piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
i'm watching a lot of spinning videos -- hey, it's hibernation season, and i've dusted off my spindles and wheel. my absolute favourite is spin art by jacey boggs. i bought the book when it came out, but it was above my skill level and i just admired the shiny. then i saw a short video by jacey boggs on youtube, and really liked her style, and so i bought the bonus video for the book. because spinning is much more easily learned from a good video than from reading.

it's dirt cheap for what you get; U$9.95 for 90 minutes of focussed instruction on spinning textured yarns. jacey boggs is an amazing instructor; she's clear, direct, thorough, funny, and she knows her technical stuff. after watching an hour of rambling repetitiveness by sara lamb spinning various kinds of silk during which i didn't learn anything much new (when i KNOW i know hardly anything about it), this was a breath of fresh air.

there are several things here i like: jacey shows the finished yarn, a knit swatch, and then she uses the exact same fibre with the same colours to demonstrate, so there is a clear progression from raw material to finished product. she shows the technique at speed, and then slowed down, several times. she shows common errors and what those mean, and how to correct them. the camera focusses tightly on her hands when it's important, from different directions, keeping the important bits in the field of view.

i wish they'd get her to teach most of the other instructors how to teach. i've also just watched a video with maggie casey, and while she is a very pleasant lady, her explanations often leave a lot to be desired; it feels like even though she is clearly an accomplished spinner, she doesn't actually fully understand the physics of a spinning wheel. or maybe she thinks it's too complicated to explain, and nobody would want to know? or she thinks the touchy-feely stuff is better? except that doesn't work for me; physics is not a dirty word; it helps me understand WHY something works, which means if it doesn't work i can figure out easily why not. touchy-feely isn't good for distance education. the person she's teaching in the video, eunny jang, seems a bit more technically oriented; she asks the questions i'd ask, but she is also very deferential, so she doesn't press when she gets a so-so answer that doesn't fully explain. the whole video feels very awkward to me, and i haven't started the second part yet because it's no fun. i've learned more about adjusting a wheel from jacey boggs -- incidentally. also, i now want a lendrum wheel, *snicker* -- so easy to adjust!

something else i've noticed about which i feel weird: jacey boggs wears no nail polish and her nails are very short and clean. now, how somebody keeps her nails is absolutely her own business, but in a video on spinning, or really anything where something done with one's hands is in close-up focus, my eyes get distracted by shiny polish or long, curvy nails interacting with the fibre/yarn. now i wonder whether nobody else cares, and i am just easily distracted.

WiP

Nov. 22nd, 2009 09:10
piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
my first yarn from the variegated grey shetland wool, now plied and in the process of being knit into a pocket scarf.

shows grey shetland plied yarn thickness

knit-up sample in stockinette stitch

plied it following alden amos’s advice to keep a lot of distance between the (improvised) lazy kate and myself and also between myself and the wheel, as well as tension on the plies and yarn. worked like a charm.

plied one full super bobbin, and left some of the single on the storage bobbin so i can try navajo plying.

washed the skein in very hot water with a little ivory soap, rinsed with fabric softener, and hung it to dry.

it became quite soft and lofty! and is knitting up very nicely; true to the fleece. i was gonna make pads for the cats from this, but it’s too nice for that.

it’s mostly worsted, with some thinner and thicker spots. i can see how much the quality changed between the start and the end, *heh*.
piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)

below is a sample of the wool, above the 2 bobbins. i'm quite pleased with how the singles came out; it's not hideous for a first effort. i ended up using mostly a modified longdraw. the prep wasn't right for an actual one, i had to keep more control over the twist because the fibre release from the draft wasn't always even. but drawing long was generally much faster and also smoother, and it gave me lots of room in which to smooth out occasional blobby bits. it'll be thick-n-thin in places (beyond beginner's accidents), because i was purposefully trying to spin as thin as possible at times, and later also to spin specific thicknesses.

i really like the variegation of the wool; it goes from a very light grey to a very dark one. i bought about a pound and a half; wonder how much yarn that's gonna make.

and now i learn to ply.
piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
oh yeah, this spinning thing suits me. it's very zen. well, theoretically it's very zen; that is, i can feel how it will become so. most of the time i am still too tense, but i can feel it for moments. i am doing much better with the grey shetland i bought at the cowichan fleece and fibre fair than i did with the nice, commercial top that came with the wheel. i just couldn't draft that properly until i started doing it from the fold; then it was, wow, so much easier.

however, spinning from the fold seems sort of a waste when one has long staple, because one folds that in half. but otherwise i guess i have to separate the roving even more than i did, and predraft the heck out of it. i also think that i need to do a longdraw with that fibre.

the grey shetland is very fluffy and lofty, and while it has lots of little noils, i am actually managing to mostly control the thickness of the single otherwise. i seem to tend towards spinning very thin, and today i practiced to get a little thicker single instead. my twist is really good, too; it's not been as hideously overtwisted as before anymore.

i'm sitting further back as well. i didn't start out real close to the orifice anyway, because it makes sense to be back some so i have more length of yarn to control before it goes onto the bobbin. but i'm now about half a metre back, and that gives me a lot of opportunity to smooth bits out that were a bit too thin, and i am still close enough to be able to see.

