Guest post by Jodi Meadows
A continuing epic adventure of socks and spindles and fanciness
Part two point five (point another five): THE SPINDLING (demonstration)
Alternate title: In which my numbering system collapses.
4a. The first length of yarn you’ll spin is called a leader. On wheels, this is what you’d use to thread the whole thing and get your real yarn onto the bobbin for the first time. They’re usually a thick cotton string that you use over and over, leaving on the bobbin when you’re not using it. They’re not part of your yarn.
On spindles, leaders are a little different. You CAN use them as your yarn. At least the way I do it (by looping the end of the fiber over the hook and spinning immediately).
Keep the spindle going clockwise. Meanwhile, remember how you tugged the fiber so you could see through it? That’s called drafting. You’ll draft until you get a thickness of yarn you like, and then you’ll let twist into it. The first thing you end up with is something like this.
It’s yarn! Yay!
4b. Here comes another tricky part. It’s another personal preference thing, so you get to experiment with a bunch of ways to find out what works best for you. This is what works best for me.
Some spindles have notches carved into the whorl. Most of mine do not. This isn’t a big deal, except that at some point, your spindle gets full enough that when you start spinning again, the yarn slips around the rim of the whorl and makes a huge mess. The notch would keep the yarn in place. In absence of a notch, this is what I find works best.
I slip the loop of fiber down to the bottom of the hook, then pull the leader down over the whorl.
Wrap the leader around the shaft (clockwise! always in whatever direction you spin) a couple of times, pull it tight, and you’ve got a notch made out of yarn.
Now, when you bring your yarn over the whorl again (has to go back over the hook), you can secure it behind the yarn notch.
This way, the yarn won’t slip around the whorl while you spin. I like to make my notch in the back (6 o’clock) of the hook, because that’s comfortable for me. Other people like theirs in the 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock positions.
5. Now that you’ve got your leader spun, the leader turned into a magic notch, and a whole lot of fiber shouting, “Spin me spin me!” at you, you get to do the rest.
Remember that big rope-snake-thing of fiber we were looking at earlier? When I spin, it tends to dangle in my way and get caught around the spindle. I like to wrap that around my arm.
In quality, prepared wool like this, it WANTS to draft evenly. Spinners talk about fiber that spins itself, and what they mean is how nicely it drafts. The fibers slide against each other smoothly, the twist catches the yarn before the spindle falls to the floor, and the wool feels GOOD in your fingers. It’s soft. (I mean, you can use rough wool if you want. I’m sure there’s a reason for it. But I suggest only using the stuff you want to rub all over yourself. Unless you’re allergic to wool.)
Every time you get a length of yarn your arm can’t hold up, pick up the spindle and wind the yarn onto the shaft. Catch it around the hook, and get the spindle spinning again.
There are a couple methods for this. Some people like to roll the shaft against their thigh. That REALLY gets spindles moving. I’ve tried that, and it ends with spindles flung across the room. I prefer a more sedate way, by taking the bottom of the shaft between my fingers and snapping. That makes the spindle go plenty fast for me, and it doesn’t go so fast that my drafting can’t keep up. The twist has to have somewhere to go, after all.
My first attempts were pretty lumpy. I didn’t understand how the wool worked or wanted to be drawn apart. I just knew every time I tried to draft, the spindle stopped and started going around the wrong way. (When this isn’t a sign of drafting too slowly, this is a sign of spinning too thick for the weight of the spindle. Thin yarn needs more twist. Thick yarn needs less. It can only take so much! So when it’s full of twist, it backspins to let some of it out.)
An easy way to learn how to draft and keep the spindle going is called park and draft. You get to sit down! Give the spindle a sharp twist and let it work up twist. Then stop it, hold it between your knees, and draft out your fiber to the thickness you want. You can see the twist travel up your new yarn! Then spin the spindle again. You can continue in this manner until you’re comfortable enough to try doing both at once: keeping the spindle going and drafting at the same time.
As you get better and more familiar with your tools, you’ll start spinning more evenly and making yarn you’d actually like to show off. Lots of people can see this change in their very first skein of yarn. (I couldn’t. Heh. I had to wait until my second.)
6. Pretty soon you have a nice spindle full of yarn.
This spindle isn’t actually that full, but at some point it does get too heavy for the yarn you want to spin. (Remember, heavier spindles spin thicker yarn. If you want thin yarn, the spindle has to be light. General rule is the spindle can carry its weight, so a 1oz spindle can hold about 1oz yarn before you should do something about it.) What to do then?
7. Remember the TP roll I told you about?
When it’s all on your makeshift bobbin, you can start over until you have all the singles finished.
8. From there, chances are you’ll want to ply your yarn. Take your two or three TP bobbins and stick them in a shoebox with a hole for the ends to come out of, or on an upright paper towel holder where they can spin (my preferred method).
I usually use a heavier spindle for plying, but you can use the one you spun the singles on if you want.
Tie the ends of the singles together and catch them on the hook. Then spin the spindle COUNTER-CLOCKWISE. Always ply in the opposite direction you spun the singles, otherwise you’ll just add more twist to the singles and end up with something about as soft as razor-wire.
This does let out a little of the twist you worked so hard to put in, but not nearly enough to worry about. It makes things softer, too.
And presto. You have yarn.
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