Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Did Ya Know I'm a Spinner?

Apologies for missing yesterday's post, but i spent most of the day doing chores and driving down to the Eugene Textile Center to pick up my new spinning wheel! Well, it's actually used, but it's new to me and I'm totally stoked. Pocket was totally flumoxed by the strange whirring device, but she's gotten used to it and is willing to share her partitioned "keep the carpet clean while she's in heat" part of the house with Clementine, my new Clemes & Clemes Modern Wheel.
My uncle recently asked bemusedly: They still make those? Is that an antique? No sirree: fiber arts aren't some archaic craft of Rumpelstiltskin's era, the fiber community is large and in charge with tons of active spinning/knitting/crocheting/weaving groups and events all over the country, and especially up here in Oregon.

 I've already made half a dozen new spinning (and sheep/alpaca/goat keeping) friends who have graciously passed on their advice and some incredibly helpful tips to this newbie spinner. I've been spinning on a drop spindle since before we left Austin.... but wasn't really doing it "right" until i met my new friends and had a few key pieces of advice given to me at the crucial moment.  No longer just spinning for no apparent reason, i have 2 balls of 2 ply handspun yarn to my name and i've even crocheted a hat for myself! A really good looking, well fitting hat! I hadn't crocheted anything in years, so i'm just amazed it looks like anything. Photos of the hat coming soon. Thanks to one of my new friends for having me over to her farm to meet her critters and to help me ply my two spindles full of single ply yarn using a GIANT spindle she happened to have. The resultant ball of yarn looks a little freaky, but once i put it to use the colors really go together great.

My first plied yarns wrapped into skeins, washed, and hung to dry. Nice balance!
Voila! Center pulled ball ready to become a hat!

Drop spindles are great. You can bring them anywhere. They're super portable and light. They're convenient..... but they aren't overly efficient in the long run. You can only fit so much yarn on a spindle, and it's a bit more difficult to ply on one. Since my friend happened to have a super huge spindle i could ply onto, and she helped regulate the tension from my two spindles in a make shift lazy kate (shoe box with holes in it) it worked alright. But in the future, i need to ply by myself, and Clementine should really help to facilitate that. Wheels are also great for spinning more yarn in a shorter amount of time since the winding on is done at the same time as the spinning, whereas spindling requires frequent pauses to wrap the new yarn around the spindle.

These are my spindles: a beautiful and really nicely balanced spindle I bought in Texas, and a basic student Ashford spindle i picked up here in Corvallis.
My first attempts on Clementine were frustrating and awkward. Fiddling with the tension, trying to figure out how to draft in the opposite direction as i do when using a spindle, learning how to operate the treadle smoothly and evenly: all these things are quite tricky on their own but together it's quite a bit like patting your head and rubbing your belly. Luckily, I'm a trained musician and should be able to coordinate my movements at different beats, etc.... and i caught on relatively quickly! I still have a lot to learn, about proper drafting (regulating the thickness of the fiber into the spindle) and using the tension to regulate the wheel's movements. I have lots to learn, but I'm doing pretty well so far, and have some decently almost even weighted yarn on the bobbin. Wahoo!

I love learning new crafts and hobbies. It is a delight to push oneself out of your comfort zone to try something new, and especially delightful when you begin to become proficient at it! Not only am i enjoying the act of spinning, holding my handspun yarn and creating art and apparel using such a basic and "old-fashioned" skill.... but i'm so loving being so quickly welcomed into my community and making friends with some really wise and fun-loving ladies.

Remember that movie with Wynona Ryder and the ladies who sew quilts? Whether you've seen it or not, the concept is the same: i'm a young woman with a young family starting out in a new state. To be able to spend a few hours every week sitting around and talking about silly to important things with some "older" and wise ladies is priceless. I think it is so important for young people to become connected with older generations, even if its just our parent's age or younger. To learn in part through the experiences of others and to glean the wisdom from others that have already forged a life for themselves is just invaluable, especially when they're into so many of the same things we plan to do. I feel so blessed to have fallen in with my new friends and can't wait to learn even more from them, and to entertain them a bit with my silly and frank personality.

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