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Crafting For Those Dedicated to Experimentation

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Spindle Experiments

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I love my Bottom Whorl Drop Spindle, the wooden one in the middle.  This is what I started with, adn I adore it.  I can get a good long spin, it looks cool twirling around and the hook at the top is perfect for catching on when I’m twisting my fiber.

IMG_1218Unfortunately within the concept of larger classes and getting people hooked on fiber arts, the price point is a little high for a giveaway.

On the left is a Babe Spindle without the whorl.  I needed to hit a price point to get free shipping on an order, the Babe Spindle cost less than shipping and allowed me to hit that goal so I ordered one.  It really is a neat spindle, allowing the user to decide if it is a bottom whorl or top whorl spindle in addition to allowing you to decide if you want to put one or two of the whorl discs on the spindle.  What I found neat is that if you keep the whorls off of the spindle entirely…or if they fall off because you didn’t put nearly enough tape on the shaft, oops, you can roll the shaft of the spindle down your leg and use the cup hook to hold the wool in place.  IMG_1219The shaft becomes a great little spindle, a bit awkward and no independent spinning like with my original spindle, but you have a lot more control over how the shaft spins, very neat.   This becomes a bit more of a reasonable price point, all a teacher would need to provide is a stick (dowel) with some cup hooks screwed into the top.  (also Wool)  Dowels are not that expensive, the cup hooks aren’t too bad price wise…I’d just have to find a way to get the cup hook into the dowel without it splitting.  I think I saw something about putting a nail in first to keep the wood from splitting, definitely worth considering.

Now, recently Mayan Spindles, I can’t really find out where the name came from as it does not seem to have anything to do with the Mayan Culture, have been showing up more in popular culture…okay, popular spinning culture.  This is a dead simple way of putting twist into fiber, attach the fiber on one arm, spin around, and voila yarn.  The spinning motion is very big and completely controlled by the spinner.  But the price point just went up again, a wooden Mayan Spindle (Spinner) is about $20, whew that’s a bit rich for a teacher.  However, doesn’t that spinner look a bit like a propeller?  I looked up plastic propellers on Amazon, lo and behold, they have 12 plastic propellers in a pack for under $5 with free shipping. IMG_1217 Okay, they came from China, and I’m washing them in hot soapy water before using because I’m a little paranoid.  (I didn’t realize that the Sari Silk from India might contain some really nasty diseases that are fairly rampant over there).  I try to Order American when I can, if you know of an American equivalent/retailer let me know, but these are fantastic.  They spin, just a tiny bit, on their own but allow for complete control.  They are lightweight and easily spun in one hand.  It is very easy for the spinner to see the twist as it enters into the fiber.  At about .25 each, they are cheap enough to be a giveaway that doesn’t hurt the pocket book.  I do think that I will glue the shaft to the propeller before showing these to anyone else, but it really does make for a great spindle alternative.

So, these are my Spindle Explorations!

Happy Crafting!

Still Practicing

I purchased some Fluorescent fiber from Blue Barn Fiber and spun it up.  I then plied the resulting yarn with a Black Bamboo that I loved spinning.  This created a beautiful yarn that fluoresces under black light, I had to buy a little black light to prove this but it really is amazing.  Well, I loved the yarn but didn’t know what i was going to do with it.  Since I am practicing with my weaving I thought it would be the perfect fiber to practice weaving with.  I love how well, and proudly, my yarn stands out from the warp and the simple pattern is just beautiful.

I am really pleased with how this has turned out, and I will probably purchase more of the fluorescent fiber in the future.  I am very pleased with how my weaving and spinning are going.  I know that I am no where near expert in either craft but I am enjoying myself and learning all the time.

Happy Crafting!

3D Printed Drop Spindle

drop-spindle

I managed to download this pattern from Thingiverse and it was created by kg6gfq.   One of the libraries that I work at obtained a 3d printer about a year ago but I have not heard of it being utilized too much.    Being the very curious person I am I decided to poke that particular rattlesnake and print something out.  I checked out Thingiverse and found Drop spindles, bobbins, even the plans for an Espinner out of printed materials.  I was over the moon, so I downloaded the ones I liked, came into work a couple of hours early, and started to mess around figuring things out.  The first thing I found out was that none of the files were in a format I could use.  Some checking around led me to believe that I needed them in Makerbot Formula.  None of the libraries computers had that format so I would have to bring my laptop next time (my home computer is a Mac but my Laptop runs Windows 10) install Makerbot and see what I could do.

