Sunday, October 8, 2017

Spinning Summit–a MASSively fun time

Here is a belated post about the fun time I had at the Spinning Summit. I drove myself up to Northampton, Massachusetts, to what some call “the mother ship” – WEBS, America’s Yarn Store:20170929_155929 I got there late Friday afternoon, in time for a book signing by the teachers. I owned three of their books, which luckily I remembered to grab off my shelf before leaving home. We had time for introductions and spinning/knitting in the store later that evening… but during the dinner break, I motored over to Amherst to meet my sockworthy friend for dinner. I’d say she likes her socks! It was such a treat to give them to her in person ad to catch up. 20170929_183654

On Saturday morning, I took a class with Amy King on chain plying called “Spinners in Chains.” Here is Amy showing us how she holds her hands during this technique:IMG_670520170930_105424

First we made a small chain play sample (the purple yarn at the bottom). Then we tried some 4-ply yarn (which is chain play with one more strand held alongside). Finally, we started a new sample of whatever we wanted, and I chose to try to make the most perfect yarn I could. I’m not sure how I did. Here are my samples after they got a proper bath at home – the bottom one is the final one:IMG_6742

I think it’s a bit harder to get a smooth, even, 3-ply yarn with the chain-ply method than with the regular method, so I’ll probably continue to reserve it for when I want to retain a clear color sequence.

My Saturday afternoon class with Jillian Moreno was called “Batts in the Belfrey,” and was all about spinning batts. (Batts are those fluffy rectangles of carded fiber that come through a drum carder – they are often rolled and bagged when you see them for sale.) And boy, did we look at batts. There was an extra materials fee for the class (above and beyond what was included in registration), and that was because we came home with SEVEN batts. We got a pair of each of three types of batts: blended, layered, and striped. The idea was that we would learn on one in class, and have a fresh one to take home and practice with. Here is Jillian showing us the various ways batts can be constructed. IMG_6718

As we moved into each new type of batt, Jillian would dump a bunch of different colored batts into the center of the floor – and then tell us to choose one. I won’t lie to you… elbows were thrown. Spinners often have very clear ideas about what colors they want! Jillian managed us quite well, though. First she only let us choose one batt. Then we regrouped before grabbing the second one. Here are the moments just before one of the batt scrums:20170930_145958

The interesting thing is that you can’t always tell what is in a batt when it’s rolled up. I chose this one because it was “doorsy” (Pam’s new adjective for the shade of green I often choose), but it was eggplant purple on the inside!IMG_6722

Math-inclined readers might have noted that 3 pairs of batts is 6 batts, and I said we came home with 7. We only got part of a “wild” batt – these have all kinds of fiber in them as well as deconstructed upholstery fabric. IMG_6723

I can’t wait to spin up some of the batts I brought home, but I haven’t had time yet. Just you wait!

My final class, on Sunday morning, was “Handcarding the Color Wheel” with Beth Smith. I don’t think I managed to snap a single picture of Beth – but we started with three balls of fiber in primary colors:IMG_6727

Hand cards hold about a tenth of an ounce of fiber comfortably, so we used food scales to measure our blends. My first one was 90% yellow and 10% blue. I blended those on the cards and then rolled off the fiber in this airy tube, which is called a “rolag.” I have struggled with carding in the past, but somehow I got it right in Beth’s presence. Here is my first rolag alongside her sample of the 90/10 yellow/blue blend, both in yarn and fiber forms:IMG_6732

We measured and carded and measured and carded. The goal was to have 30 rolags that represent the whole color wheel (and Beth’s secret goal was to get us comfortable with carding, which we were). I only got 2/3 of my rolags made during class, but I finished up at home and laid them all out. They are in little plastic bags to keep them separate and labeled, so there is a bit of glare here. But you get the idea:IMG-4511

These please me so much that I almost hesitate to spin them – but I will! I intend to spin them in order to get a gradient yarn. I think it will be a singles yarn – no plying. And then… maybe I’ll weave something with it? Not sure yet. The view around the circle was enchanting:IMG_6741

I think part of the reason I finally “got” handcarding this time was because it was about the 4th time I’ve tried. Recently, I spent some time studying this video from Schacht that features Beth – How to Card Wool with Beth Smith. If you can’t take a class with her and have her give personal feedback on your technique, this is a great resource.

Attending the Spinning Summit was a great opportunity to take classes with some of the top teachers in the U.S. It can be hard to find intermediate spinning classes in shops or even at festivals. It was also a way to spend time with like-minded spinners. We had such a fun time hanging out in the shop on Friday and Saturday nights. On Saturday, we had a team scavenger hunt that was quite competitive! And because of that, I have no pictures – ha! Let’s just say that our team did very well, and that every spinner was a winner in the end.

Thanks to WEBS for a great event, and I hope this is only the first of many Spinning Summits! I’d love to attend PLYAway at some future point, but it is a longer drive and I don’t have a wheel I can fly with, so it seems a lot more unlikely that I’ll make that in the foreseeable future. Northampton is a 6-7 hour drive for me (depending on traffic), but it’s doable. Kansas City is quite a bit further.


  1. I do love reading your spinning posts because I know so little and learn so much. On top of that, they're just plain beautiful! Love the big smile with the rainbow socks, and your color wheel rolags are simply gorgeous!

  2. That rolag rainbow is the best! Glad you had a good time. I kind of knew you would.