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A Little More Abstract

Crafting For Those Dedicated to Experimentation

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Woolery

Rebecca Mezoff’s Class

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I enrolled in Rebecca Mezoff’s Little Looms course, and then had to obtain a little loom to take advantage of the course, lol.  I tried to order a Hokett Loom from Woolery but ran into stock problems, one 10 day wait I can handle but when the items from the first wait came in they were sold out of something else in my order and wanted me to wait another 10  days!  That wasn’t going to work for me so I cancelled the entire order and picked up a Stash Blaster from another source.

I decided to warp this with some soft cotton twine I had lying around to see what it would do, unfortunately with the yarn I decided to use the results are closer to a balanced weave than a tapestry weave.  Oh well, it is really pretty and a good first try so I will finish my mug rug and try for a tapestry next time.

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!

Dying to get started

These are the results of my Kool-Aid experiment.  They were created from the wool I had received with my Schacht Wheel (I’m not really sure what it is).  A very pretty wool that did not felt on me when I tried this!  I put 3 Kool-Aid lemonaid packets into a plastic shoe box with about 2-4 oz of wool (I do not have a kitchen scale so it is all estimated).  I then poured enough water to cover the wool and added about 10 drops of food coloring.  The resulting fiber was the fire orange color.  After letting it set for about 30 minutes I took it out and began to rinse the fiber.  A lot of the dye started to come out of the fiber as I was rinsing.  Since I feared losing the beautiful color I decided to use some vinegar to soak the fiber and retain the color, after a 15 minute soak and a thorough rinsing the color remained and the fiber didn’t even have a vinegar stink.

There was a lot of dye left in the water so I decided to throw more fiber into it, again somewhere between 2-4 oz of wool, and another packet of lemonaid kool-aid to help things set.  It soaked for about 30 minutes and when rinsed created the beautiful yellow that can be found in both skeins.

I think that kool-aid (helped along with some food coloring if needed) is a great introductory method to dying.  I look forward to more experiments in the future, but some fiber is calling my name to be spun!

Happy Crafting!

Pencil Roving on a Spinning Wheel

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I had purchased some pencil roving in white and grey/black from Woolery.  This was a great medium to begin my spinning with.  Most articles that you read and YouTube videos that you watch, Craft Daily videos, etc, will recommend that you begin by getting a feel for your wheel and just treadling for a while to see how little effort it can take to get your wheel going and keep it going.  This is great advice, that I did not take.  After assembling my wheel  I dove right in.  I had this pencil roving sitting around from a previous attempt at a project.  It is, to be frank, outerwear roving.  Now that it is spun up and in a 3 ply I will have to figure out a project that I can use it for.  Since it is so rough I would rather not make it into a scarf, but I might try weaving with it to see if I can make some kind of warm outer shawl with it.    I really enjoyed working with this roving and my new wheel.  It is truly amazing how little effort it takes to keep the wheel spinning and how little twist needs to be put into this roving to keep it together.  This is unwashed, there was a third skein but it was my first time using my new Lazy Kate and I didn’t do a very good job keeping the strands separate.  There are pigtails everywhere, even a couple of big globs of pigtails.  If you never do anything wrong, then you are never doing anything!

Happy Spinning (the other skein might make it into a blooper reel I am not sure yet).

Big News

My new Spinning Wheel a Schacht Ladybug, and the fiber I’ve managed to turn into singles already.  With my tax refund I managed to order this Ladybug.  It was so simple to put together I was through almost before I had started.  I took it for a brief test run last night, going against everything that we are told to do and starting with some fiber to spin with.  It worked like a dream.  I need a different chair so I can sit comfortably while I spin, and I probably need something to act as a dropcloth but those are just details.

I have some exciting news on the weaving front as well.  A friend of mine, a non-traditional student that goes to the community college I work at, is going to be moving out of state and she has a couple of looms she wants to get rid of.  She gifted me with my first rigid heddle loom earlier this week, the heddle is missing a few bits but I think it is a Beka 24″ heddle so I can order a replacement.  I am thinking about trying to warp it up and play with it, but I do not think I can tear myself away from my wheel for any length of time in the near future, except for laundry…I have to do laundry tonight!

Happy Crafting, more on the spinning and weaving front to come!

Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags

For Christmas, and at just $10 each they are a steal, I was given a 3 month subscription to Jimmy Beans Beanie Bags.  I have since then received my December and January Bags, both of which were an absolute delight.  While there are instructions for a suggested project included, I have been using my Schacht Zoom Loom, purchased from Woolery, to create amazing squares.  Those squares will eventually become a piece of either clothing or a scarf, I’m still working on figuring them out.  Each bag, and it really is a woven cotton bag with a zipper, also comes with Soak samples to wash your projects and an accessory.  In the December bag we were given a pom-pom maker and in January a wooden shawl closure.

Inkle Loom Weaving

Inkle Loom and First efforts

Since we spoke last, I purchased an Ashford Inklette loom from Woolery.  I found the service to be excellent and I adore the product I received.  You can see my progression of weaving from right to left, the right being my first efforts.  It looks good in the photo, but I had way too much weft showing and the weave wound up very loose and large compared to what inkle weaving is ‘supposed’ to look like.  After that my second effort started the same way but I got the hang of it by the end of that piece.  I’ve been having a ton of fun with the different lengths and widths I can get with this loom.  If you want to get into weaving I really suggest starting with the Inkle loom!

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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