Tag Archives: spindle

Adventures In Plying

OK. So. I’m ready to ply. For real this time. This time I’m going the whole nine yards: plying, yarn bath, winding into a skein, the works. I’ve got the niddy noddy on standby.

I’ve got my high-tech plying tools:


And two balls of yarn ready to go:


On the left is Ashland Bay’s merino/tussah silk blend in Mallard. This photo is more accurate in terms of its color, which is a predominantly dark green with blueish tones. The photos I took outside in a park a few weeks ago were way off. Crazy, right? On top of that to the right is Ashland Bay’s merino in Cyan.  These are the samples from the April shipment of Paradise Fibers’ fiber club. I love this fiber club, but the monthly shipments are coming in faster than I can spin the fiber!

I’ve got my huge and heavy Golding plying spindle on deck (literally, it’s on my front deck):


And…let’s ply!


So far so good. The yarns are “grabbing” each other nicely. They’re twisting up a little bit even though I’m holding them so that there isn’t a lot of slack. Once I separate each color by sticking my index finger in between as I ply, the plying gets easier. I’m doing a chain ply, no fancy Andean plying for me. I’m happy to work towards a barber pole effect right now; I’ll move on to the special effects like self-striping yarn and matching color repeats after a lot more practice.


The yarn looks pretty even here. It’s not super fine, but it’s not too bad looking.

There’s actually a lot of science involved in spinning, isn’t there?  Crafts, please don’t make me learn science, dammit, the math in knitting is bad enough! There’s physics to understand how the spindle works. Knowledge of different sheep breeds and plant fibers is helpful in getting the best out of your yarn: is the fiber long stapled or short stapled? Corse or curly? Also, knowing the properties of the fibers you’re using is important when planning what to make with your yarn once it’s spun. Which fibers are good to wear right against the skin and which ones would you not want to wear next to your skin. In the latter, what could you blend with the first fiber to make it more comfortable? I’m not even going to get into spinning with fleece straight off the sheep, whether to card or comb it, etc. There are so many decisions involved in spinning. Even as the unread spinning books accumulate in my library, all I want to do is grab my spindle and some fiber and see what kind of yarn I get. They say ignorance is bliss; well, I’m in a very blissful state right now!


Is this what is known as art yarn?! I went out on my front deck tonight and plied for an hour until the sun went down. As you can see, the more I plied, the more uneven the yarn became. There are very lovely, perfect, thin strands and there are nice but thicker strands, and there are uneven, lumpy strands, all in the same yarn. The yarn keeps breaking as I ply–you can see where it broke on the left. That was when I called it quits for tonight.

I’ll finish plying over the weekend. After that, I’ll get to work setting the twist by soaking the yarn, then I’ll hang it to dry, and then I’ll wind it onto a niddy noddy and see how much yardage  it yields. I’m hoping to have this spinning project all wrapped up (Ha!) by next week. I hope to have some pictures of a finished, tied-off skein sometime to post then. In the meantime, wish me luck!

So…I’ve been spindling for about four years now, taking my time, not in any hurry to finish and ply. I know, this project is long overdue. Is anyone else out there like me? Share your stories in the comments and tell me the longest time it has taken you to learning a craft or finish a project!


Because I Don’t Have Enough Spindles

…I had to buy a couple more.  So I have a spindle collection that’s shaping up nicely. Off the top of my head I’m not sure how many I have at the moment. I’ll have to go through them and see what’s what. I think the number is somewhere around 15-20.  I’m a natural collector, I need to accumulate stuff. Cataloging my spindle collection would be a nice future blog post, I’m sure. Most of my spindles are from Golding Fiber Tools in Vermont. After that, I have a couple of Greensleeves, a couple of basic Ashfords, two Turkish spindles (one Spanish Peacock, one Jenkins) I have yet to spin on (damn you, half-hitch knot, what am I, a sailor?!), a Spanish Peacock Victorian Ladies silk spindle that I can’t for the life of me get the hang of, and a few other assorted models. Yes, I think taking serious inventory of my collection is in order.

But on to my two newest beauties from Golding. Last week I noticed a beautiful spindle made with pink ivory and holly for sale. This is part of their “Gemwood” series.


See the back of the attached card for the stats:


At 1.8 ounces this spindle has a nice weight to it. I love how the pink and white woods pop against the darker walnut.

The second spindle is one I’ve been thinking about for a very long time. I love purpleheart wood’s deep purple color. But whenever I log onto Golding Fiber Tools with a purchase in mind, I end up being distracted by the gorgeous vintage spindles with their antique jewels and enamel and metal findings. On Friday, I finally bought a purpleheart spindle, and it’s beautiful!


This one’s a bigger model. With a 3″ diameter whorl, It’s pretty hefty at 2.1 ounces, and feels nice and sturdy in my hand.


The spindles came with a sample of fiber from Ingelnook Fibers in a color called Brick Wall. I love that name!


