Our apologies

Hello, fabulous spinners! As you probably know, we work really hard to bring you what we feel is the best the world of spinning has to offer, from our articles to our fiber choices to the products & services we recommend in the pages of PLY. Since we are human, though, we are susceptible to errors, and it looks like we’ve made one in the winter issue.

In the SCENE section, we recommended the iSpin Toolkit app. Jacey herself has and uses this app regularly and has never had a problem, but a few of you have written to us to say that you purchased it and now it’s not working. If you find yourself in this situation, we recommend you contact the designer, mgolden@mac.com. If you don’t get a response that satisfies you, we’d recommend disputing the charge with your credit card company.

We’re sorry if we’ve caused any of you a hassle because of this recommendation. Unfortunately we couldn’t have foreseen this, but we regret any trouble it may have caused!

Desert Island Spinning: 3 Small Tools

If you were stranded and limited to only three small spinning tools, what would you choose?

What are the tools you can’t live without, at least this week?

I have never grown out of playing ‘what if’ games. It’s just fun and I always want to know what other people would choose.

I will add the caveat that you already have your favorite spinning wheel and all of the fiber you could want. And don’t choose books, we’ll do that one on a different day.

 

 

Here are mine:

  • oil – to keep my wheel happy and humming along.
  • a solar powered scale –  for measuring weight and grist. I can measure inches and yards with parts of my body, so I don’t need a wpi measure or yardage counter.
  • tags – to remember all the yarn and fiber details for me. I have to write everything down.

Your turn, if you were limited to just three small spinning tools what would you choose?

Little Tricks

So, last week I was trying to spin on my Norm Hall Saxony wheel. I love the wheel but I’ve never really been able to spin fine on it. It’s been frustrating. I’m in the midst of trying to get the last bit of weft spun for the skirt project and weather changes and all kinds of other issues made me get out another wheel.

Anyway, I was struggling to get the yarn as fine as it needs to be. The Norm Hall wheels have pretty giant bobbins and big flyers that go along with the bobbins. The ratios are good though so I am able to get a lot of twist easily. 

I know how to spin fine but sometimes I’m too stubborn to put my knowledge in play. I just want the wheel to do all the work. Sometimes that isn’t good enough and so I decided to put my money where my mouth is this time.

First, I changed to a finer drive band. That helped a bit but it wasn’t the solution I was after.

I oiled everything again. Still no luck.

So, I got out my secret weapon. Pipe insulation. 

I’m humming right along now. Why did I make myself suffer for 4 days?

PlyAway registration is open and there are lots of people already registered. One of the classes I’ll be teaching there is how to spin fine yarns. I’m going to go right out on a limb here and tell you that my fine spinning class is a little different than the classes other spinning teachers’ and I happen to know that there are a few more spots still available.

If you sign up, I’ll teach you every one of my fine spinning tricks no matter what wheel you are working with.

How to make a 2,000 year old slipper (part 1)

Today Christina Pappas returns to the blog to walk us through the process of replicating a 2000-year-old slipper!


 

Today we are going to focus on getting to know the slippers for this project. (Have a look at my post from last week to learn more about my replication project.)

Footwear from 2,000 years ago is really different from what most of us wear today. Going barefoot was probably not uncommon, but there were times when you wanted something on your feet. For example, imagine exploring a cave barefoot. How far could you walk barefoot? Probably not very far. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the longest cave system in the world (over 400 miles and counting!) and ancient peoples had explored much of it thousands of years ago. We know they wore slippers because we have found slipper fragments inside the cave.

 

Several of the slippers were excavated from rockshelters in the 1920s and 1930s as a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). These images are from a rockshelter in Lee County in Kentucky that produced three of the slippers. Images courtesy the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology, University of Kentucky.

We also find fragments of slippers in dry rockshelters. Rockshelters are places along rock walls where you can find shelter from the elements – the kind of place you would rest while hiking to get out of the rain. Kentucky has many rockshelters that are dry, and archaeologists have been able to recover perishable artifacts, including slippers, from these kinds of sites.

A twined slipper from a rockshelter in Kentucky.

For the slippers we’re going to make, we have to look at several examples to piece together all the necessary traits. All the slippers we’ll be looking at are in the collection of the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. They are all from archaeological sites in Kentucky, and most from rockshelters. Only a couple of have been radiocarbon dated directly, but all are approximately 2,000 years old (give or take a few hundred years).

All the slippers are made from plant materials. I can see that the fibers are long, and there is a bit of the outer stem left on some fibers. That tells me that these fibers were not subjected to a lot of processing and appear to be bast fibers. Unfortunately, I can’t completely determine what plant fiber was used; I would need to cut samples and examine them with a microscope to be certain. I do know that these are not from milkweed or nettle fiber, since those fibers are finer than what was used in these slippers. The ancient craftspeople who made these slippers used something woody and hard-wearing, quite possibly fiber from the pawpaw.

