Paste it in the head!


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This is why it's called Spinster

This is my spinning wheel, a single-treadle Ashford Joy (note: I did not name it "Joy," that is the name it came with, and I'm not really in the habit of naming things other than people and pets, so the wheel didn't get nicknamed "Spinny" or anything.).

Bear with me: this post contains spinning information/pictures. Mainly at the request of my friend Alli, cause I would never intentionally bore anyone to tears. (Not that spinning is boring.)

Anyway, Alli asked how the process of spinning works, and how the wool gets from unspun to spun.
The various fibers--and you can spin pretty much anything, including dog hair--come in different forms. Cotton, for example, being a huge pain in the ass to spin, comes in what is known as a "cloud," a puffball of extremely short fibers that are difficult and made my spinning experience unpleasant until I decided that, until someone forces a gun to my head and tells me to spin, this is a hobby and no one can make me spin anything I don't want to spin. Including, but not limited to, cotton.

Wool is generally pretty pleasant to spin with, especially when someone else has done the work of cleaning and generally preparing the fiber (dyeing, carding, etc). Here is a photo of some unspun wool:

In order to get it from the "roving" to the finished product, you must do what is called "drafting" before you begin spinning. Drafting is the process of gently pulling apart the fibers--not so much that they separate completely, but so that some air is allowed between them and you have a manageable piece of wool. Then you spin! You can spin as thick or as thin as you wish, depending on your experience, the desired product, and your wheel. My wheel, because it is a folding wheel, doesn't have the range of some, but it gets the job done.

Next, unless you wish to work with "singles" (unplied yarn), you must ply! And oh how plying can be exciting. No, seriously. Sometimes it's boring, or slow, but sometimes it's really cool--you get to see what the yarn will look like. With most things, there is more than one way to do this. I have shown examples of two. The first involves filling two bobbins full of singles and spinning the singles together onto a third bobbin. In this example, it has produced a multi-colored yarn:

Another option is to Navajo ply, which is the process of spinning one bobbin onto itself using a funny little method that confused the crap out of me the first time I did it. Basically, without going into lots of detail and without drawing pictures, the end result is that the colors are plied on top of themselves in one continuous stream:

Anyway, I've probably confused everyone--the one person who is still reading this, that is--but it's not that difficult once you actually do it. Although, the first wool that I spun was hideous--big thick coarse grey stuff that, when I attempted to wash it, I ended up inadvertently felting it and it became big thick coarse grey dreadlocks. U-G-L-Y.

PS--I just got an email from my friend Kristen, who said that she recently began knitting again after many years of non-knitterdom. She said that when she was knitting before, when we were in college, she made an ugly garter stitch scarf. If it's the scarf I'm thinking of, the one for Drake, it was NOT ugly. It was garter stitch, yes, and therefore simple, but it was really cool. It's what inspired me to start knitting--I thought it was the coolest thing that someone could take two sticks and some string and end up with a recognizable item, something that someone could wear, and that was handmade by another. Is there anything better than that?


  • That is very cool - your wool is beautiful!

    There is actually a whole feature in the New York Times today about spinning:

    By Blogger Fitz, at 9:10 AM  

  • Woman! You are so cool for, first of all, spinning your own stuff, and second, including me in your blog!! Seriously, though, that's really awesome that you're're really starting from the very beginning to make your own things! And it's great that you've found a hobby that you're so passionate about. :)

    By Blogger Kristen, at 6:00 PM  

  • This is so very interesting. I put a (slightly out of focus) picture of my hooked rug on my Blog as I was inspired after talking "wool" with you.

    By Blogger Neater, at 7:40 PM  

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