NETA Knit and Spin Spa 2014

IMG_0995“Can we please eat dinner with strangers every night while we’re here?”, asked my daughter her first time at NETA Knit and Spin Spa. She was only a high school junior, but she already understood the essence of Spa.

NETA (New England Textile Arts) Knit and Spin Spa started over 10 years ago, almost by accident. An email string started floating around encouraging some fiber friends to meet up at a hotel in the Portland Maine area to escape the winter blues while luxuriating with friends, and of course, knitting and spinning. A crowd showed up and Spa was born!

No one knows exactly how many people turned out that first year, and no one really knows how many people attend today. This is because there is no registration, no one taking names, no sign-ups, no NOTHING! Seriously. Just because there are no classes or registration, don’t imagine for a moment that all this happens magically. There are a lot of people and details to manage. We are lucky enough to have a brave and mighty team to plan and execute the event. I can only imagine that on occasion they feel like they are herding cats. We should all be so grateful they take this on!IMG_1010

Three hotels officially and other hotels and Bed & Breakfasts unofficially are filled to capacity with fiber people. In common parlance, “There are no muggles”. Several years ago, the event moved from Portland to Freeport ME, the home of, open-24-hours, LL Bean. The group outgrew the singular location and needed to expand. Growing to multiple hotels keeps the event from feeling too overwhelming, yet accommodating many more people. IMG_0408

Fiber-istas start showing up on Wednesday or so for the weekend. This year I picked Lola up at Logan airport in Boston on Thursday. We meandered up to Freeport via Norway Maine. Yeah, I know, not really on the way but we first met up with a Spa friend at a cute shop called Fiber and Vine. You guessed it. It’s a fiber and wine shop! We had lunch together at a cute café and then continued on to Freeport, with our wine purchases safely in the trunk awaiting an evening nip whilst spinning. Sigh, yes, many of us DO have cup holders.

Spa friends, new and returning, are at the heart of what makes Spa so special. Even though there are now thousands involved, the atmosphere is one of a gathering of friends- LOTS of them! Is there a line at the hotel restaurant? People feel no hesitation waving some new faces over to share a table. I love that. Is there any other place where people feel so comfortable together? Pull up a chair in the lobby with your spinning wheel. Talk fiber, learn a new technique (there are casual groups which form to learn a new skill and share tips), or try out a different wheel. A great way of making a new friend is stopping to photograph someone in a beautiful knitted object or pretty fiber on their wheel. Works every time and there is plenty there to admire. Spa fairies flit past, gifting fiber, notions, patterns and in my case, a handmade mechanical puzzle! I saw someone clutching yarn I had left at the free table. It was left over from a well-loved project of mine, and the recipient was telling her friend what she was going to make with that. Such fun!

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IMG_1007The social atmosphere transcends the connections you might make in the “real world”. People connect regardless of profession, geography or even more so, age. When I was lucky enough to have my daughter with me, she made friends with people her mother’s age and older, and is sad to miss them now that she is in college. Some folks at Spa get to see each other more often, but for many of us, these meet-ups happen only at Spa. It is so wonderful to catch up with the events of the last year. Kids go to college, loved ones pass away and new grandchildren come into the world. Love to see the pictures.

Why does this work with all those people and no classes or general activities except for the Fashion Show? It is the sitting. Broken up with trips to new restaurants, and shopping at the marketplace (awesome vendors) whenever you spend hours during the day, over multiple days, playing with fiber and talking, you can’t help but feel happy and renewed. For me, it is just as therapeutic as the massages and reflexology treatments people sign up for.

IMG_1012I enjoy working the Greeter’s table. There is something so wonderful about a new attendee coming to you giggling, confessing that this is their first time. Love telling the newbies about the Fashion Show, the Ship’s project and the good places to hang out! Last year was the first time Lola was able to come. It was wonderful to have her there and she felt instantly like she was spending time with old friends.  We wish that Leann could experience spa too! The desire to bring more people into the fold is part of the Spa culture.

I love fiber festivals and farmers markets. Many of them have a social atmosphere, but at NETA Spa it is primarily about the social piece, with hours of spinning, knitting, learning and shopping. If you come next year, and I hope you can, please find Lola and me, pull up a chair and stay awhile.

