-millspun yarn.

Consistency, you see, is really the cornerstone of spinning, but contrary to what you might believe that’s not just because it enables you create that elusive mill spun look. Consistency is an indicator of something bigger. The fact that you can spin those nice, even, regular yarns means you have the ability to control the yarn you’re making — you understand the drafting process, how much twist you are adding, and all that good stuff and you can churn out the yarn you want, when you want it.

Most people start by getting really good at one type of yarn and that’s the perfect place to start. Once you learn how to spin a consistent yarn, though, it’s not a huge leap to move on to spinning consistent yarns are varying weights and styles on demand. With practice, you’ll find you have control of the mechanics involved and that you can create any yarn — from something that looks like that mill spun skein to the craziest art yarn you can imagine to the perfect little sock yarn you’ve ever laid your hands on.

That’s kind of a big deal.

And that’s why I’m so super excited that this month in the Skill Builder SAL we’ll be exploring Spinning Consistent Yarns.

As a moderator in the group, I’m very happy to share that I’ll be spinning the featured TWF Calendar Colorway each month, based off the beautiful TWF 2019 Calendar.  Participants are welcome to order the featured colorway for themselves or spin any TWF colorway of their choosing.  It’s going to be a blast!

This month’s colorway is Frosted Daybreak on the Merino/Bamboo/Tussah Silk base.

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Confession: I actually have a sweater quantity of this colorway in my stash. It’s pretty freaking awesome and I can’t wait to get going on this!

But I digress.

Today I prepped my fiber. Something that really helps to get a consistent yarn while you spin is fiber prep. Even with a beautiful bag of fiber that is like butter right out of the bag like this, it’s usually a good idea to prepare the fiber before you spin.

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Different dyers dye different ways, but most Three Waters Farm fibers arrive dyed with three repeats across the entire length of the fiber. Now, I’m aiming to spin a 2-ply and I want to split the fiber down the middle lengthwise to have 3 nice long color treats in my yarn. Some spinners are superheroes and have no trouble just picking it up, splitting it, and making two even halves.

I am not that spinner.

I do this instead. First, I break the three repeats.

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And then, always starting in the middle of each repeat, I split each of the three strips lengthwise.

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Why start striping in the middle? Someone along the way gave me that tip and I find it really does work magic and makes it much easier to get even strips.

Now, if I wanted to make the strips smaller here, I could keep splitting. Splitting further can make it easier to spin lighter weight yarns. It just gets you that much closer to your finished yarn and gives you less margin for error as you draft. I’ve split my fiber into as small as 1-2gram strips at times and it’s true – it certainly does help you to reach a lighter weight yarn. Especially for new spinners interested in honing lighter consistent yarns, this is definitely a tip I would recommend.

I tend to be a spinner who splits for color, not to help me achieve a certain yarn weight. I spin across the top of my fiber regardless of the weight of yarn largely because I have never been particularly patient with my prep and I also tend to like larger color repeats. That’s just me.

I could split the colorways even further for color effects like to do something fractal-y — it’s really totally personal preference and what you want the yarn to be. I just want to spin these 6 strips, one after another. 3 on one bobbin, 3 on another. You know why? Because there is nothing scarier to me than trying to match up colors as I ply and I wanted to reach beyond my own comfort zone for this spin. I’m a believer that it’s these little experiments, the subtle forays into the “scary” makes me a better spinner. As long as my spinning is consistent and my fiber is split accurately, theoretically they should match up well. We shall see!

In any case, having broken my fiber up, I wrapped each strip into an easier to store nest (all starting with the same color, of course, because that’s how I intend to spin them) and then weighed each of them. If you don’t have a kitchen scale you can use for fiber prep, I highly recommend getting one. It’s one of my favorite tools! This one a friend got me and it has it’s own bowl that’s perfect for weighing fiber.

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When I weighed each, I found that I had 4 that were 19 grams, 1 that was 22, and one that was 16. It made sense because one I managed to split while splitting it (if that makes sense!) and I could tell right away my split was wonky. I took a stab at pulling 3 grams off of the 22 gram piece and managed to nail it. I matched the colors up to the light strip and wrapped them into a nest as one.

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All ready to spin now!

I haven’t yet decided how heavy I want to make this yarn, I’m going to mull that over while I work on a knitting cast-on. I’ll report back soon on it though!