i'm basically spinning in some unholy mixture of worsted and longdraw, *snicker*. inchworm didn't work well for me at all; the yarn was very uneven. i might've had too much roving in my hand. in any case worsted technique works for me, from the fold works for me, and i can feel longdraw happening as well. i'm happy with my progress.

if you have no idea what i am talking about, but want to: here's a great page with short videos introducing basic techniques.
piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
made from PVC pipe, a wheelchair wheel, and some wood
my babe's fiber garden spinning wheel. (with bonus cat, bang! who wandered into the shot.)

i'm so excited!!!

i have no time to post more about it, because i want to spin some yarn!
piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
i am always impressed by how much in-depth knowledge of small bits that improve any given tool there is in any human specialisation, once one has a closer look.

latest case in point: the lowly drop spindle. its production is not really a high-tech endeavour; very simple, easy to understand principles apply to its construction.

when i get interested in something, i often choose the route that lets me fabricate my own tools -- for one, i feel it gives me a deeper understanding of techniques, and for another, it's cheap. if i were to buy tools for everything that takes my fancy, i'd not be able to crawl out from under all that toolage to work with it, and i'd have to be filthy rich.

so, when i took an interest in spinning, i had a look at pictures of drop spindles and immediately thought, well, how hard can it be to make one myself. not very hard, right?

right. well, sort of. one can certainly make a drop spindle for $2 or less-- a wooden toy wheel or an AOL CD (other junk CDs also work :), a piece of dowel, a cup hook, a bit of fiddling, and you're done. except -- now that i have a professionally made drop spindle in my hands, and have spun for a while on both of them i see in how many ways my homemade one is suboptimal. and it's not like the professional one is a luxury model; it's basic.

the professional spindle (from ashford, NZ -- OMG, my spindle came all the way from NZ, how cool is that? global trade still excites me a lot. :) has a turned shaft, it will remain true for a long time if i take reasonable care of it. my homemade spindle's dowel shaft has slightly warped already (dowels are cut), and the spindle therefore wobbles a bit.

the pro's hook (this is a high whorl spindle with the hook directly in the centre of the whorl) is shaped with a definite peak. my hook is a round cup hook. the yarn settles very easily into the centre of the peak, while on my cup hook it doesn't centre itself all that well, which makes the spindle less stable.

the pro's whorl has two notches cut into the rim perpendicular to the opening of the hook, the homemade is notchless. i lurve those notches. with a drop spindle there's a limit to how much yarn one can spin before one has to stop and wind it onto the spindle, or it'll hit the floor. that sequence of movements needs to be very efficient or it becomes annoying oh-so-quickly. i can do the wind-on and the consequent readying for new spinning much more quickly because of those notches and their placement.

now for a bit of physics. remember angular momentum = mass * velocity * radius? no? :) here's a bit of physics for drop spindlers.

the pro's whorl is located at the very top of the shaft, like my homemade one. this makes the spindle dance a bit, and i think if i'll buy or make another spindle, i'll be picking a design that has the whorl a little further down the shaft, for greater stability. also, the pro's whorl is hollowed out in a ring around the shaft, with only a cm around the edge being solid wood all the way through. this allows the spindle to spin longer, because the location of a weight in relation to the axis of rotation affects starting and stopping effort. the homemade spindle is centre-weighted (the whorl is pretty much the same thickness all around), pro is rim-weighted; ergo pro spins longer. conversely, because of that centre-weight my homemade spindle spins faster (or would, if it were the same weight and didn't wobble), while the pro spins slower -- which at my current level of craftspersonship is a good thing.

ashford drop spindle ashford drop spindle

you can see the rim weighting, and the notch (there is another one directly opposite), and even the peak of the hook.

i also know my next spindle will have a tapered shaft, because it's easier to remove the cop (the wound-on glob of yarn) that way; it's a bit of a pain with this pro (and the homemade as well).

but i am very happy with the high-whorl approach. i went from cussing with the homemade to actually occasionally feeling a moment of zen with this spindle, and now that i've figured out the mystical "thigh roll" i am getting speedier as well, more speedy than i'd be with a bottom-whorl spindle that needs to be twirled with the fingers -- my RSI doesn't like that.
piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
to get away from the decision about the wasps, i drove down to duncan today, to the tiny, packed to the rafters yarn store run by a dutch woman, because i wanted to get my hands on a proper drop spindle instead of fiddling with my homemade one -- just to see what it should feel like. she only had one, and it's a bit on the large side, but since it's by ashford, and a high whorl to boot, i am happy with that. it's 3.5" diameter and weighs 2.76 oz.

even more happiness resulted from the 8-pound bag of dark brown sheep fleece she had sitting outside for C$20. OMG. it's nice, soft fleece too, though she didn't know what breed. i'm thinking maybe shetland, though that would be an unbelievable bargain -- 4.5" staple and nicely crimped; about 7 crimps per inch, ends not a whole lot lighter -- unwashed, but very little cruft in the fleece. it might be some kind of crossbreed.

so here i am sitting, spinning in the grease, straight from the fleece; i've only picked out a few bits of straw. wow, this really is nice. the spindle is heavier than my homemade one, and the lanolin makes the yarn glide very nicely. i'm already spinning a more even size, after just 10 minutes, and without preparing the wool at all. mmmh, i love the smell of sheep.

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piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
renaissance poisson

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