A (slightly different) twined slipper from a rockshelter in Kentucky. Image courtesy the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology, University of Kentucky.

These slippers are all chevron or countered twined. Twining is one of the oldest textile structures with examples dating to over 40,000 years ago in the Old World. In twining, two yarns twist around a third stationary yarn. You can twist every row in the same direction, or you can alternate the direction of each row to create a pattern as was done in our slippers. Twined slippers are made both ways; chevron twining just happens to be my favorite.

The paired yarns that twist are our wefts, and the stationary yarns are our warps. The weft yarns on all our slippers are singles, with a slight Z-twist of 20-30 degrees. The average diameter is about 0.5 cm (about 0.2 inches). The warps are a bit tricky to see and learn about.

A close-up of the heel of a slipper where you can see the plant fibers and the twining structure.

Slippers had to be durable and hard-wearing, so they were twined very tightly and the wefts covered the warps. In the places where the weft has rubbed away, the warp was also damaged and the original yarn structure is not always clear. What I’ve been able to see is that both plied and unplied yarns were used in the warp. A plied yarn was used for the warps near the edge of the slippers, and unplied yarns were used for the warps in the middle. A plied yarn was also used at the toe of the slipper. It functioned like a drawstring to snug the slipper up around your foot.

Using plied yarns makes sense at the edges and as a drawstring – those are the areas where the slipper would take a good amount of abuse and a plied yarn would stand-up better over time. The plied warp yarns are two Z-spun singles S-twisted together, and the unplied warps are Z-spun singles. The warps average about 0.8 cm (about 0.31 inches) in diameter. The plied yarns average about 1.5 twists/cm and the unplied warp yarns average 0.5 twists/cm. I wasn’t able to get a measurement for the twists/cm for the weft yarns. The dense twining made it difficult to get consistent measurements.

A slipper toe where you can see the drawstring. You can find a drawing of a completed slipper here.

So, what have we learned so far?

I know that my slippers will need to be made out of a ‘harder’ bast fiber. Pawpaw was used prehistorically for slippers, and I know a few farmers who still grow them. My fiber will need minimal processing. I will use chevron twining to weave my slippers. My yarn goals are:

  1. Z-spun single, approximately 0.5 cm thick, 0.5 twists/cm
  2. Z-spun single, approximately 1.0 cm thick, 0.5 twists/cm
  3. 2 Z-spun singles S-plied together, approximately 1.0 cm thick, 1.5 twists/cm

I’m going to have to figure out how to process my fiber, how to spin my yarn, and how to weave my slipper. These are all steps that will be based on what I’ve learned from other fiber artists and early historic descriptions of spinning in the Southeast, not on anything we know for sure from the archaeological record. This is where the real trial-and-error begins!

 

Next time we chat, we’ll get to know the other textiles for this project.


 

Chris Pappas is an archaeologist by day and a fiber fanatic by night who is happiest when she can be both at the same time. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, adorable baby girl, and two crazy beagles.

Following in the steps of a 2,000 year old spinner

We’re so happy to have Christina Pappas back on the blog today, to take us on a journey back in time as she tries to walk in the footsteps of some ancient textile producers.


In my last post, I talked a little about how archaeologists use objects to learn about the distant past:

“You look at a handmade textile and you see not just a pretty object, but the hours at the loom or knitting needles, the fiber drafting at the wheel, the alchemy at the dye pot, even the shepherds with their flocks. You can see all the steps and decisions that went into creating that object, all the places where one path or another was chosen. Archaeologists are constantly trying to trace back those paths, to see those moments when a decision had to be made and why. The whys are how we learn about culture in the distant past. We can look to the past and see when and why spinning one kind of fiber over another was chosen, what changes were happening that led to that decision, and what were the ramifications of that decision….”

All the steps and decisions that go into making something are known as a production sequence. One of the ways we can learn about a production sequence from the past is to actually make the object ourselves; to try to recreate the steps that went into crafting something to understand how that process fits into everyday life.

Harvesting Joe Pye Weed this past September. This was a plant used for fiber in prehistoric Kentucky. These plants are destined to become yarn for my project.

For example, let’s think about a woven wool shirt. What are all the steps to make it? Cutting the fabric and sewing the garment are steps, but we need to look all the way back to the very beginning if we are going to understand the entire production sequence. So we have to think about the sheep, processing the fleece, spinning the yarn, weaving, and then finally cutting and sewing the garment. That’s a lot!

Now, imagine the same process over 1,000 years ago in a Viking settlement. What technology was available to you? What other kinds of chores and activities were going on every day? How would the need to make a wool shirt fit into daily life? By trying to make a wool shirt exactly the way a Viking would have, we can estimate the time and effort needed and get a glimpse into the value placed on this work in their society. Similar experiments and studies into Viking sailcloth have shown how labor-intensive its manufacture was and how valued that process would have been. (Thisthis, and this are just a few examples of these projects.)

