Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation


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Much work which has cousins is improved when its relations are exercised. To eat with attention to the food improves one’s cooking. Riding a motorcycle improves one’s awareness in a car, etc. A friend bought some 70/30 wool silk for me to spin. Because I am not as confident as perhaps I should be (MBF brought out some handspun she’d bought a while back… I spin better than that), and it was only 2 oz. and I didn’t want to wait until I got home (this was Arisia, and I knew she was bringing it to me) I put in on the spindle, not the wheel. I had even bought a second spindle so I can better regulate the workflow.

One of the difficulties of spinning for ply is that of balancing the amount of spun yarn on the bobbins. At first it was just that I was a terribly inconsistent spinner. My grist was uneven, but then I decided to play with two different fibers, one of which was better for woolen, and was better for worsted. I spun about twice as much of the latter as the former. Winding the yarn before plying helped some, but not enough to keep me from having something like 1/3rd more of the semi-worsted.
The finished yarn looks ok.

Marled yarn

Having a second spindle means I have less of that problem with the work I’m doing. If I have two copps of about the same size, at the same grist I ought to have about the same amount of yarn. When I have two copps filled, I can wind one onto a bobbin, and start spinning the third. When I have that done, I can spin them both off, do my 3-ply, and use the odd bits to start the next set of spindles (assuming I have more than three copps worth of fiber). Right now I have one copp filled. I’m estimating it’s about 300 yds.

Filled Cop

The strands are about 1mm across, and the color balance is decent, though the sheen is a bit flatter than it looks, esp. when I let it self-ply.

I have to say, as I read more spinners talk about spinning, I am amused at the ways so many drop in to camps. There are a lot who are very pro-wheel, or very pro-spindle. The spindle camp are often more of the “back to the earth” sort. Seeing the use of a spindle as “more traditional”, and somehow purer. The folks who like the wheel tend to see it more as a case of being able to make a lot of yarn, as well as being less labor intensive.

I’m in the middle. I can spin faster on the wheel. I’m even getting to something approaching what I think of as consistent. What I don’t have is the level of fine control. I can spin a much finer yarn, and with less in the way of short term variation, on the spindle than I can on the wheel. In the long run this balances out, because I am not spinning for singles, but for ply. I also like being able to spin anyplace I go. My wheel is light. It only weighs thirteen pounds. It also needs a chair. The spindles are 2-4 oz. I can stand, I can sit. I can spin on the subway, in the waiting room, in line for the movies. If I wanted to, I could spin while walking (If I were making a heavier yarn, out of a grabby wool). I did have one guy talking about, “going back to the old ways”. Hah. I spin because I enjoy it.

Both of them demand attention to a lot of things. They require control of, balance of, contrary forces and an ability to be attentive to different versions of the “rub your belly, pat your head” problem.

Both require managing the flow of fiber. A lump of semi-organised wool (or cotton, or silk, or liné, or nettle, or alpaca, or some blend) has to be held, in both hands, one keeping the twist from getting too far into the drafing zone (web) , the other pulling the fiber to thin it, and make it ready for the twist to turn it from loose strands into yarn. The style one is spinning (woolen, or worsted) will determine which hand is which. For the wheel there is the question of treadling. One’s feet (or foot, depending on wheel style). For the spindle the hand as to be used to generate the spin to make the yarn (this is also true if one has direct drive wheel ). One also has to be able to keep an eye on the spindle, so as to add some spin, lest the yarn not bind up, and the spindle drop to the floor. With practice one learns to feel the twist slowing down.

But the basic cycle of stretching the fiber out of the clump, into a fine web of aligned (and perhaps slightly twisted) strands, and the letting the twist move back to join them up, and back and forth again, as the yarn appears and the spindle lowers (or the hands and body move away from the wheel) is magic.

When it’s working it looks effortless, the yarn appears. If it’s on a spindle the whirling weight moves toward the floor as a spider descends from a tree, with her trail of silk spun out behind.

Using the one improves the other. The need to focus on different aspects of the same task increases the understanding of the mechanics, and the subtle differences in how the fiber is passing from hand to hand, as it moves from one state to the other increases one’s feel for the transistions.

How much better have I gotten?

I’m spinning the fiber in this box right now.

This Boek is "boss"

This is a bobbin, with some of that alpaca on it, spun from the batt. Not a a terribly complex batt, being a single color, but full of neps, and quite loose and fluffy, and quite different from roving, or top, to spin.

Spinnen Boek

The bobbin is 4.5″ across, and the yarn was spun from this collection of wools. I am going to spin all three of them up, and then do a three ply of the results. I’m spinning them “Z-laid” (i.e. counterclockwise), so I can ply them “S-laid”. That’s the preferred method for making crochet yarns (which this is going to be. It’s a belated Christmas present), and for those who knit “continental”.

The book in those two pictures is a present from a friend. I’m using it to keep track of my projects. I chose this fiber to be the first entry because the color is exactly the same as the book.

One thought on “Process

  1. You’re not bad. I had a drop spindle but I lost track of it two moves ago. I only spun wool, and usually I spun it by letting the spindle roll down my thigh while sitting down. I wasn’t terribly consistent, but the yarn was for my weaving at the time so I didn’t really care all that much about it.

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