December 13, 2009

Guest Post by Jodi Meadows

A continuing epic adventure of socks and spindles and fanciness

Part two point five: THE SPINDLING (demonstration)

Alternate title: In which I completely lose control over my numbering system.

If you missed or forgot the previous posts in this series, here are links for The Yarning and The Spindling part one.

Some of you might have gone to look at Abby’s videos (linked in the last post) for a spinning demonstration. Yay if you have! Since she (unknowingly — creepy!) taught me how to spin, I do it pretty much the same way. Here’s a step-by-step picture demonstration.

1. Supplies!

These things are very important. You’ll need a spindle, an empty toilet paper core (okay, that’s optional), and some kind of fiber.

The spindle is the .8oz resin spindle, good for thin to light-medium weight singles. This is lighter than the suggested beginner weight. (My first spindle is a whole ounce heavier.) But for the results I want and the fiber I’m using (see below), this is exactly what I need.

This fiber is Merino wool, which makes a fine, ridiculously soft yarn. This is also why I chose a lighter spindle; I knew ahead of time this fiber would want to spin thinner. This has to do with the diameter of individual fibers and a lot of other boring technical things. But the idea behind it is simple: thin fibers (Merino wool, silk, cashmere) want to spin thin; thick fibers (carpet wools, but also perfectly nice medium and next-to-skin wools) want to spin thicker. Merino has short, thin fibers.

The all-knowing “they” tend to suggest new spinners start out with a longer wool, like Blue-faced Leicester or Corriedale, which are perfectly good alternatives. Merino is supposed to be trickier, but plenty of new spinners struggle until they meet Merino, and then there’s spinning magic. And the other way ’round. The trick is to try everything.

If you want to know more about wool, try this website.  And for a good side by side view of different fibers, their diameters, and scaliness, check out the first image on this page.

Ahem. So. We’ve got fiber and a spindle (and a TP roll — put that aside). You can start spinning from this if you want, but lots of spinners like to break up their fiber, like so.

2. Pre-drafting. This is what you do before drafting. Haha, yes, I know how funny I am.

Drafting is what you usually see hands doing while someone is spinning: drawing fibers into the twist so it becomes yarn. Pre-drafting is a chance to make the drafting step easier, and there are lots of ways you might go about it. Sometimes you just want to loosen the fibers a little if they’ve been compacted from shipping or dyeing. You can do this by taking the end of the prepared fiber and snapping it like a whip. Or, if the fiber is still stubborn, you can grab handfuls and tug it apart just enough so you feel the fibers slide against each other.

I usually take this step in order to separate the fiber into halves or thirds, depending on how I’m going to ply it. (Remember plying from the first post? You spin singles, then spin the singles together for the final yarn. You can have two or three or however many you want.) I separated this one into six piles. (The sixth is already spun, which is why you only see five here.)

Another important thing pre-drafting can do is keep your colors lined up how you want them. I didn’t pay attention this fiber since it’s just blue and gray and I don’t care how the colors turned out, but if I had, say, this fiber–

–and wanted to keep the colors together, I’d separate it by tearing it down the middle.

And end up with two piles of fiber.

That way, when I had the singles spun and was ready to ply, the colors wouldn’t get all messed up and muddied. I’d end up with both plies matching (more or less), and a pretty yarn…

So! Back to the blue and grey fiber. I’m going to admit something embarrassing to you. I started this project back in May and…forgot how I separated the fiber. I knew I wanted three-ply, but once I had everything pre-drafted, I shoved it back in its bag and forgot about it.

So once you’ve got your fiber pre-drafted how you want it, if you think it’ll take you a while to get through everything, WRITE DOWN YOUR INTENTIONS. That way you can’t forget. Like, ahem, someone we might know.

3a. The next step is trickier to show in still photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

I’ve got this nice piece of wool pulled aside for spinning. Now how to get it on the spindle? Well, find an end. Then, very carefully, tug on it. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt it. It’s just wool. Sheep are making more as we speak. Don’t pull it all the way apart (I mean, you can, but…), just enough so you can feel the fibers sliding apart and start seeing through the wool, like so.

You’ll want to pay attention to things like the length of individual fibers and how hard you have to tug to get things loosened up. Remember you can only pull the wool so far before it breaks apart. The shorter the fiber length, the less room you have. If the fiber is longer (like BFL or Corriedale), then you’ll have to adjust for that too.

Especially if you’re new, this fondling the fiber time is really useful for getting to know what you’re about to spin. Last minute changes go here!

3b. If your spindle has a hook, you can start from there. Take the very end of the fiber and loop it around the hook.

Press the end back into the rest–

–and turn the spindle clockwise a couple of times to make it stay.

Now, remember when I said wool has scales, which helps it stick to itself? Don’t forget that.

Next thing to remember: Always turn your spindle the same way when you’re spinning singles. Twist is the other thing that helps fiber turn into yarn. If you turn the spindle the other way, you’ll be taking out twist, rather than adding. If you let the twist out, your yarn will fall apart. Your spindle will hit the floor. And you will probably say a few words you don’t really mean.

TO BE CONTINUED. . .

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