All The Grey Fiber

My daughter gently nudged me awake last night at 2am to inform me she’d just been sick.  As these things go, she did an admirable job of mostly getting to the bathroom “in time” so that the clean-up was minimal. When things settled down and I’d taken her temperature and assessed that there really wasn’t anything more to do for her right then, I tucked her back into bed and she slowly started to dose back to sleep. It took me far too long to settle back down after all the hub-bub, so I watched some reruns of the Great British Baking Show until I dosed off, mentally noted that I definitely needed to attempt to bake a Prinsesstarta and a Povitica (because of course a relatively novice baker should take on these incredibly complex recipes…) and maybe learn to make donuts from scratch, too.

When morning rolled around I awoke startled, sensing instantly that it was late and that I had an odd hankering for fresh baked pastry. 7am?! I’d slept over an hour later than normal! And while my girl had stoically already gotten up and showered, she was clearly still under the weather. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s a stomach bug or a migraine or both, but suffice to say I tucked her back into bed, made sure she had fluids, and she’s stayed there all day dosing and watching a little TV.  She’s got that classic tired-eyes look that kids get when they are under the weather, so it looks like she needs it!

I’ve tried to make the most of this surprise sick day. In between my regular checks on my girl and knocking out a bit of school with my son, I have been tackling the to-do list. Having picked up extra school hours yesterday with the plan that we’d go light on schoolwork Friday to make room for household tasks, I’d planned on getting to it all tomorrow, but sometimes you just have to roll with the hand life deals you. My boy & I agreed to flip-flop the plans for today and tomorrow. My mother & father-in-law will be visiting next week and I’m using their visit as an excuse to do some fall cleaning, to get things nice and tidy and fresh before it’s time to button up the house for winter. Rumor has it we’ll have our first night dipping into the 30s tomorrow night, so it’s high time we got ready for it! So along with a few errands, today belonged to cleaning.

I’m happy to report that at this point I feel comfortably ahead of schedule. There are a few more items I may or may not get to, but I’m well aware and grounded in the knowledge that they are in the “want to” not “need to” category, so we will see how everyone is feeling tomorrow. With family that we don’t get to visit with much headed this way, healthy kids are the most important goal right now!

In any case, I have made what does not look like a lot of progress on the craft side of things, but in reality it’s kind of a big deal, not to mention no small miracle that I got to it. Some weeks you celebrate the small stuff, right?! Prepare to be slightly underwhelmed!

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This is wholly not glamorous, but I prepped all the grey merino + silk fiber. And by all the grey merino + silk fiber, I mean I had 16oz from one dyelot and 12oz from another and rather than try to figure out how to hold some of it back and still get a good blend between the two lots, I just prepped all the grey merino + silk fiber. Blending and floofing and creating about a zillion little nests of ready-to-spin grey fiber. It took me about 3 days worth of free time and I have no good place to store it without squishing it, but that is the main color of my sweater spin and it’s ready to go! And that is something to celebrate! I’m unsure if I’ll start it now or wait for Spinzilla which is coming up the first week of October, but honestly right now I’m just happy it’s ready!

The other main project I’ve been working on is my current addiction…

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I just cannot put this beauty down! It’s my Down The Road and Back Again Shawl and it’s so fun and easy to knit.

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I’m really mesmerized by how the handspun is knitting up with this lovely commercial yarn. I’m about 10grams — you gauge where to turn by weight — from the point where you switch to the center section. I may try to push through that so I’m comfortably into the decrease section when our guests arrive. Since I’m unexpectedly ahead in cleaning tasks at this point, perhaps I’ll get right to that!

Helping to propel me along the way in all tasks both crafty and on the cleaning front, I’ve been attempting to learn to love audiobooks. I’ve always been a hard copy kind of lady when it comes to books, but because of how my life is structured with school, chores, and craft that all seem to require my hands, I thought I would try to learn to love audiobooks. I’ve never been a huge fan because my mind has always tended to wander, but I am giving it the ol’ college try. So far, so good. I don’t think audiobooks will ever overtake my love of a good hard copy, but it’s nice to be able to “read” while I’m cleaning or cooking or baking (ahem… fancy cakes and breads…) or spinning or knitting.

It is time for me to go and check on my girl and flip some laundry and after that, I think I may have earned some time with my latest book and knitting. Hopefully I will cruise toward that turning point on my shawl and maybe get through to the end of my book. After my tumultuous night last night and all the work around the house today, I’m guessing I may hit the hay early tonight!