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March 28, 2013

Spin, Spun

It's official: I'm spinning again.

I can also be put into the category of those not afraid to spin in public. Well, sort of. Spinning with a like-minded group of fiber fanatics constitutes as "public" right?

I'm still battling the occaisional rough edges, and one thumb split, but my fingers are in fairly decent spinning condition. A-n-d I've spun quite a bit of wool into yarn or a single that's ready for plying into yarn. I have a backup hank of braided wool in my spinning bag with the spindles, ready for it's turn on the top whorl.

I've also been drooling over my stash of ready to spin fiber, trying to figure out which one to pull out next, or should I use one colorway first, or another coloraway later... Choices, choices!

Most of my fiber has been purchased from my visits to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I have a few bags of lovely dyed wool from Brush Creek Wool Works. I think they have an etsy shop, but I'm not sure about the weblink to it. I wait for the first weekend in May, then I drool over the colors and pick one out for myself. Inevitably, someone will see the bag, and comment on how it looks like a bag of cotton candy. So I joke to family and friends about putting my bag of "candy" into the car before I continue the fiber senses overload.

I have too many favorites to just look at to list here. I'll be making my wishlist again this year, just like in previous years, but visiting the vendor listing on the MDSW website, and doing my funny little computer magic of list and sorting so I know which building has which vendor. Makes it a little easier to find someone in a specific building or barn if I have my list. Mom has a list too, and most times we put our lists together. Sometimes we go "phooey" and give up on the lists when the crowds get a little too crowdy, we get too tired, or have reached our fiber limit.

Sometimes it is just fun to look at what's new, what's changed, and what has remained the same in fiber, tools, wheels, spindles, knitting books, weaving looms... and then fiber limit hits. It's basically the same as sensory overload. I know I really hit that the first year we went to MDSW. Just too much to take in the first time...but we went back...and back...and only one year have I missed MDSW because of a work schedule.

I have a short wish list of fiber to purchase, and I'll mostly be looking at what there is to see. Of course, we'll do our traditional lunch of barbecue lamb sandwiches and lemonaid. Yummy!

It's also fun to look for someone we've met and become friends with over the years, find out what's happened since the last time, and see what's recommended for this year. That's how we found out where to get the best sandwich ever. When in doubt of the best place to eat, ask a shepherd!

March 11, 2013

Countdown to Spinning

I'm starting to count the days to the 15th...Spinning group!!

My fingers are almost in "condition" for spinning. Not quite as dry, nor quite as rough. Lots of cocoa butter hand lotion at night, lots of Aveeno during the day, and bandaids on the thumb splits for protection at work seems to be doing the trick.

I'm not pulling out my spinning wheel yet. If I did, it would be the Schacht wheel, which has spinning-in-progress waiting for me to resume. I'll take my drop spindle project, which is hand colored roving being spun and plied into sock weight yarn. I have some plying to finish, and then I can pick up and start spinning the rest of the roving again. Soft, pretty, and fun!

I wonder if I'll be demonstrating my techniques? Or helping explain some basics of spinning to anyone? I have no idea what comparison there is in experience among the spinners in the group. For all I know, I might be the "novice" amongst them!

Mom will be taking her wheel. We plan on pulling it out this week, dusting and oiling and getting it ready for "public" spinning! I think she plans on practicing on it a little too, to get her hand back in and reacquaint herself with her spinning rhythm.

On the knitting front, I've started Beithe again, this time in a soft blue woolen blend, but this version is for Mom. I had it separate on me in a few places when I was winding the skein into a ball, so I have a few mini balls waiting to be spliced back in. I think the staple from the label pinched and broke the yarn, because it is consistently in the same place, and rather a clean break on either one strand or all strands of the yarn. If I don't have enough yardage because of the splicing, I'll either create a different design for a shawlette, or pull out the Landscape Shawl and do the neck scarf version.

March 04, 2013

How I Learned to Spin

My spinning life started roughly around the same time I started visiting the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The very first time I went with my mother was 1990-something, and we came away with fiber, something called an X-spindle, yarn, and sensory overload. Seriously, we were overwhelmed by what we saw and experienced.

The X-spindle and starting fiber was purchased at the Marr Haven booth, along with an instruction sheet listing the steps to start spinning. We also had a short demonstration in the booth of how it worked. We went home, pulled out the instructions and read them thoroughly, then started experimenting. We also purchased a book with pictures that shows how to start spinning on spindles AND spinning wheels. Wow! Spinning wheels!

So, after quite a few months of spinning on the X-spindle, and dropping it, I acquired a couple other spindles (Hatchtown makes very nice wooden ones). Then after dropping any spindle I was working with too frequently, my father grudgely allowed us to bring spinning wheels into the house to live with us.

My first wheel: the Ashford Elizabeth wheel. I bought it in the plain, unfinished wood, and spent the time sanding and rubbing the wood with mineral oil before I assembled it. At that time, spinning wheels only came with single treadles, and after I had it for a couple years, double-treadles started making an appearance. Call me a crazy traditionalist, but I prefer a single treadle.

I used that poor Elizabeth so much that there was a major amount of chatter and rumble every time I spun on it. I tried oiling where the bobbin might be rubbing. Nope. I oiled where the whorl rubbed and spun. Nope. I oiled everything that could possibly be oiled within reason on the mother-of-all. Nothing stopped it from rumbling. Even replacing the whorl didn't stop it for long.

Next try, another wheel. This time, the Schacht Matchless. Again, a single treadle wheel, and before Schacht offered it as a double-treadle wheel. Wheee!! Multiple whorl speeds, it spins quietly, quickly, and hey, look! Hi-speed whorls and bobbins! Just my thing! The Schacht wheel became my go-to wheel and favorite (sorry Elizabeth) for spinning anything. Literally.