I ordered my spindles three days ago, on Friday morning. They were on my doorstep the next morning!  That is usually the case when I order from the Goldings. I wonder if it’s because Massachusetts is right next to Vermont, so Priority comes overnight instead of two days. I love the almost instant spinning gratification I get when I shop on Golding Fiber Tools; I received a shipping confirmation email an hour after I placed the order. Do the Goldings run each and every order to the Post Office when they receive them?!

I’ve started spinning some Ashland Bay merino in Cyan on the pink ivory spindle. I’m working my way through a three ounce bag in order to do something fancy: ply two different colors together. I’ve been spinning for about 5 years now, and I’ve always been content to just spin. Except for a little experimentation, I haven’t really moved on to the plying stage yet. I find the act of spinning alone to be pretty satisfying. But that’s all going to change. Yes, I’m finally pushing on to the next step! It’s about bloody time, right? I have various balls of handspun stored in my home that are crying out to be plied and knitted. So I give in!

When it comes to my crafts, I’m not very organized. I work at a leisurely pace. I go with the flow. I spin but don’t ply. I knit something, put it down, pick up something else and put that down, too. I lose needles and tools and end up digging around in my stuff when I want a specific item in hand.  I always thought of myself as a product knitter rather than a process knitter because my original reasons for learning to knit was to have sweaters and other garments for myself. But I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the process more than anything else; a sweater at the end is just icing on the cake.

I suppose my crafting philosophy can be summed up as follows: Enjoy the journey, don’t worry about the destination. It will always be there.


Tom Foolery At The Office

Today I did something I thought I’d never do: I spun in public. That’s right, I SIPped.  Now, I don’t mind knitting in public.  I’ve been doing it for years, especially on my lunch breaks.  I used to half-expect a barrage of “hey, my granny knits” comments whenever I pulled out a project in the cafeteria and seven years on, none have come.  No one pays attention or even cares, except for the college boy who once asked me what I was making.

“A sock,” I replied.

“Are you going to make another one after that?” He asked. He seemed genuinely interested.

To which I replied, “I sure am!”

I don’t mind if someone is amused by my knitting in public but with spinning I’ve been more hesitant because, to the uninitiated, it looks weird and no one knows what it is.  I don’t want to have to explain it unless someone really wants to know or try it.  Also I need a lot of elbow room when I spin on a spindle.

Today I had a change of heart because I am deeply in love with this black Romney and alpaca blend I bought from The Woolen Rabbit last Saturday. Can I tell you that this stuff has changed my life? I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night to spin it.  I’ve been getting up an hour early in the morning to spin it. It’s bliiiiisssssss!!! I didn’t want to put my spindle and wool down this morning but I had to go to work.  I suppose I could have called out sick 😉 but I didn’t, so I did the next best thing. I packed up my Greensleeves Tom Foolery and some roving and took it to work with me.  The main cafeteria was out as far as a spinning location goes–I needed someplace with carpeting.  There’s a small lounge that’s carpeted and today it was  completely empty! I expected to use one of the swivel armchair, but when I got there I found they had installed tall bistro-style table with tall chairs! It couldn’t have been more perfect. I was able to spin almost down to the ground from my high perch and except for a couple of passing people I didn’t meet a soul. Of course I did drop my spindle on the carpet a few times but it’s my own fault; I like to see how fine a yarn I can spin, so sometimes I push the envelope and it backfires on me. An on-the-spot inspection each time showed no dents, nicks or things of that nature. It was a perfect break in what turned out to be a pretty sucky day and all I’ll say about it is spinning definitely saved some lives today… :0

So there’s a nice close up of my new Greensleeves spindle.  I like it a lot. It doesn’t spin quite as long as my Goldings but I am very impressed with it.  It does have a nice spin on it and the woods and the craftsmanship are just beautiful.  The whorl is is made out of pink ivory and pommel bubinga and the shaft is bubinga too. I love saying bubinga! Typing it, though, not so much.  Pink ivory is one of the woods I’ve been coveting in a spindle.  I would still like to get one on which it’s the primary or only color.  Other woods I want are purpleheart, ebony, and bois de rose. So many colors! I’m happy with the weight of the yarn I’m spinning on it so I think the combination of spindle weight, fiber and spinning ability are all coming together nicely here.

So this is my achievement after two days of spinning this fiber.  What a cute, fuzzy little ball of yarn, no? I’m so in love with this.  I should have stuck a dime in the middle of it for scale but I’ll do that another time.  I’m spinning it extremely fine, but all of my spinning so far tends to be thicker when plied than I expect it to be so my goal here is to spin as fine as possible an ply it two or three times.  If I play my cards right it will be fingering weight, and hopefully no thicker than worsted.  Then all I have to do is decide what to knit with it.  Does alpaca make yarn too slippery for socks? What are you all knitting with alpaca/blended yarn? Suggestions please!