Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beyond Beginning Spinning

Finally, my post about the Beyond Beginning Spinning class I took at MDSW 2009. This 2-day class (9-4) was taught by Diane Kelly. The class description was

If you have passed the "ah ha! I can make fiber hold together as a yarn" stage and want to progress as a spinner, this class is for you. Wednesday will be devoted to how your wheel can work for you and how to spin woolen and worsted yarns. Thursday we'll concentrate on fiber preparation and plying techniques. Students should bring spinning wheel, at least 3 bobbins, lazy kate, knitty knotty and at least 2 oz. of your already spun beginner yarn.

We each got a bag of various fibers to use during the class. We started by spinning a wool/mohair blend. Diane put us through our paces, asking us to spin the fattest yarn and the skinniest yarn we could on our largest whorl, then switching to a smaller whorl. We predicted which changes in our spinning technique would be required and then tested our hypotheses. We spent quite a bit of time just moving back and forth between fat yarn and skinny yarn, making the fiber do what WE wanted it to do, not what the fiber wanted to do. Occasionally we would go back to our natural spinning style, which was improving all the while. She got us into the habit of pulling some strands out of each new fiber we tried and predicting its content and spinning qualities. She also made us keep checking 2-ply samples and, eventually, cutting off a sample to use as a reference during the rest of our spinning.

On Day 2, we focused on plying. It was really hard to ply all that thick-and-thin fiber, but it was good practice because we had to keep changing our technique in order to keep the yarn balanced (or attempt). Plying is hard for me. I compare it to the "finishing" part of the knitting process. It doesn't take as long as spinning the singles does, but it can make or break your finished yarn. If I curse while spinning, it is during the plying stage (and some nasty, nasty phrases have been known to come out of my mouth while plying!).

We also learned to Navajo ply and Andean ply. I had never heard of Andean plying before. It allows you to put singles around your wrist and ply off of them to create a 2-ply yarn. Essentially, you put a ball of yarn around your wrist and then pull one end from the center of the ball and the other from the outside. The setup for this looks kind of crazy (and if you get it wrong, it's really, really wrong and creates a tangled mess!):

There were lots of fun fibers in our goody bag, including silk, cotton, flax, and interesting wool blends (including a batt from Harrisville Designs). I have never been interested in spinning cotton, and I can now say that I truly have no interest in spinning it. No cotton for me!

One of the reasons I wanted to take this class was to learn to spin a finer single in order to create sock yarn. I learned that I need to spin on a smaller whorl than the one I was using, and that I need to spin with more twist so that the resulting yarn will be tight and strong. I am definitely spinning singles better now, but my first test plying for my new spinning style was pretty awful. There's nowhere to go but up!

I got some great tips about which types of fiber will be best to spin for socks. Diane recommends long or medium-length fibers, like Bluefaced Leicester, Finnsheep, Corriedale, alpaca (but it makes heavy socks), and mohair (best if it's kid mohair). Not all long-stapled fibers are appropriate, though - Border Leicester is very long, but also coarse.

I also got recommendations about vendors from which to purchase these fibers. I won't repeat the disrecommendations here, but it is just as valuable to receive advice about who NOT to buy from as who TO buy from!

I learned a lot in this class, even though I was fighting a major sinus infection and really felt poorly during most of it. And, I've been doing more spinning in my free time than knitting lately, so it must be sticking!

1 comment:

  1. Nasty phrases? I don't believe it. Your passion for spinning is getting contagious!