 

To find out about next year’s date and details:

NETA’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/NETA-New-England-Textile-Arts-Network/98569908258

NETA’s blog http://netafiberforum.blogspot.com

NETA’s Yahoo email group https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/NewEnglandTextileArts/info

Pics of Spa 2014 http://www.flickr.com/photos/lmardennh/page1/

Review of 3 fibers from Fiber Curio and Sundries

In my quest to spin up a variety of Shetland wools for a future natural colorwork sweater, I came across Fiber Curio and Sundries.

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Fiber Curio and Sundries is owned by Wanda, an Iowa State Patrol dispatcher, and Ellen, a solo family doctor. They source from small farms and are interested in a variety of fibers. They enjoy using Shetland, Romney, Rambouillet, Wensleydale, CVM (California Variegated Mutant), Finn, BFL, Gotland, and other longwools in their fiber products, along with llama, alpaca, mohair, angora, bamboo, silk, and Tencel.

I ordered up some Shetland Emsket and deep Moorit locks from them. Neatly tucked around the edges of the box were some surprise samples, and a note describing them. I was thrilled to find these delightful goodies and I set my current spinning projects aside and dove into them.

All my samples were spindle spun on my new Spanish Peacock top whorl spindle, weighing 25 grams.
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Don’t know what can be said about this spindle other than it spins long, fast and evenly. It is so perfectly balanced that I never found it rocking. To top it off, it is a piece of great workmanship. It is smooth and pretty. I just love looking at it!

Every sample was 2-plied, though I don’t think that would necessarily be the best choice for every one of these samples. Since I had but a little taste I thought for this purpose 2-ply would be best. My default spinning technique on a spindle is semi-worsted. I am not as adept with the spindle as I am my wheel, but I really wanted to test drive my new spindle. 

First up was a roving of  California Variegated Mutant Corriedale lamb cross.

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This was a soft, grey wool which spun easily. It wasn’t particularly smooth though that was more a characteristic of the wool rather than a problem with the preparation.  Vegetable matter was negligible to nonexistent

The resulting yarn is extremely soft. It isn’t slick like a smooth merino, rather it is very springy and elastic. I really liked the resulting yarn very much. Washing it did create a lovely bloom and the plies nestled in comfortably together.  You can see the particulars of the yarn on Nimblestix here. You can click on the Spin Project link  and the link to the fiber stash is here.

I suspect that if I were to spin a quantity, I would 3 ply it. Not sure if a three ply would give sufficient stitch definition for complex cables. I would definitely test it, but I am pretty sure that this wool would work well for a sweater which needs to hold its shape.

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Next up is the Blond Alpaca. This is a mix of several fibers which you can see here. This was very interesting and fun to spin.

The fiber felt very soft and airy. It was the color though, that made it so unique. When I stashed it on Nimblestix, I called it fawn. In actuality, it is almost a peach or a pale pink, yet it’s un-dyed! In different light it seemed to alter its shade. This was breathtaking to me.  IMG_0931

Spinning this was a blast. It spun smooth and extremely fine. I think that a 2 ply a great option for this yarn. Given the natural drape of alpaca, I envision this yarn would really shine as delicate lace. Can I tell you that I fell in love?

 

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I then spun a deeply dyed merino/targhee cross blended with tencel. This fiber also spun fairly fine and very smooth.  I think that this would drape nicely for a lace shawl. Not sure how this would be a little more tightly plied or at 3 plies or greater. My thought is that it would hold enough body to use in a sweater or accessories, but I would recommend testing.

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The fuchsia dye job is deep and eye-searingly intense. Being a ginger, the deep rich pink is not a color I would wear, but I do love the intensity. There are some people would look awesome in this color!

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This did cause some trouble. I didn’t realize that my fingers were turning pink until I started handling other things in the room and finding my fingerprints in various places. Whoops! When I washed the sample it did have a significant run-off of color. Once washed and dried, the sample was still quite intense, but I no longer had to put on my sun glasses. Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 1.30.49 PMYou can see the fiber stats , spinning project and yarn record on Nimblestix of course.

