Questions & Answers

I ask a lot of questions. About everything. All the time.

A few weeks ago I was having some leg pain that was seriously harshing my spinning mojo, so I had a couple conversations with some trusted spinning friends about ways to continue spinning through this. They had loads of great ideas from things I can change about how I’m seated at my wheel to simply using my double treadle as a single treadle and a ton of little things in between. The discussion shifted a bit to other wheels. While I love my wheel and its incredible versatility, those times when my body isn’t cooperating can be frustrating. The ultimate dream would be to someday own a miniSpinner which is treadle-less and thus would completely bypass my less than reliable legs. It’s also super portable, so it would travel well and in many ways suit my life. It’s quite an investment, though, and now isn’t the right time for me to go there — who knows, that time may never come for me. I had a feeling my ‘answer’ was still out there though, that there was something that would allow me to spin even when my legs weren’t cooperative and even when I wanted something more mobile than my wheel.

All this happened to coincide with a couple spinning friends sharing some incredible photos of spindle spinning on which they’d been working. And then Mary Ann from Three Waters Farm happened to pose the question, “How about a spindle?” A million more questions rolled forth and I embarked on a journey to learn about all the things I never knew about spindle spinning. I have to say that between Mary Ann & the exceptionally talented ladies in the TWF Ravelry Group, I have had the most incredible, exceptional help in everything from learning about spindles themselves to specific skills. I could not be any luckier and I don’t know that I’d be in the very lovely spot that I’m in with regards to spindle spinning without them.

That said, today I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on three spindles I’ve been lucky enough to try out. Each of these spindles is the exact same weight — 0.85oz — and yet each I find to be innately unique. While I’m still quite new to spindle spinning, I’ve come to regard each of them as excellent tools as well. So of course I want to share them with you!

The first I’d like to share is from Golding Fiber Tools.

img_2945It’s one of their most basic spindles, Solid Lignum Vitae with a Bronze Ring with Black Finish.

img_2944The whorl measures 2″ & the shaft is 6.75″ long. This is the spindle that revolutionized how I see spindle spinning. This little joy feels substantial in my hands, but it is wonderfully stable & graceful & it spins forever. This is an artisan piece that has a very practical nature. It’s kind of like chanting, “Om” in spindle form. There is a whole lot about this spindle that I connect with on many levels — it’s really a joy l connect with on many levels.

The next spindle I tried was the Akerworks Trillium. When I use it I’m right here in the moment. Bright & happy, this spindle is meant to go with you everywhere.img_2948This spindle’s whorl is 3D printed in ABS plastic and includes stainless steel weights at the end of each ‘petal’ which helps with the physics of it all, insuring the spin time is nice and long. The shaft is made of a black carbon fiber composite.

img_2946One of the super neat things about Akerworks is that you can mix and match components with their spindles — both the colors and sizes. It may look like all fun and games, but I swear to you just like the company’s Flat-Pack Bobbins this is one well-engineered tool.

I picked a Small whorl which is 2″ across and a Medium shaft which is 8″ long. I really like how my Trillium spins. Especially once I got some yardage on it, it spins right to the floor for me. I find the carbon fiber shaft has a very comfortable width and feel to it. I’m still in the muscle-building stages of this journey and the slightly bigger width of the shaft is a little easier on my hands when it comes to wrapping my yarn on. As an added bonus, you can adjust the hub to put it just where you want it on the shaft and you can actually take the whorl off (even with the cop on) for easier travel. Knowing me and my tiny car cross-country family adventures, I’m sure you know this is a pretty sweet added bonus in my book.

And last but not least, I tried a Bosworth Mini.

img_2942This is a Bubinga Standard Mini with a Birch Shaft — the whorl is about 2″ and the shaft is 9″ long.

img_2943Bosworths (commonly referred to as ‘Bossies’) are highly lauded in the spindle spinning community. In fact, I asked three people independently which spindles I should try and Bosworth was the top choice of all three. I’ll say now that I’ve tried it, I totally get it. Spinning on a Bosworth is a little other-worldly in my mind because I can feel it spinning, but I don’t actually feel the weight of the spindle while I’m spinning.  Maybe gravity isn’t quite as strong under a Bosworth or maybe it’s just the elegant design,both aesthetically and the physics of it. Either way, this beauty certainly deserves the props it gets.