The next week I brought my laptop in (I only work at that library once a week) downloaded the software and began to convert the files, it was actually pretty simple once the program was installed.  I was very happy thinking that I would now be able to print out, at least, my 3d spindle.  I went home pleased with how next week was going to go.

The third week into my venture I went to work an hour early to see about getting my printout started.  I plugged my usb drive in and went through the materials I wanted printed.  Everything worked perfectly, time estimates, printing sizes, etc.  Except that nothing would print out.  There was no filament waiting to be used to print.  Darn.  I looked around a bit and finally had to admit, I was going to have to ask someone.

After a couple of e-mails and a further couple of weeks I now have my 3d printed turkish spindle.  While it would have been a lot less aggravation to just order the thing from Turtlemade or another company that prints them, I am pleased that I now know how to convert a file to be usable on a Makerbot printer.  My next steps are to see about creating an original pattern to print out, finding out what they are going to charge in the future for printing jobs, and testing out my spindle.  I knew I should have brought fiber to work with me, lol.

Happy Crafting!

Shuttle Bobbins? What?

I was watching “Get More Spun: Part 1” by Abby Franquemont on CraftDaily.com video subscription service when Abby mentioned storing singles on several bobbins to ply from later.  She stated that storing singles on several different bobbins and mixing them up before plying will help to even out some uneven spinning.  I saw the bobbins she was storing them on and it clicked, those are shuttle bobbins not spinning wheel bobbins!  I will admit to still having some apprehension about how many joins might be needed for these yarns, but my excitement is far outweighing any misgivings.

This did bring about another potential sticking point, I do not have a bobbin winder.  I picked up an attachment for my cordless drill but between my underpowered drill and my inability to get the bobbin far enough down the shaft so that I feel comfortable putting pressure to wind a nice tight yarn onto the bobbin, my winder is not going to cut it.  I looked at bobbin winders, over $100 each!  Fiber tools are so very expensive, and often for something that can only be used for a single purpose.  As Alton Brown would say, “Unitaskers!”

I sighed, pouted, and decided to see if any of the sites online (Ebay, facebook fiber tools groups, etc) had a bobbin winder that I could get at a price I was willing to pay.  In my travels I looked at the charkha a tool used for spinning cotton that Ghandi popularized in India to help free his people (it really is a fascinating subject that I intend to dedicate at least one post to in the near future).  The Ashford version looked sort of like an amped up bobbin winder, but at almost $400 it would be an even sillier investment than the Unitasker!.  However, there was another option a Babe Linten Spindel Charkha Wheel. At $150 it is not less expensive than buying a bobbin winder, and it could be argued I could get a book Charkha and a bobbin winder for about the same price, I am very happy with my purchases.

Babe’s Fiber Garden was amazing at helping me figure out if using their wheel as a bobbin winder would be a reality or not.  They even offered to send me some bands that are used for animal castration thinking that these will be a good size to keep my bobbins on their spindle.  I really look forward to playing with my new Mulit-Tasker as soon as it gets here!  I have some cotton left over from last year when the Cotton Clouds kit was on clearance from Woolery, but this playing might have to wait until Spinzilla is over!

I may even get time over the next year to tell Babe’s Fiber Garden that their new Garden loom looks like it would be good for Sprang!

Happy Crafting!

A Little While

It has been a while since I have had time to craft and therefor post about crafting.  Life does take funny turns, good and bad often intertwining until you are not certain which way to look.  I have completed my second piece on my rigid heddle loom, but have no pictures yet.  It was an experiment in selvedges, beating, and color.  I have not had an opportunity to wash the piece so once it is finished by washing and drying I will declare it a success or failure, probably a scarf really!

The bad, mom is going to need surgery and they consider her a high risk candidate.  We will do everything we can to keep her as long as she retains a good quality of life.  Prayer is about all that will help.  The good is a student going to the community college I work at had a large metal Jack Floor Loom she was not certain of what she was going to do with.  Upon hearing of my interest in weaving she offered me that loom in addition to a rigid heddle loom.  The rigid heddle loom is beautiful it needed a front apron bar and probably a new heddle.  I am very excited to have received this loom.  I am in awe of my floor loom.  I will confess, I am very dismayed at the state.  It  could be a lot worse and there is a basic frame to work with but it needs a lot of work before I would consider putting my clean yarn on it.  Especially if you consider how long it takes to warp a loom, there is no point in warping on a dirty loom.