 

 

 

 

Spinning the Churro was a brand new experience for me. I flicked the locks open and it was ready to spin. It took little effort to prepare this. I was hesitant when I started. I assumed that the hair-like fibers would slip out of my hand, particularly since I was using my spindle and not my wheel. What I found however, surprised me and it was easier to spin than I anticipatedScreen Shot 2014-02-14 at 1.30.07 PM

The locks were squeaky clean, and no vegetable matter at all. It was much easier to spin than I anticipated. The color of the locks and resulting yarn is a real black, with no brown at all. We don’t see true black wool so often.

There are many more characteristics in a wool than just softness, which is a good thing for churro. It felt nearly like wire just after spinning, though I was really surprised how much it softened with washing. Still not suitable for next to skin, but the Navajo Churro can have other great usesIMG_0970.

 

 

I was grateful for the opportunity to spin these samples and I am looking forward to getting the Shetland on my wheel. Ironic since that was my original goal! Thank you Fiber Curio and Sundries!

Three of these yarns are available in the Nimblestix Marketplace!

There is a review of the alpaca blend on Knittyspin here and a nice interview with Ellen on the Handmade by Stefanie blog.

 

Marketplace

Fiber Search ResultsTo be a fiber enthusiast means we are always looking for that beautiful Blue Faced Leicester-mohair blend dyed in purple and orange shades (incidentally, my favorite combination, but so hard to find). So that means when the Fiber Festival Season is over, one has to resort to trolling the web for online stores, looking for recommendations by satisfied customers, and trying to find that bundle of multicolored punis that seem to be all the rage nowadays.

We are fortunate enough today to have so many online retail sites where vendors have set up shop. But, often, it can be difficult to make yourself stand out when you’re fighting for attention, sharing space with vendors who sell products that are not necessarily the same items that one would find at a fiber festival. Perhaps your shop’s name is very similar to another vendor’s name, and when you search for that name, either through a search engine or one of those retail sites, that vendor’s products may show up higher than yours, thus meaning that your products may be harder to find. Looking at the picture to the top right, this is what it looks like when you’ve searched for fibers that have yak, comes in top or roving, and photos exist.

Here at Nimblestix, we’ve tried to make it a place where it is easier for people to find what they’re looking for. We knew people would want to search for certain features such as a blend containing alpaca and yak, or only for fibers that have been processed into batts. And of course, you want to be able to search for your favorite enabler as well.

Interested in setting shop at Nimblestix? Well, here’s what we have to offer . . . no listing fees! And, we’ve made sure to enter common base yarn used by dyers so that you can incorporate the information, along with colorways, into your yarn product page.  And, when your customer buys your product, their purchases automatically get stashed.

To that end, we’ve now set up a Marketplace where fellow fiber enthusiasts can set up shop. All that is needed is a brand name. Once you give us your desired brand name (just email us at admin@nimblestix.com), we can then get you started on the process of opening your Nimblestix store. The same process works for a designer as well, with the addition of a pattern so that we can link you up as designer.

What does a Nimblestix Store look like?

Store Screenshot

Want to learn more? We have a Marketplace Tutorial video for you to watch.

Of course, you can also refer to the Setting Up Your Store help page.  We would love to see all your beautiful products on our Marketplace!

 

Stitches East 2013, Not Merely an “Expo”

 

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I peered down the long empty hall. My face flushed, I stepped out into the corridor. Briskly moving past the closed hotel room doors, desperately hoping to get to the elevator without being noticed, I heard the sickening sound of the elevator opening. I would be seen, in my nightgown, OUT IN PUBLIC AAAAARRGGH!  The gaggle coming towards me were, thankfully, knitters. They called out to me “Wear those jammies with pride!”  Thus emboldened, I moved to the elevator where I realized that I had no control over who would greet me when the doors opened.

Thankfully it was empty and I could complete my perilous journey to the ballroom lobby where, yes, I was joining the Stitches PJ party in progress. Ladies in brightly colored muumuu’s, younger women in sheep printed flannel, Benjamin Levisay in a smoking jacket and even someone dressed in a sock monkey costume made me feel absolutely normal.

Sock Monkey Lady

Sock monkey lady

I really like going to fiber festivals. That’s no surprise of course. Each one has its traditions and culture, and along with thousands of other people, I soak it all in. Stitches isn’t exactly a festival, but it feels like it and calling it an “Expo” doesn’t do it justice. One doesn’t typically think of “Expo” and “Pajama Party” in the same sentence right?