Which would I recommend to you? Honestly, I would recommend each of them very highly and at this point I can’t say that I have a preference. I really like that anti-gravity feel of the Bossie and the super comfortable shaft and long spin-time of the Akerworks and I adore that deep, earthy spin of the Golding. I may very well develop a preference over time, but for now I’m actually enjoying using them as a group for the same project, switching spindles whenever I start to lose my gusto. I don’t have any idea if that’s something normal spindle spinners do, but it really seems to be floating my boat these days so I’m just going with it. With a feel for spindle spinning in my hands, an interesting collection of spindles at my disposal, and a bunch of new techniques to work on, I seem to have found an answer to my question by way of a another question. Four little words — “How about a spindle?” — has certainly opened up a wonderful new world for me. Off I go, in search of the next question!

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That Silver Lining

There’s a delicate dance for all of us who rely on natural light for photographs. For small projects like socks or handspun skeins of yarn I can get a decent photo in almost any weather, but sweaters and larger shawls are more complicated. For me, if I want to get a picture of the whole project that requires larger than about a 2’x2′ space, I need decent weather so I can snap the photo outside. This April in Wisconsin has involved a lot of snow and rain and raining ice and sleet, often in quick succession. It usually does, but ideally there’s a bit more sunshine in between so I can sneak outside to snap some quick photos. I bring this up because I’ve got a sweater & a shawl all ready to share with you and I’m waiting, ever so impatiently, for a break in the weather. Soon, my friends, soon.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share a WIP update because I’ve been attempting to lurch forward a bit in what I’m working on.

I’m ecstatic to report that last night I wrapped up my Three Waters Farm March Top of the Month Club braid.

img_2786Named “Spring Spirit” this certainly is made up of many of the colors I see out my window (although it’s missing the white snow — lol!). I see irises and green grass and the tulips leaves and the first crocuses of the year. I did some playing with the length of color repeats on this spin & plan to n-ply it. If I get the yardage I need, I’m thinking this will be earmarked for a Quaker Lines shawl. With just 4oz and making a 3-ply, I’m not confident I’ll have the yardage though, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Because I like to be ready to hop right into my next spin, before finishing it up I managed to prep my January Top of the Month Club braids, also from Three Waters Farm.

img_2776I’ve been aiming to stay up to date with my club subscription and so far this is the only one I haven’t spun. You know me, I’m not big on loose ends, so to ease my own mind I really had to make this spin happen. There’s an extremely talented spinner named Karen in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group who is famous for her gorgeous barberpoley skeins and a while back she was kind enough to share how she preps her yarn for maximum barberpoles. I was really indecisive about how to handle this gorgeous colorway, named “Birds in Holly”, so to end my own over-thinking I decided to try my hand at her technique. To see why I’m interested in trying Karen’s technique, please check out her handspun in her Etsy shop. In addition to her handspun yarn, she also has some cute stitch markers and select spinning tools for sale.

This morning after my morning yoga I got right to this new project.

img_2787I’d considered spinning it a little heavier and this Rambouillet is definitely going to be a bit more substantial than the Falkland of ‘Spring Spirit’, but this weight feels right to me so I’m just going with it. I adore the colors already.

In my knitting, I’ve forbidden myself from starting any of the FOUR projects I’m itching to cast-on until I finish my Veleta top from the new Louet Spring Collection. Both sides are knitted identically and I’m a little over halfway through the big stockinette block of the second side.

img_2778So motivated, I even made myself an Americano yesterday after lunch for a little extra boost. As I knew I would, I’m really enjoying knitting with Louet’s Euroflax Sport. I chose to knit this top in Heron Grey with the bottom lace accent in Cream. It has a very old world feel to it that I truly adore.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been plugging away at my spindle spinning project.

img_2788I’m definitely still learning how to use this tool efficiently, but I’m very happy to be making progress on this previously stalled out fiber. I’ve been aiming to spin up between 1/2 of a rolag and one full one each day and that seems to be do-able for me.

