Tag Archives: spinning

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!


A Much Needed Spinning Post

It’s been way too long since I pulled out a drop spindle and worked on making my own yarn. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting these last few months, but no spinning, despite a cabinet full of spinning fiber. Did I pull out some of the stash I already have lying around the house? No! I joined a fiber club so I could get monthly shipments of even more brand new spinning fiber! Cool, huh?!

I found myself browsing the Paradise Fibers website a couple of months ago and saw their fiber club options. I have always wanted to join a fiber club, but the only ones I knew of were run by independent dyers and, while the fibers were gorgeous hand-dyed works of art, the clubs seemed pricey and hard to join. For a good price point, members get to test-drive a generous variety of fibers, from different wool breeds, silk and silk blends, to exotic fibers such as yak, with the occasional neat-o gift thrown in.  I joined the 12-month club; for $40.00 a month I receive very generous samples of beautiful fibers, both natural and dyed. I’ve received two shipments so far and I am blown away by the quality and beauty of the fibers, which are a generous 3-4 ounces per sample. The April shipment had a bonus item thrown into the mix: an adorable Lantern Moon tape measure with a carrot-eating rabbit on top.

The bag I grabbed for my current spinning is from the April shipment. It contains an Ashland Bay merino/tussah silk blend in a color called Mallard. It’s a bluey-green hue that is truly reminiscent of the colors found on Mallard ducks: sometimes it’s blue, sometimes it’s green, depending on the light. I took a lot of photos of this fiber today–most of them were taken in the same lighting conditions–and the color never looks the same twice.  It may be hard to pin down, but it’s gorgeous in any light.

Today I took my spindle and some Mallard to the park for some spinning. It turned out to be a little too windy by the water to get any spinning done, but I got some great photos.


The spindle is one of my Golding spindles. It’s called Inuit Snow Dance. The whorl is made out of linden.  (yarn=bright blue)



I have a lot of spindles,  but Golding spindles are my favorite. I love the vintage ringspindles and the different and unique findings used on the whorl. (yarn=medium bluey-green?)


Some blue handspun in front of a blue sky. (yarn=medium blue)



Look at my spindle as it encounters NATURE!! (yarn=light/medium blue?!)



The merino/tussah silk blend is easy to spin, for the most part. I started out on a smaller spindle but I was having trouble getting started with the drafting each time after winding what I’d already spun onto the cop. I’m not an expert at the technical spinning stuff but I want to say merino is a longer staple than, say, bluefaced leicester. I switched to the heavier Inuit spindle and the spinning became a lot easier.


(yarn=bright blue, again.)

I have a lot of plans for spinning the rest of this fiber, but none yet for knitting it. I am going to spin the Mallard first. Then I’m going to spin the sample of merino wool in Cyan separately. Then I’m going to ply the two colors together. Since I don’t know how many yards I’ll get, or what the drape and nature of the fabric will be, I’m not sure what I’m going to knit with it. Full disclosure: I loved these two colors and fibers so much I ordered a pound more of each from Paradise Fibers.  I have a feeling a pound of each is a lot more than I bargained for. Should I make a warm throw to drape over my lap in the winter? A hat and mittens? Dare I say it–will I spin enough to make a sweater? I don’t know what this yarn is going to be yet, but I’m having a lot of fun making it in the meantime.


(yarn = dark greeny-blue.)


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!