Though the Marketplace is an important part of Stitches, the classes are of high priority.  In my experience, they have been well worth it. This year I put together what I thought would be a clever packet based on skills I wanted to develop. I took a class on steeks with Chris Bylsma and one on stranded knitting with Anna Zilborg.  There is some fine colorwork in my future!

Both classes were not only rich in content, but they were just plain fun. By the end of the three hours, my eyes were crossing and my brain was gloriously tired. Of particular interest to me was the contrast in approach to steeks by each of the teachers. Though the colorwork class was not specifically about steeking, steeks were covered as they are an important part of that technique.

Anna Zilboorg

Anna Zilboorg

Initially I found it frustrating that the approaches were contradictory. However, I came to understand the technique more deeply because they were so different. In the end, I can choose. We are the bosses of our own knitting!

The marketplace is a must-do. There were regulars and new faces alike. I availed myself of glass and antique buttons and buckles, which will hopefully adorn some future fulled hats. Heartbreakingly, there was very little spinning fiber. I know that the crowd at Stitches is not as spinning oriented as at the wool festivals, but I have a funny feeling that in the future we will see more, as Stitches vendors will start to see the growing art of hand spinning- at least I hope they will!

Of particular note from Namaste is an item which is currently only available through special order, and not yet on their website. In their signature fabric and great colors is a folio which, inside, has three sturdy rings. The customer picks what kind of insert pages to include: for holding DPN’s, needle tips, cables and tools.  As always, it looks beautiful and sturdy. There will be some happy people when these pieces begin arriving in the mail.

Namaste Insert

Even though I came to Stitches by myself, the social piece was awesome! At the marketplace I ran into people from my local yarn store In the Loop, including the owner! Also there were people from the annual pilgrimage to Freeport Maine for Spa Knit and Spin. Wonderfully, though strangely, there was a classmate at Stitches who was in a class with me at MDSW as well as both my classes this year at Rhinebeck! Isn’t that awesome?!

The Friday night fashion show and gala dinner were fun, professionally executed and filled with great door prizes.  It was after these events that we made our way to our rooms to “dress” for the aforementioned pajama party!

After enjoying the fashion show on Friday night, and then a Knitter’s walk through by Rick Mondragon the next day, I realized that it had been too long since I had picked up Knitter’s Magazine. It was definitely time to pick up this magazine again. There are several items in the Winter issue that will likely find their way to my needles.

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The acquisitions which I will admit to.

Back at home, I feel the way I always do after a festival, happy and motivated to knit more, spin more, and read more about it. Before I got all the way home, I even stopped off to see a friend who was having a knitting emergency and we sat and knitted, drank tea, and chatted. It was the whole package! Take every chance you can to go to a festival or Stitches. Plan on a class. Most importantly, sit with a friend and knit.

Getting the Most Out of a Fiber Festival

Tina and LolaThough a shopping plan and meet-ups certainly enhance one’s enjoyment of an already spectacular fiber festival, a class (or two) can change everything.

Lola arrived at my home near Boston on Wednesday and our plan was to leave the house before 5AM on Thursday morning to make the drive to Rhinebeck NY in time for our 9AM class. Uhm, yeah, we decided that was ridiculous and left Wednesday night to stay in western Massachusetts. Good plan, because we had a busy day ahead, one of those days where by the end your head is swimming but your heart is gladdened!

Jillian's ClassI love LOVE classes at the New York Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck. This is the third year in a row that I have had classes and was so happy that Lola could take classes this year too (now only if Leann……). The first year my daughter and I learned to spin with Julie Wilson of Jehovah Raah Farm. We did beginner’s spinning 1 and 2. This year we can proudly say that because of the influence of Nimblestix, there were 2 more new spinners who graduated from that class. And yes, there is some wheel acquisition talk from them already.

The second year I had classes with Donna Kay and Beth Smith. The focus that year was learning about spinning of different fibers, various wool breeds, and the preparation of fiber along with the variety of yarns those preps can produce.  That was also the year that Beth brought a class to the fleece sale. Though I may not be a fleece expert, I can now enter the fleece sale area knowing that I can competently find a great fleece.