It was a physical therapy loom created by the G.E. Miller Inc. company out of Yonkers, NY.  They are still in existence today though I do not think they make looms any longer (I plan on calling or e-mailing to find out).  Here are a few shots of what my loom looks like now, I meant to get some of it assembled but I was so excited to get started I forgot and had disassembled the heddles before I remembered.  You can see the loom, the paint is rustier in person; the heddle frames.  The heddles and their rusted shafts in a bucket with my work gloves, and the identifier sticker on the reed frame.  It looks good in the pictures and fortunately the basic structure is sound.  I look forward to getting it in perfect order again though it will take a ton of work.

Choosing a Supplies and Accessories Part 2

Honestly there are so many different accessories available for spinning wheels it gets a bit overwhelming at times.  The best way I am finding to narrow things down is to remind myself what kinds of yarns I like to work with.  In looking at the different wheels I became dismayed that none of the double drive wheels have a jumbo flyer with an orifice of more than 1″.  But wait a second, the flyers of more than 1″ are for making those big funky artsy yarns….I hate knitting and crocheting with those kinds of yarns, so why would I want to make them?

Keeping considerations like that in mind allow me to remain happy with my choice of a double drive wheel while also being able to choose the accessories that will work well for me.

The main accessories I am looking into getting are:

Niddy Noddy- this will allow me to keep my skeins organized and tidy, as I get better I will want to know at least approximately how big they are so this will help with that also.

Yarn Swift- Once I know how big they are I will want to roll them into balls, I already have a center pull ball winder I love so a Yarn Swift is probably going to be my next purchase.  It will allow me to use the ball winder without the tangles I am currently getting.

Lazy Kate- this will allow me to ply my yarns without tangles and while they are tensioned.  A few of the wheels I am looking at have integrated Lazy Kates, but some reviews have indicated trouble when you have to pull the threads forward from the Lazy Kate then allow them to ply.  It would make more sense to have the Lazy Kate on the floor a big away from the wheel.  There seem to be two kinds, vertical and horizontal (arched).  I am looking at the arched version simply because I can see the entire thing toppling over if the yarn (I keep thinking of it as thread but it really is considered yarn) on the top is somehow heavier than the ones on the bottom.

Hand Carders- Okay, so this comes down to, I have a long haired cat.  I brush her constantly and she sheds a ton.  Recently I decided to keep this fur and see if I can make something from it, a bracelet or the like.  To have the fiber in a shape where I can use it to spin I can either comb it (big sharp tines) or I can card it.  I think that carding will have fewer chances that I will stab myself with the really big tines, so I am going to start with that!

Blending Board- I have some beautiful Bamboo fibers that I bought way back when.  While I might be able to spin them with the Spindolyn, odds are I am going to want to blend them with wool to create wonderful Rolags I can spin into a wonderful blended yarn.  This is also a great way to experiment with color and create my own rolags, I also have some flashing so I can add sparkle. Yay!  Okay, so these boards cost almost $200, it is probably something that will wait a while.

There are a ton of different options for all of these devices.  For the most part I will get the best quality that my budget allows.  For the yarn swift there is one on amazon that looks to be adjustable and of good quality for a very low price, I will ‘cheap-out’ and purchase that one.  Also for the ‘Niddy Noddy’ since I do not plan on using it to display yarns and only intend to have it as a functional piece I will ‘cheap-out’ on it as well and get a version made of PVC pipe.  Yes, in theory I can make this myself but for almost a cheap as the PVC pipe I can avoid the risks of cutting myself and buy it pre-made.  These are a lot of accessories when I haven’t even bought the wheel yet!  Most of them are usable before I have purchased my wheel, it might be nice to see how large some of my spun silk singles wound up being.  If I decide to make some yarn as a double or try to triple ply then the Lazy Kate will come in handy, once I have some yarn on the Niddy Noddy then the yarn swift will come in handy to use the ball winder.  Essentially these small steps all go toward the goal of having what I need to make the yarn I want.  If I can take some of these small steps without compromising the goal of saving toward my spinning wheel then so much the better.  It is a better thing to do to buy a small device than lose hope on obtaining the large!

