Thursday, May 9, 2013

The evolution of handspinning (not all of it, just mine)

The other day a friend rushing off in the opposite direction to mine spotted me on the sidewalk and called out for spinning-related help: she was hoping I could get in touch later with advice on what to do with her early spinning efforts.  "I'm not enough of a knitter for this," she said. "I'm spinning art yarn!"

It made me realize I'm finally past the toughest of the art yarn stage:

Even though I'm not yet spinning perfection.

It's funny to think how spinning gets to feel so natural in your hands the more you do it.  At first, it's all you can do to keep the fiber from separating as you work, breaking the chain of twist - even if you just start with a spindle, it's like learning to walk and chew gum and calculate equations and baste a turkey all at the same time.  Probably a lot of people stop right there and say I can't: I'll never figure this out.

(they're lucky in a way: if you think knitting is something to obsess about, spinning is going to be downright dangerous.)

Eventually you do figure out how to hold the fiber - how to balance drawing it out with spinning the spindle or treadling the wheel.  And a bit further on, you begin to develop muscle memory so that you don't even have to think: you're just producing pretty much the same diameter of thread all the time.

The majority of the spinning training I've had is from videos and books by Judith MacKenzie McCuin (who is awesome.)  One anecdote she shares is that she used to have a profitable business selling art yarn, and one day thought she'd like to learn to spin the thinnest thread possible - but once she mastered it, she found she could never spin art yarn again.

Probably that isn't the real ending to that story, because much of her work focuses on teaching spinners how to get any result they want by adjusting the wheel, but the point is the same: your body will spin the way your body will spin, you can't easily unlearn what it's learned, and as a result with practise you will just get more and more consistent results.

Meanwhile though: you make a lot of art yarn.  I think I'm going to suggest my Crazy Cowl pattern to my friend - it's the perfect match for that crazy yarn you start out making.

In mostly unrelated news, how pretty is that orangey roving, which photographs so poorly? My camera seems to get overwhelmed by these bright oranges and reds and splats them into the digital image, but really there is a golden gleam to every strand.  SO pretty.

It's a hunk of something I bought at this year's Knitter's Frolic from, of course, the Stoddart booth. But it's so much softer than the other three hunks I divided for spinning - it's like puffs of cashmere cloud.  I can hardly believe it's wool and mohair and not, I don't know, silk?  (it's definitely not silk.)

Soft, pretty, and - omigosh is it ever taking a long time to spin.  You know what, I think it's because I'm spinning stuff so much more finely than I used to in the Art Yarn stage of my learning process.  At the rate I'm going, it'll take me five hours to fill this bobbin. 

And then I'll have to do two more the same,

and then ply them all.

Good thing spinning grows on a girl, even as the size of the thread you get shrinks!


Anonymous said...

So pretty! Can't wait to see your yarn plied!

Mary Keenan said...

Me neither ;^)