Indigo Hound Double Tine Combs

Lola spent all day  Thursday and Friday with Beth Smith and I with Jillian Moreno. Beth’s classes were Fiber to Finish and Knitting Lace Yarns. Jillian’s were Yarnitecture and Colorplay. Both of us came out of our classes feeling more confident and curious about new techniques. Most importantly though, we felt inspired and super motivated to spin more!

The classes even altered my outlook on my purchases over the course of the festival weekend. I wanted to incorporate my learning into my next spinning projects. I know Lola must have felt the same way because she bought some double-tined hand combs (which will NOT be in her carry on bag on the way home).

Because of the class on spinning for color, I was able to confidently purchase dyed fiber and know that there were multiple ways I could spin it and actually CONTROL the outcome. Lola is excited about spinning lace weight yarn directly from her combs.

Color Techniques Practice

Each year my Rhinebeck classes inform my fiber work for the coming year. A bit dramatic you think? Well maybe, but to really benefit from the time and money you invest in classes, you have to put it into your daily practice to see how it works for you. I can hardly wait to try all these things!

Not all festivals have classes, but many do. Maryland Sheep and Wool for example, has very few offerings, but the ones they do have…… (I took the chance to go on a breed walk with Deb Robson last year). If you can swing it, do it! It will enhance your skills, develop your craft and most importantly, be loads of fun.

 

Tina Lying on Fiber

 

Pick-A-Stitch Review

Pick-A-Stitch ScreenshotFrom prolific designers to those of us who create only for ourselves, Pick-A-Stitch, an electronic stitch dictionary, is both a powerful tool and an enjoyable development in the pursuit of knitting. Many of us keep at least a couple of stitch dictionaries on our bookshelf, but this one lives in your computer!

Here’s how it works: You purchase the base program, which comes with about 130 stitch patterns. Every month, you have the opportunity to add more than a dozen new stitches for just a few dollars. You can also subscribe and automatically download the packages monthly.

There is so much to love about Pick-a-Stitch, where do we start? The pictures of the stitch patterns are crystal clear and large using the new zoom feature. Want to find out whether that stitch pattern is bold enough to shine through a dark color? Change the display color! Seeing the stitch pattern presented in this format with all these options helps us use our mind’s eye while we dream about what we’ll make next. (We do all do that, don’t we?)

Knitting instructions are presented as charts as well as written directions, for whichever version you prefer (not that any of us are opinionated about that!) On every chart and set of instructions, the abbreviation and stitch key are displayed – no more flipping back and forth between pages on your pattern. And if you pack up your pattern and you’re on the go, you won’t find yourself in the annoying position of lacking the key to your instructions!

Search ScreenshotThe stitches are categorized by type and even include edgings and reversible stitches. How fun for that next scarf pattern – or maybe a reversible hat! If you know the name of the stitch pattern you are looking for, use the new search feature to easily find it.

Although subscribing to the stitch updates is convenient and economical, if you choose not to subscribe, you’ll get a notification on your screen showing you exactly what Pick-A-Stitch still has to offer you. Preview all the stitch patterns before making your decision – no surprises!

What would I like to see in the future? For those of us who dream about our knitting, a way to arrange bookmarked stitch patterns with notations would be quite useful. Of course I’m sure the Pick-A-Stitch creator, Pamela Young, would love to have a mobile version (which would rock), but we found a workaround for now. Just print to a PDF and load it onto your mobile device and voila! You’re ready to go.

Fiber-related e-books are becoming more prolific by the day, not to mention the growing number of patterns we keep as PDF documents. Including a stitch dictionary amongst our digital resources is a brilliant new development.

Stitch Display ScreenshotThere are regular free patterns distributed by Pick-A-Stitch via their newsletter, so subscribe here before you miss any more! Be careful though, if you go to this website and start viewing the free patterns, you may be enticed to start your own e-stitch-dictionary! Not that we would know or anything (cough, cough).

Pick-A-Stitch generously provided a few copies of their software for to us to play with and share our observations. We are working with Pamela Young to provide Nimblers with an exclusive offer. Pamela has a free pattern for download on Nimblestix and look to purchase Pick-A-Stitch directly from Nimblestix soon!