 

A slipper form a cave in Kentucky. This will be the slipper we will try to replicate.

At the University of Kentucky, we have a collection of prehistoric textiles from dry caves and rock shelters that are around 2,000 years old. These include fragments of shawls, bags, mats, and slippers. They are in various states of preservation but all are made from plant fibers. I know the structure of the yarns and the types of weaves used to make each object, but I’m not sure how they were made. How were the plants processed into yarn? How was the yarn spun? How easy was it to dye the yarns? How long did it take to weave a bag or make a pair of slippers? We know only a little about the process of making these textiles, but I think I can change that.

 

A fragment of a bag from a Kentucky rockshelter. Complete objects, like bags, are very rare from archaeological sites. We will look at this fragment, as well as a few others, as we make our bag.

Over the next several months, I’m going to try to replicate two different kinds of textiles, a slipper and a small bag. I’m going to start at the very beginning with gathering the plants and how to process them for fiber. I’ll be experimenting with different ways of spinning the fiber and how the yarn I make matches up with the archaeological examples. There will be the weaving of each object and a ‘field test’ to make sure they can function as they are supposed to. In the end, we’ll compare my replicas with the originals and see what we’ve learned. I’m definitely not the first person to try this sort of project with archaeological textiles, and we’ll talk about the projects that have come before me. I’ll be checking in on the PLY blog periodically to document my progress, and I’ll report on both my successes and my failures. This is science folks; I expect there to be some failure along the way.

 

A few examples of yarn and textiles I’ve made to learn about how prehistoric fabrics were constructed.

Next time, we’ll get to know the two objects I’m going to be replicating. We’ll take a look at their yarn and weave structure and make some guesses about what was done to produce each object. That will serve as our roadmap for the whole process. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chris Pappas is an archaeologist by day and a fiber fanatic by night who is happiest when she can be both at the same time. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, adorable baby girl, and two crazy beagles.

My Favorite Way to Get Spinning Done

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Have you watched the Night Manager?

It seems like at the beginning of the new year every spinner I know has the goal of spinning more.

Me included! This year I want to spin 10 new-to-me-dyers and make 12 things for myself (some handspun some not).

I have a favorite trick to get myself to spin more, it works for me every time. I get hooked on a TV show.

More specifically, I get hooked on a TV show and only let myself watch it when I spin.

 

binge tvI am amazed how much I get done because I want to see that next episode (and the one after that).

I just finished watching The Crown (and yarn for a cowl, a hat and another 4 ounces of fiber spun) and I am just starting and am quite taken with Mozart in the Jungle (lots of swatching,yarn for another hat and I’m about to start some lace spinning).

 

How do you trick yourself into spinning more?

Save

Save

Don’t rely on the USPS to forward PLY!

I know, I know, you look at the USPS website and it promises that it will forward your periodicals (magazines) to you, at no cost, for 60 days. But it’s a lie. Or at the very least, it is likely to be a lie. I know that every once in a while they get forwarded but there seems to be no good way to predict which will and which won’t. So, I can’t explain why but I can tell you what is really likely to happen to your magazine when you move and rely on the USPS to forward your PLY Magazine to you. There are 3 different scenarios, each more gruesome than the last.

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The first one is that they take the plastic wrapper (either the whole thing or just snip off your address), write on your new address, put it in an envelope and mail it to PLY with a postage due of .57 (for the mailing of the plastic with your new address).  And then they shred the magazine.

 

 

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The 2nd and slightly more common one is that they print a label with your new address right on top of the plastic wrapper (or stamp “can’t forward”), photocopy the whole thing, mail the photocopy to me with postage due of .57. And then they shred the magazine.

 

 

 

The 3rd and most common is that they open the plastic wrap, tear the cover off the magazine (or sometimes, just the part that says PLY, put both the plastic (either with your new address or with a stamp that says “can’t forward”) and the cover of the magazine in an envelope and mail both to me with postage due of $1.17. And then they shred the rest of the magazine.

 

About a month after we ship each issue I get somewhere between 50 and 200 of these. It breaks my little heart and it keeps you from getting your magazine! And the costs of it all is starting to really add up. If you’re interested, here’s how it breaks down: if we reship it to you, we can’t reship your original mag because the PO has shredded it, so the original printing of the mag – $5, plus the $1 periodical shipping is gone and now it’s another $5 (new issue’s printing cost) plus now that we can’t use periodical postage (that only works for the initial shipping, from the printer), the new shipping cost is $6 because the magazine is so heavy! Plus the postage due for the USPS shipping me the notice that you didn’t get the magazine is either .57 or $1.17. So when you work it out, that one issue costs PLY $11-$12 extra to get it to you, which is exactly or a little more than what each domestic subscription brings in above the cost of the 4 mags (printing and shipping). And since we rely on that $12 from each subscription to pay all the bills and salaries, it’s rough.