As I continue to wait for the weather to behave so I can share those FOs, I’ll just keep on keepin’ on with my WIPs as I always do. I suppose the silver lining of the uncooperative weather is that we tend to stay a little closer to home, so I have a tiny bit more time with my knitting & spinning. As I watch the fine snow that is falling outside change to rain and then to ice pellets and then back to snow, I’m going to just keep telling myself to think of that silver lining. Yes, I’m just going to knit & spin my way to more agreeable weather.

Transformation

Growing up I always thought that eventually I would reach some magical place where I’d arrive. You know, a place where I’d be done, all set, where I’d reached my full potential. I think that’s largely because I was terrible at envisioning what being an adult in middle-age would really & actually be like. Of course, especially over the last 10 years, I’ve learned that the arrival I thought was out there in my future existed only in my imagination. The truth is we are all constantly changing, less like someone driving from point A to point B and more like a river that flows along, constantly and naturally adjusting course. We meander. We make new discoveries that change us. We grow. We transform. And it is on-going, forever and ever. Writing it, I feel like this is something I should have grasped much earlier in life. I do think it was always in me, in how I’ve lived, but I definitely had never really articulated it.

In my crafting life, once again it took me a long while to make this same realization. I was so focused on learning the ins and outs of knitting and spinning that I never really pondered the long-term. Sure, the goal is and always has been to be able to create any project I want. I started steadfastly as a knitter. And then I became a knitter who spins, with simple goals like making consistent yarn, yarn that turns out as I envision it. I wanted to perfect my skills as best as I was able. Of course that’s where I saw myself going with this craft. Of course it was. This past month, though, as I started to feel a real intrinsic click in my spinning, instead of settling into it I decided to dive just a little deeper, to meander on a slightly less direct route. And somewhere along the way I transformed from a knitter who spins to a knitter and a spinner.

I pushed myself a little outside of my comfort zone and did some studying so I could better help a friend with a new wheel this month and as I did something was changing inside of me.

img_2667Then one day I found this highly recommended and out-of-print book in the web shop of a spindle maker and ordered it straight away knowing how hard it is to find these days.  While I was there, I ordered a spindle as well. I’ve been rekindling an interest in my spindling skills as an easy-to-pack, day-trip tag-along and Golding Fiber Tools happen to come highly recommend. I managed to pass on the incredibly gorgeous and intricate options as well as the one made from 5000+ year old Russian Bog Oak (that one slays me) and instead opted for one of their more basic spindles. When it arrived, I simply could stop myself from spinning up the little sample of green fiber that came with the spindle. I had made some inroads with spindles during last summer’s Tour de Fleece, but this spindle was something different. This little spindle — at 0.85oz it’s the lightest I’ve attempted — flew. And for the first time in my life, I flew with it.

When I’d burned through the sample, I remembered I had a little sample braid of fiber that I’d gotten from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber a while back that I thought would be of similar weight and would look cute plied with the green I’d just spun. And I got spinning.

img_2675-1I left it in the kitchen and spun here & there in between other tasks.img_2681-1And before I knew it I’d spun through that braid, too.

Just as with spinning with my wheel, I’ve found a real peace in this little spindle. Equipped with more confidence and more understanding of the mechanics of what I’m doing, I was able to make this little 75yard skein in only a few hours.

whole skeinSure, it’s far from perfect, but considering I was using a new and unfamiliar spindle as well as new-to-me fibers, I think it turned out pretty darn well.

detailI plan to throw it in with my on-going knitted patchwork blanket tidbits. What a fun addition it’ll be!