Interview: Joelle Burbank, Wandering Wool

Yarnbombed MeterLola and I (Tina) went to Looped Yarn Works in Washington DC to meet up with Joelle Burbank of Wandering Wool. She was teaching a class on hand-painted yarn at the shop where she works one day a week. The rest of the week she spends dyeing beautiful yarn full time.

We got to Looped Yarn Works early for our meet-up with Joelle. If you are reading this piece, then you undoubtedly understand why we would get there early! As we walked up Connecticut Ave., Lola and started to get that familiar twitch of wooly anticipation. Up about a half a block from us, we saw a splash of red color on a short wrought-iron fence. Then there was a red and pink parking meter. You guessed it, there was yarn-bombing ushering us up to the door of Looped!

Looped Yarn Works is a really great yarn shop. It seems to have all the key ingredients necessary for this honor: the people were super friendly and helpful (even to a knitting-newbie there), there was lots of great yarn including from indies, an area for knitting and socializing, and a large classroom space on the floor above. There was an overall great feel to the place.

When we saw happy faces coming into the main shop area holding wet and colorful yarn, we knew Joelle’s class was finishing up. We bolted up the stairs to see her class setup. She was just tidying up the kitchen space when we came in.

The three of us sat down in the large classroom there and chatted for a few minutes.

Joelle BurbankNX: How did you become interested in dyeing?

Joelle: I started knitting with my mom when I was 5, then went back to it in college. I quickly noticed that I was drawn to hand-dyed yarn. As we all know, hand dyed yarn can be expensive and I just thought, “I can do that!” I got a dyeing starter kit and loved all the unexpected results.

NX: Where does your color inspiration come from?

Joelle: Often from nature, I find myself saying “I can make that!” When I see interesting color combinations “I can make that”! I enjoy exploring possibilities. What is particularly fun is when I try something new and get a surprise. However, at the same time, I also want to be able to replicate results. I have an extremely detailed library and I can repeat results quite well.

Most of my dyeing is kettle dyeing rather than hand-paints. The reason for that is that I really like being able to document and repeat my result. I am quite methodical about my dyeing.

NX: Have to ask, Favorite Fiber?

NX: I am definitely a wool person, but alpaca are so cute!

NX: We noticed that though you have lots of yarn in your shop, we don’t see any spinning fiber. Do you spin?

Joelle: The key word here is YET! I am just starting to think about this and it is probably something that I will be adding soon.

NX: Do you take special requests?

Joelle: I do take special requests but it is not something that comes up tons.

NX: So, how many requests have you gotten for something you think is ugly?!

Joelle: Well, what I think is pretty or not, is subject to everyone’s taste of course. There are yarns that aren’t my favorites, but people snap them up. Sometimes though, special requests lead to their own set of surprises, for instance color combinations that I might not have thought of together

NX: Do you vend at fiber festivals?

Joelle: Absolutely I really enjoy meeting people, though festivals are a lot of work. I will be going to the Homespun Party, which is coming up soon, and then there’s Powhatan and the Shenandoah Valley. I also attend the Garden State Sheep Breeder’s and New England Fiber Festival.

NX: Do you notice different buying patterns at a show as compared to your web site?
Joelle: Yes, absolutely. On the site I sell mostly sock or accessory quantities but at a show, people are more willing to get a sweater’s worth of yarn.

NX: Is there anything you are experimenting with right now?

Joelle: yes, actually I have started experimenting with gradient yarns. This has been a challenge. I need to figure out how to do it efficiently, but I am enjoying working on this.

(An off-the-record, super secret conversation ensued about how Joelle, does this, but we aren’t telling!)

Lola, Joelle and TinaJoelle brought me some yarn I purchased off the Wandering Wool website. Unfortunately that, plus the yarn purchased at, ahem, 2 other yarn stores, will have to remain in the custody of Lola since it doesn’t fit in my suitcase. This might be a really bad move when it comes time to retrieve at MDSW time, because it will seem like the haul from the festival is all that much bigger.

You can find Joelle at Wandering Wool and here on Nimblestix.

Traditional Supported Spindles

Thanks to Faina Letoutchaia for kindly giving us permission to repost her thoughts about supported spindles from Nimblestix.

