I’ve mentioned before that I spin my own yarn. I love it. It’s a very relaxing stress reliever.
This won’t be a full blown tutorial, but I wanted to share some of the lovely goodness there is to tell about spinning!
If you are going to dive into this adventure, give yourself a head start with some incredible roving. Head to your local yarn shop and ask if they have any roving. Roving is happy and makes your spinning job easier. Yes, it’s more expensive than a batt or raw wool, but it’s less work. So there ya go:)
My drop spindle is a top (or high) whorl. What does that mean? That big circle at the top (right under my hand) is at the top of the spindle (the long stick part). Other spindles are a low whorl. This means that big circle is at the bottom of the spindle.
Before transforming this roving into yarn, you will want to practice drafting. Did you ever make art out of stretched cotton balls? You know, a little 3 dimensional cloud on your crayon picture on construction paper? Maybe I was the only one…
To draft the fiber: grab the yarn as pictured and pull. Try to pull just enough to let the fibers in both hands slide past each other, but not so much that they pull completely apart. Next, move your hands down the roving a little, grab the yarn and pull again in the same way you did before. This is drafting: pulling those fibers apart and loosening the roving.
To figure the length of each individual fiber (or the staple as it’s called), hold the fiber as pictured above but hold your hands only and inch apart. Now pull. The fiber shouldn’t budge. Try this again with your hands 2 inches apart, then 3 inches, then 4 inches. The distance the fibers begin to slide past one another is the approximate staple.
Now it’s time to add twist to those drafted fibers. I don’t use a leader to start spinning. Like I said, this isn’t a full tutorial. This is spinning 101 Abbey style. I just hook my spindle to the end of the roving and twirl the spindle in my hand sideways (as pictured) to get some twist into the roving and to get my hook “stuck.”
I twist my spindle some more and let the twist travel up into the roving. I control how far the twist travels by pinching with my right hand and sliding it up slowly to meet my left. See what’s between my hands? Yes! That is yarn!
When spinning, especially for the first time, do yourself a favor and leave your perfectionism at the door. Honestly, I’ve been spinning for a few years now and each skein of yarn has it’s own personality because of what it’s made of, the combination of fibers, and how the roving was processed. Let it be what it is and don’t try to control it too much. Let the roving decide if it’s going to be a thick and thin spun or a fuzzier end product.
Keep spinning the spindle to add more twist to the yarn you already made, control how the twist travels by sliding the hand closest to the spindle to the hand that is holding the roving. This section between your hands of drafted and unspun roving is called the drafting triangle. It should look very much like a triangle.
As you can see, I am sitting while I spin. I prefer this relaxed position. I sometimes spin on road trips. You can stand up too. Oftentimes a shepherdess will spin while leading her sheep. The Ojibwa would spin standing up and let the end of the spindle spin on their toe. As long as you end up with yarn, there isn’t an incorrect position to spin.
When winding the spun yarn onto the shaft I hold the stick with one hand and keep the other hand pinched between where the yarn ends and the unspun roving begins. Don’t wind all the yarn onto the shaft. You need to leave enough yarn to hook on the top and continue transforming that roving into beautiful yarn.
This is a hank of yarn. I unwind my very plump spindle full of yarn around a big chair (or a niddy-noddy if you have one!). Then I twist it into a hank (I know, I don’t have pictures of that process. Like I said, this isn’t a full tutorial).
I fill a container with hot water and add a dab of wool wash (I like Eucalan) to the water then slowly lower the hank into the water. Your hank (and all your hard work) will not felt. For those of you who don’t know, felting happened when you accidentally threw that beautiful wool sweater into the wash and it shrunk from an adult size to an infant size. Yes, there is a severe danger of this happening to your hank, but for felting to occur you need three things: heat, agitation, and lubrication. Two of the three occur in your container: lubrication (soap) and heat (hot water). But felting will not occur without the third: agitation. This is why you slowly lower the hank into the water.
Leave it in the water until the water is cold. Remove from the water and gently (very gently… remember, no agitating!) squeeze the water from the hank – just enough so it isn’t sopping wet.
To set the twist in your yarn:
Unwind the hank. Hang it over your shower curtain rod with a towel hung between the loops of the hank. Leave it there until it is dry. Twist it back into a hank and your twist is set!
It’s a good idea to make a small swatch to figure out the gauge and best hook to use. Then, once you’ve figured out your yarn a little bit, find a pattern with a similar gauge and make something lovely!
There are two ways to adjust for gauge: 1. change hook size; 2. lengthen or tighten the initial loop drawn through the stitch. For example: for a looser single crochet stitch complete steps as normal – insert hook into next st, yoh, draw yoh through stitch and stop. This loop you just drew through the stitch will determine your gauge. Keep it loose or tight depending on how you need to adjust.
Whether you want to spin obsessively, make it your new hobby, or simply enjoy it once and a while, it’s more doable than you think and allows you to gain a better understanding of this fascinating fiber art we love.
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My favorite springtime project: Sari Silk Nesting Bowls. The Dancing Sheep Yarn & Fiber carries this awesome “yarn”. I call it “yarn” because it’s really re-purposed silk fabric from discarded saris in India. Seriously beautiful and one-of-a-kind! We have two sizes as a free pattern on our blog and a tutorial for the bow and flower. Four sizes are available for purchase through our Etsy, Ravelry and Craftsy shops. Click on any photo below for purchasing information.