And just like that, as I turned this tiny skein over in my hands, I knew for a fact that I’d never arrive. There will always be a whole new world just around the next bend. I’ll discover a new tool or a new technique or be introduced to a new perspective that will forever alter my course. I’ll change constantly; from knitter, to knitter who spins, to knitter and spinner, to who knows what’s next. I’ll change. I’ll grow. I’ll transform. It will go on forever and ever. And it will be a beautiful trip.

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The 1+1+1 Project: Q1 Wrap-Up & Q2 Plans

I’m a couple days late sharing this post — sorry about that! I actually hoped to post yesterday and only be a day late, but when I went to pull yarn out of my stash for one of my upcoming projects, well, one thing led to another and before I knew it I was up to my eyeballs organizing and updating the entire yarn and fiber stash on Ravelry.

img_2744-1Considering I had a pounding headache, it was not the brightest thing I’ve done, but I have a long history of making questionable choices regarding chores when I am not feeling well. This was the kind of mostly mindless thing one can do with a headache, though, as there’s really no creative thought required. And now my stash is totally searchable and I even entered locations so I can go straight to the right spot and find everything. That’s pretty nifty if you ask me. For this moment, let’s enjoy the fact that I accomplished this feat and ignore the fact that I have enough yarn and fiber that it is helpful to assign each piece a location, ok?

 In any case, I got distracted and just didn’t get back to writing this post. So let me get to that!

First, I’m happy to report my Q1 for the 1+1+1 Project was a success — hooray! I got all three projects I set out to finish done.

img_1841You’ll remember that this is where I started.

I got to my Snowfling Mitts first.

topsideAnd thank goodness as I’ve been using them. Did I mentioned it’s snowing today?

And then I worked on my Agnes Sweater.on2I got the vast majority of this done while on our Yellowstone vacation. Honestly, I think drying this after its wash was the most time-consuming part of it. It’s been an awesome bit, cozy sweater for me and I adore it! I wore it just the other day out on the trail under my raincoat and it was perfection.

And last but not least, the big kahuna of my Q1 — spinning these 12oz of fiber into yarn.

img_2432I chose to spin this during the month of March to go along with the Three Waters Farm Unexpected Combo spinalong. 12oz of singles plus plying in one month is a huge under-taking for me, especially since I managed to spin some of the finest yarn I’ve ever spun. I made it though!

3ply pileAnd as you saw earlier this week, I have this 1100yard fingering-weight skein to show for it.

2ply pileAnd this 520yard lace weight skein as well.

So what is in store for Q2, you ask? Well, let me show you!

 First, I’m planning to knit up a project that’s about a year overdue in my schedule…

img_2757Pam Allen’s Hamlin Peak in Quince & Co’s Kestrel in the Urchin colorway. A worsted weight linen, this will be perfect for summer.

Next, around Christmas time I saw a photo on Instagram of Rachel from Dyeabolical knitting up a shawl using a combination of her Lucy & Fuchsia So Bright! colorways and loved it so much that I picked up a couple skeins for myself.

img_2752Aren’t they pretty together?

Anyways, I toiled for quite a while as to which pattern I wanted to use and after much deliberation I’ve settled on Rosemary Hill’s Swoop.

img_2756 I might run tight on yardage, but there are a couple projects where folks have made it with the yardage I have. And anyways, I rest assured that I know where I can get more if I need it.

And finally, a spinning project.

img_2758Last year at the end of the Tour de Fleece, I started this project with the intention of keeping up my spindling. And I did not. At all. It sat with me having spun about 1/4 of a rolag for months. Then, recently I acquired this sweet little Golding spindle that is rocking my world. I’ll tell you more about it soon, but suffice to say I’ve been enjoying snippets of time with this little baby. I keep it in the kitchen and have started carrying it along in my bag now and then in lieu of knitting.  After spinning up a little sample skein (again, more later), I got the idea that I should make this project happen. And now I am.

Do you have any plans for Q2 of this year? I’d love to hear! Remember we’re sharing about our 1+1+1 projects over in the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group — we’d love to see & hear what your goals are!