The Elizabeth still has fond memories for me. The first wheel I spun alpaca on, the first wheel that I tried navajo-plying on, the first wheel that I discovered how fine I can spin and that yes, I can spin sock-weight yarn on. I still have all the bobbins and the lazy kate for Elizabeth, but they languish with her under a cloth in the living room.

My Schacht wheel is waiting for me to pick up where I left off with a merino roving, in a blend of colors that spins into an interesting blue shade, with hints of red and maybe a wee bit of purple blended into it. Very pretty. I think it has been at least 2 years since I last spun on it. At least I know I can pull it out, clean the dust off, oil the wheel up, and after a few seconds of handling the yarn and the wool, be spinning away again.

I still spin with spindles. I still have my X-spindle, and it has a navajo-plying project still on it. Merino roving my mother dyed for me in many colors, single-spun on my Golding spindle. So actually, it's a two-spindle project, one for the singles (Golding) and one for the plying straight off the other spindle (X-Spindle).

As for the actual spinning, I am a largely self-taught spinner. First from the directions that came with my X-Spindle, then from that first how-to-spin book, and from various other books and magazine articles I have since read. When I was first attempting the actual spinning, YouTube was in its infancy and there were very few videos available either on tape or DVD. (I think DVDs and CD-ROMs were in their early days too...)

When I compare the how-to-spin information available to anyone today to when I was first learning, I am amazed at how our access to spinning information has changed over the years. Websites with videos, YouTube, DVDs and CDs with step-by-step information, and many many more books available in print than I can imagine. Classes and in-person lessons, not to mention folk schools and seminars or spinning retreats that were only in a few areas are becoming more wide spread today.

And now, a local spinning group, Carroll Spinners. I sat in on their recent meeting on March 1, and I plan on attending every meeting that I can. Yippee! A good reason to spin, and talk with others who like to spin (not to mention talk and laugh and have fun!)! If you have access to Ravelry, you can find us there, as well as information about the next meetings.

March 02, 2013

A Reason to Get In Condition

My fingers are terrible. Rough, dry, catching on everything like the hook part of velcro tape. Or like taking rough grit sandpaper and having that catch and rub things the wrong way. I've been opening and handling lots of cardboard at work the past two days, and I also have what I call my dry winter skin. Very dry.

Grrrr. I really don't like having the cracks and splits in my thumbs or fingertips, nor do I appreciate how my cuticles will split, tear, and bleed from just brushing against something. So, out comes the heavy application of cocoa butter hand lotion at night. And lots of Aveeno hand lotion during the day if I can.

I don't do any spinning when my hands are this dry and rough. I can't get the fiber to flow smoothly, and I don't like lots of snags in stead of spinning. Bleh.

I discovered, by way of my mother, who found out by way of the maintenance man, that there is a spinning group meeting at the senior center on Friday night. Last night, March 1, was the first time for me to sit in. Since Mom doesn't drive at night, I played chauffeur and sat in on the group with her. Lovely ladies, full of life and laughter, and I can't wait for the 15th to come around. I now have a reason for getting rid of those nasty rough fingertips and getting them back in good spinning condition.

Every first and third Friday of the month, the spinning group (now called the Carroll Spinners) meets at the Westminster Senior and Community Center, 6 – 9 pm. I know where I'll be those evenings, as long as my working schedule allows! I admitted to the ladies that I have a Ravelry name, and owning up to 2 spinning wheels. Ashford Elizabeth (single treadle, bought pre-double treadle time period) and a Schacht Matchless with a single treadle. Schacht was just starting to make the double-treadle Matchless, but I wanted a single, and boy, am I glad it's only one treadle! The Elizabeth wheel is quietly snoozing under a cloth in a corner of the living room, next to Mom's Elizabeth wheel. Yes, this is a multi-wheel house! Her Matchless (also single treadled) sits next to mine, and both wheels have spinning-in-progress quietly resting.

I have several drop spindles, and one spinning project is still on 2 spindles, waiting for me to finish plying so I can spin the rest of the roving. I don't know how much yarn I've spun from the roving. It's a merino roving Mom dyed using food coloring and a little kool-aid, in lovely rainbow colors. Wonder if I have a picture or can get a decent one showing the colors? That yarn is earmarked for future socks, if I ever get it finished! The spinning wheel work-in-progress is a blue-ish roving that has only filled half a bobbin, never been plied. I don't really remember the last time I spun on the wheel. Two years? Three??? It needs serious cleaning up and oiling before I can start back up again. I'll need to check the drive band too, see if it is in good condition or needs replacing.

I haven't started a 2013 project list yet. I still need to count out the projects started, finished, and languishing as UFO's or feather castles for 2012. It's more than 2 that I finished! I'll also have to start getting in the habit of taking photos of my finished projects, and maybe a few in-process photos too. Seeing how something looks says more than just talking about it.

My current knitting is the Beithe shawl, and a pair of Imbas socks. Beithe just needs the I-cord finishing, and Imbas sock 2 is near the ribbing and overlay. You have to knit it just to understand it!

I think there's also a scarf or shawlette still on the needles made of a multi-stranded skein of yarn that I purchased at the Maryland Sheep and Wool from Autumn House. I recently rediscovered it in my yarn stash, but I don't know or remember the exact content, just that it may have silk, and I like to knit it. Well, except for when my fingertips are going velcro/sandpaper texture, that is. Then it rests and waits for them to get a little smoother for knitting. It's a variation of a simple triangle shawl, starting at the bottom tip and growing out at the sides gradually every row, with eyelets along the side edges. I'll just knit it until all the yarn is used up, then bind off, work the ends in, and enjoy it. Nice, simple, and great for when I watch TV but need something to occupy my hands.

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