Faina is a spinner and designer, known for her lace patterns such as the Forest Path Stole.  She has also written a book titled “Start to Finish Before You Start”, which covers the process of creating and finishing sweaters.  It can be obtained her online store.

And now, spindles . . .

First, about good Russian and Tibetan spindles. Here are my traditional supported spindles. There are several Russian spindles, hand carved, made in Orenburg, Russia and two Tibetan spindles made by Tabachek. He was the first spindle maker who started making Tibetan spindles after his video Tibetan Handcraft – YouTube made a huge splash on spinning e-mail groups. Back then the quality of  YouTube videos was much lower than now and it was unclear if the spindle had a hook on the top. Now you can clearly see that there is a hook, but back then it was decided that there was no hook, so Tibetan spindles go here without hook. And, my firm belief, supported spindles don’t need any hooks. They are better without hooks, actually.

Faina’s Spindles

As you can see, these spindles have several important points in common: a bottom heavy, unpolished shaft, a very thin point on the top and sharp point on the bottom. These features are all important. A bottom heavy spindle is easier to handle and it a gives longer, more even rotation. On a Tibetan spindle this is made even more so by carving out some of the wood in the whorl part. When the weight of the whorl is distributed more toward the rim, the spindle rotates better. Tibetan spindles are very stable in their behavior. If the spindle’s center of gravity is too high, it makes the spindle unstable in the vertical position and the spindle tends to flip on its side. The shaft of the Russian and Tibetan spindles has a shape of a long cone. It’s important the shaft is not polished.

As you wind new yarn on the shaft, it tends to push up what was wound on before and if there is not enough friction on the shaft you are in for quite a mess. The fine tip of the spindle makes starting the spindle much easier and you give the spindle more rotation speed with one move. You start the spindle by rolling it between the thumb and index finger. How much rotation you can give depends on the length of your thumb and the diameter of the tip – the finer the tip, the faster the spindle will go. And there is one more thing about fine tips, the fiber twists into yarn on the supported spindle by slipping off the tip. On the fat tip the yarn has longer distance to go before slipping off and it means less twists and more friction. More friction means that the spindle stops sooner. The sharp bottom point has its advantages too. And as you can guess, it has to do with friction and rotation. The sharper the point, the less friction, and the easier it is to start the spindle and the longer it rotates.

    
    

The weight of the supported spindle is not as important as the weight of the drop spindle, but don’t go for a spindle that is too heavy. As you put new yarn on the spindle and it gets heavier, it becomes more difficult to start (requires more effort from your hand) and more difficult to handle. My Russian spindles are in the range of 15 to 22 g.  My Tibetan spindles are about 40g each, which is pretty heavy. Don’t go for heavier spindles, if the weight of the spindle is not listed, ask about it before you buy it.

And now a little about bad Russian and Tibetan spindles. The major fault is the polished shaft. It’ll make winding the yarn on the spindle a complete nightmare for you. And remember, you are going to spin very fine, lace weight yarn on these spindles. These yarns are difficult to control. You don’t want a tangled mess on your spindle. Some spindles are very heavy. For a Tibetan spindle it’s OK to be around 40g. For a Russian spindle, that’s too heavy. On some spindles you can see a fancy shaft shape. Paired with high polish, it makes spindles unusable. Fat tips are a frequent fault, better not to invest in such spindle. Also pay attention to the bottom tip. If it’s bunt, don’t buy it. On some Tibetan spindles I now see an inverted bowl shape. I don’t think it’s a good idea. As the spindle rotates, it moves some around the bowl. This wide-on-the-bottom inverted bowl whorl will hit the sides of your support bowl, and spindle will stop rotating too soon.

Of the many spindles I see on the web, Tabachek’s Supported Spindles are still the best, as they were years ago. He doesn’t polish the shafts and he makes good tips and bottom points. His Russian spindles are about 30g.  A couple of words about bowls. You don’t need anything fancy. A glass or ceramic condiment bowl will do the job. Actually, I don’t like wooden bowls – they have too much friction and spindles rotate slower in wooden bowls.

One more kind of supported spindle is Himalayan phang. The good and bad of it is the same as for the Russian and Tibetan spindles. Here is a picture of good phang. Here is a video of a Ladakhi woman spinning with the phang.