Choosing Tools and Accessories Part 1

I want to preface this post by stating that I am not paid, sponsored, or in any way affiliated with any of the websites I am about to mention.  I am also not endorsing, making money on, or in any way profiting from mentioning them.  I plan on using these posts to detail my journey toward purchasing my first spinning wheel, including links to websites that I have found helpful and explaining my decisions along the way.  Everything mentioned in these posts are my personal opinions and will not reflect what anyone else thinks.

Whew, with the disclaimers out of the way, I am planning to save up for my first Spinning Wheel!  Yay!  Getting started, I guess one of the first things you need to know about me is that I am a Reference Librarian (I know, most people think of the old lady behind a desk that put a rubber stamp in the back of your book and made dire threats if it was late).  No, not that kind of librarian, I have a Masters Degree in Library Science, MLS, (some call it Studies) from a University endorsed by the American Library Association.  Oooh, fancy! What this boils down to is, before I outlay a lot of money (well it is a lot to me) I am going to research the subject to death.  Learn as much as I can about it and then still mull things over for a while before I purchase my first wheel.  I have already begun that process and started to research.

Most of the time you are told to go back to the beginning and start learning from there.  Given that methodology I would begin researching the history of Spinning as a craft and way of life.  Sorry, not really what I wanted to learn.  As I get into it, I am looking forward to learning the rich history of this amazing life-skill, but right now, I want to see what kind of a spinning wheel I should get!  To that end I began by looking at Spin-Off Magazine.

I have a tablet computer (an older iPad really, I love apple) and the Kindle App.  Fortunately for me they offer the first 30 days of a magazine subscription for free.  So I was able to check out the October 2015 issue of Spin-Off Magazine featuring 4-Ply.  What it really featured, for me, were some very interesting articles as well as a lot of useful advertisements.  The best way to get to know a new craft?  Check out some of what is being advertised, and sign up for e-mail newsletters.  This is how I managed to accomplish my next step.  None of the libraries that I work at, Yes I work at more than one, subscribe to Spin-Off.  Actually none of the libraries attached to the libraries that I work at subscribe to Spin-Off, so when I was looking for past issues I found Interweave.  They are the company that publishes Spin-Off, but they are a store also.  I signed up for their newsletter and received an e-mail about their next 50% off digital magazine sale.  I was very happy since each past issue would have cost $8 and they were now $4.  I picked up 6 past issues for what I would have, theoretically since I wasn’t going to pay $8 an issue, paid for 3.  Thus began my journey into learning the technicalities of spinning fiber into yarn.

Two of the advertisers in Spin-Off are Paradise Fibers and Woolery.  Paradise Fibers has a section about choosing the right wheel, they have a blog, and they have daily deals.  All very neat and somewhat useful.  Much more interesting and useful to me, they have a YouTube Channel which contains a video by Kyle about choosing a spinning wheel.  Thanks to Kyle I was able to discover that if I obtain a wheel that just has ‘Scotch Tension’ I will not be able to switch over to a double drive wheel without buying a new wheel!  This just greatly decreased the number of wheels I was looking at.  Kyle also mentioned a couple of things such as portability, how much space the wheel would take up, and making sure you know what accessories are available for your wheel.  They also have a great video about ball winders and yarn swifts, and plenty of other videos about knitting and products they sell.  I really recommend checking them out.  We will talk about Woolery in a minute, but I want to emphasize, I spend hours on YouTube checking out some of the videos available to get an idea of what wheels are available and how they work.  There are even videos of people putting their first wheels together so you can get an idea of some of the problems they ran into.  There are also videos about drop-spindles, sheering sheep and alpaca, and taking the viewer from sheep to rug.  I watched a Navajo woman spinning on a supported spindle and creating thread so fine I could barely see it, it is remarkable.

Woolery is another site that I found very useful.  They have a ton of shopping options and their videos tend to be integrated with their shopping sites, though they have a YouTube Channel as well.  If you click on a subject, such as spinning wheels you are taken not to a sales page, not right away, but to an information page, explaining what wheels are, how they work, and the first link is how to select your wheel.  Their website is dynamic and very well made.  I love their Social Media links right at the top as well as the enormous selection of crafts that they are involved with.  Under each section is an almost overwhelming amount of choices for shopping.  The first couple of times checking out the website it would be really easy to get overwhelmed and a bit lost.  At least that is what happened to me.

