Monday, December 08, 2008

A Spinning We Will Go

On Saturday, my friend Kay and I took a "More Spinning" (Intermedidate Spinning) class at Yarn Barn, taught by Cindy Harberger. All I can say is "Wow, what an intense, information-packed 4 hours." Maybe it is because I am a kinesthetic (hands on) learner, but having an experienced spinning teacher beside me guiding the way while I try different techniques is an excellent way for me to learn.

We started by spinning using our own intrinsic method and style for about half an hour while she went around the room observing each of us and writing up a little index card describing our current style, with suggestions on how to improve both the technique and ergonomics of our current spinning method. It may sound scary being critiqued on one's spinning, but it was very nonjudgmental, friendly, and with all the best intentions - to help us become better and more talented spinners. And I've seen such improvement in my spinning from the first session with her, two months ago, to now.

Last time, she suggested that the posture I was using to spin might eventually cause pain in my right hip - and she was right, I'd already begun to experience mild hip pain, but with her suggestion on sitting differently, I've been able to spin in total comfort for the past two months.

She analyzed my current style as "Short draw, but allowing draught against twist." What this means is that I do a short draw, but I occasionally take my hand off of contact with the fiber, which causes a nubbiness or unevenness that can be solved by keeping my hands in constant contact with the fiber. We practiced this new way of spinning short draw, and it produced much smoother yarn. But now I know that if I ever want that nubbiness, how to produce it.

We practiced modified long draw and true long draw, which she says that very few people do a TRUE long draw, but it can be very effective for some types of fibers. Kay was able to perfect both the modified long draw and long draw very well. I think her natural style is modified long draw.

Treadling: medium fast. As with everything else, I tend to do it a little faster than I probably need to. The teacher suggested that I slow the pace of my treadling just a bit. She says that we live our lives at such a fast pace, that it sometimes transfers over into our spinning - but in fact our "real life" should mimic our spinning pace - medium paced and relaxed most of the time.

We discussed woolen vs. worsted weight yarn, and how to produce both. She says that most spinners do a combination such as semi-woolen or semi-worsted. Two yarns can appear to be the same thickness, yet the weight and handling characteristics of each can be quite different, depending on how it was spun.

Worsted yarns - extremely strong, smooth and durable, are produced from parallel fibers. You can get this effect by aligning the fibers by using hand carders, in particular, and creating a little "rolag" out of the fiber. We learned how to do this, and at first, I couldn't do it very well. Because I am left handed, I was getting my handedness confused. But Jane, another student in the class, helped orient me and practiced with me, which helped so much. By the time we made a second rolag, it turned out much better.

Woolen yarns, on the other hand, are made from randomly oriented fibers and they are soft, warmer (because they incororate more insolated air space) and not as hard-wearing as worsteds.

Clarification from Cindy the Instructor: True worsted is prepared only from combed fibers and spun and plied butt to tip. Rolag preparation is used to create woolen yarns. Rolags rolled in the conventional way (as we practiced) creates a preparation that has the fibers at perpendicular to the orifice. Worsted spinning requires fibers to be "in parallel" with the orifice.

We then moved on to learning about and spinning many different fibers from our "goody bag." We learned that Merino would made a great woolen-spun yarn. It was easy to spin.

Cotton - 1" staple length and very hard to spin because of short fibers, you would best use the smallest/fastest ratio on your wheel, and treadle fast! When we worked with it, my cotton kept breaking off, and I finally gave up. I don't like cotton anyway.

Flax - use a lot of twist, dampen fiber to make it more smooth to spin. She suggests wearing a belt when you spin it, or use a distaff to put the fiber through.

Mohair - comes from a goat, very shiny and has a halo. It is best spun from the fold.

Cashmere (we didn't practice spinning this) but did you know that some cashmere is raised in Texas and some in Mongolia? So next time you buy cashmere fiber, find out which is it. The Mongolian cashmere is softer, more luxurious fleece.

Alpaca - 3 -5" staple length. the fiber has a hollow core (creating good insolution) so this fiber is not only extremely soft but is WARM. It's best spun from the fold. Some people are allergic to this fiber. Suri is the best and most expensive Alpaca.

Silk - yum!! We spun this and everyone loved it. Of course, silk worms produce silk. The teacher told us about these wonderful "silk hankies" which is a packet of silk you can buy at Yarn Barn, where one $18 package contains at least 10 hankies and gives you quite a bit of silk at a much better price than if you just buy the fiber itself. These were GORGEOUS and Kay and I both are planning on trying our hand at spinning that lovely silk. Maybe we can make a little purse or something out of it. The one thing Cindy warned us about is that silk is rather inflexible fiber, so one wouldn't want to knit something like a sweater out of pure silk. But using a blend of silk with wool would work well. Also, some Art Yarns are spun with chunks of silk thrown in.

So now you see why my head is exploding with knowledge. For you Yarnies out there (nonspinners that is), I hope you weren't too bored with my in-depth coverage of this class, but I want to save the info on here to refer back to later.

Recommending Reading:
The Essentials of Hand Spinning by Mabel Ross, excellent explanation of hand carding. Ross was like the Elizabeth Zimmermann of spinning and was the mentor for our spinning instructor.

The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning


Kay said...

Yay for spinning! I busted out the silk hankies when I got home & demonstrated the pull-til-it's-a-huge-loop thing for Hunter last night. He though it was pretty funny. Wow, did it spin up gorgeous!!!! I hope I have enough for a pretty little scarf or something.

woolanthropy said...

I just spun for the first time yesterday on a friend wheel. It is so much fun! I think I know what Santa is bringing me for Christmas.

Laura said...

I'm glad you girls had a great time! I also noticed how you two showed off your socks. How cute and they're lovely, of course.

Elysbeth said...

I see you took the vest out into the wild, looks great!
(will come back later to read the more indepth stuff)