Between Spin-Off, Paradise Fibers, and Woolery I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There are so many choices, so many different types of wheels and things to keep in mind (Aaah!).  I needed to take a break and rethink where I was going with this.  Several of the sites and crafters were talking about ‘the yarn you see in your vision’ that ‘yarn you are just dying to work with’.  Well, that is not why I wanted to spin my own yarn.  I mostly saw that these yarns are like $30-50 or more a hank and if I wanted to play with them I had to pay a ton, if I wanted to make something like a shawl I felt that I had to be a master knitter just to get started or I would be throwing away an expensive hank of yarn.  This way I can spin the yarns that I want to play with, at the thickness I want, in the colors I want, and eventually at the rate I want.  Instead of paying 30-50 for a single hank I can invest in a wheel and crank out as many hanks as I want, eventually.  Okay, so I am going forward with this project.  Crisis Resolved.

After that crisis I still wasn’t ready to go back to my perusing shopping sites and hankering after different tools, I decided to go back to my research.  Reading articles from my Spin-Off magazines and using Kindle Unlimited to get Start Spinning by Maggie Casey.  I am also currently reading Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont.    This, combined with an offer of buying me  a new drop spindle for Christmas, and the visions of the Navajo woman spinning beautiful yarn, helped to rekindle my interest in the tool I had been using but only as a stop-gap measure.  I had been steadily using my drop spindle to deplete my supply of silk hankies, bought years ago, so that I would have some practice drafting when I had gotten my new wheel, as well as some fiber to ply with.  With all of this floating around somewhere in my mind I decided to look at some drop-spindles.  Paradise fibers has a few that are neat, but they all tend toward Top-Whorl spindles.  Meaning that the weight of the spindle is up near the top, right by the hook.  When you spin, they spin faster and when you have enough fiber you fasten it off below the whorl.  It is a very popular type, and I have one…somewhere.  When I started spinning I learned early I like the bottom whorl spindle better.  I cannot really say why, I like how it feels when I spin it, it doesn’t spin too fast or too slow, and I find it easy to pile the spun product up above the whorl.  So I decided to check out Woolery next, to clarify I have looked at other sites and will continue to do so these are just the two that I have found most useful thus far.

Woolery has an amazing selection of drop spindles as well as Supported Spindles.  Oooh, something new!  Actually the Navajo woman was spinning on a supported spindle so I was vaguely aware of them.  With a Drop Spindle you spin the spindle and draft the fiber from the top, wind the yarn on and repeat.  The main support for the spindle is the yarn being created, if you create yarn that is too thin or you overspin the very thin yarn then your yarn will break and your spindle will, well, drop to the floor.  With a supported spindle you are using one hand to constantly, or nearly constantly, spin the spindle while the other hand drafts out the fibers.  At this time I think that is asking too much for my hand eye coordination, I’m having enough trouble with drafting fibers for the drop spindle when I have two hands to work at it, though both books have given me a lot of tips and I am getting much better at it.  I thought I might have to skip a supported spindle altogether, when I found out that Woolery has two kinds of supported spindles that do not require one hand for keeping the spin going.  One version is machined from brass and costs almost $100. Ow, if that were my only option I might be going with it, but someone thought up the Spindolyn.  This is a hand made version of the supported spindle that can be customized between spindle and support, there is even an extension option so that you can set this spindle on the floor and use it sort of like a tiny spinning wheel.  Okay, so I had to find the creators site to discover about the floor option, it is not available through Woolery at this time.  This is going to be my next purchase while I save up to buy the wheel of my dreams.  Using this I should be able to utilize some of my bamboo stash to create a beautiful silky yarn, or maybe mix some fibers together and experiment.

So far, the conclusions I have reached:

  • My drop spindle is actually great to learn to draft on
  • A supported spindle, Spindolyn in this case, will help me get used to drafting finer fibers
  • When I get a Spinning Wheel I will be getting a Double Drive wheel
  • When I select a Spinning Wheel I will make sure that it has sufficient attachments to allow me to create any kind of fiber I will desire.

That has been my journey toward purchasing a spinning wheel thus far.  I hope to posts pictures of my first Plied Silk from my drop spindle soon.

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