Plus, you don’t get your magazine (or you don’t get it in a timely fashion).

Plus, they shred the magazine!

So please please please don’t rely on the USPS, log in to your PLY account on the subscribe page (choose resubscribe or change address) using your (previous) zip code and mag code (on the label of your magazine) or, if you don’t have that, your email and password. If you don’t have either, email us at contact.us@plymagazine.com and we’ll help!

Let’s put an end to senseless shredding together!

Oil That Spinning Wheel

The week before Christmas I went to Jillian’s house to spin with some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. We were all spinning along and soon Jillian stated to struggle with her wheel. I don’t remember exactly what was happening (something about noise I think) but I do remember saying to her, quietly, in my most respectful voice, “oil it”. She said back to me in that way that she does, “I just oiled it!” I smiled at her.

She struggled for a few more minutes and then got out the oil bottle and oiled the appropriate spots. I tried to look natural and not gloaty as her problem was fixed. just a few small drops of oil and 30 seconds.

I’m not saying that oil fixes everything but it is definitely my first step when things begin to go down hill.

This same scenario happens often in classes while I’m teaching. Some people didn’t even realize they needed to oil their spinning wheel at all ever. Then 3 or 4 drops later the whole experience changes for them.

Where?

This is where it can get tricky because it depends on your wheel but I will say this. Every bobbin shaft needs to be oiled. I just put a drop of oil at each end of the bobbin if the bobbin is already on. If I’m changing the bobbin, I wipe the shaft clean and add a thin line of oil along the shaft before I put the bobbin on.

Also a drop of oil where the orifice goes through the front maiden and a drop where the bobbin shaft fits into the rear maiden.

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If you have a wheel with sealed bearings then the wheel hub doesn’t need oil. If it doesn’t then a bit of oil there periodically helps.

Also, once in a while I put a drop of oil where the footmen attach to the crank.

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How Often?

I oil 4 places on the mother of all on my wheel about once every hour to hour and a half of spinning and always right at the beginning of spinning even if the last time was only 15 minutes.

The rest of the places I oil about once per week or so. Sometimes more if I’m spinning a lot – like more than 20 hours in a week.

What to Use

I have two favorites. 30 weight motor oil which is what many wheel manufacturers recommend is the one that is most available. Gun oil is also great to use.

What not to use is sewing machine oil, or 3 in 1 oil. These are too thin, they break down faster resulting in having to oil more frequently. They also aren;t made for the amount of friction you get with a spinning wheel.

Also, I don’t recommend vaseline. It’s super thick and goopy and attracts dirt. The dirt that gets in there is gritty and will break down your spinning wheel parts more quickly.

Why?

Oil because it will help your wheel to last longer and wear better. You wouldn’t drive your car without oil. The oil in your car is there to lubricate all of the parts that are moving against each other. The same with oiling your wheel. There is a lot of friction and sometimes a little heat happens if it isn’t well lubricated.

If you aren’t sure about where to oil your particular wheel, most modern wheels wheels have a manual which you can probably find on line. If it is an older or antique wheel you can feel comfortable just putting oil anywhere there is a moving part.

I promise, you’ll thank me.

 

HansenCrafts introduces a whimsical history of spinning – REVOLUTION!

We are so happy to have the owners of HansenCrafts visit us today, along with Andrea Love who created a prety amazing project for them recently. We’ll let them tell you the story!


We, (Kevin and Beth – HansenCrafts owners) were talking about the history of spinning, and how tiny the present epoch is in the realm of a history some 30,000 years long. We were trying to think of a way to present the evolution of the craft leading to the introduction of the miniSpinner, when we saw a video short by Andrea Love, and BLAM, we decided to produce this story in conjunction with her wonderful use of stop-motion animation.  We thought that it would be great fun to share Revolution with the world… well, at the very least with the world of fiber enthusiasts!

The result is a whimsical view of the timeline of spinning using fiber to create the actors and sets!  It shows (in an entertaining way) where we came from, where we are, and maybe gets us thinking about where we will go to keep the craft of spinning vital and moving ahead.

 Here’s Andrea to tell and show you how she did it…

 My trunk of wool. I included sheep, goat, llama, camel, silk, cotton and grass.

My trunk of wool. I included sheep, goat, llama, camel, silk, cotton and grass.

When Kevin and Beth contacted me about a video, I saw the potential to try something I had been dreaming about for a while- a fully felted animation. I thought of it like claymation, but with wool. Wool-motion? I have been incorporating fiber into my work for the past six years, but I decided it was time to take it to the next level. The Olympic Peninsula is incredibly rich with fiber producers, which gave me a huge array of colors and textures to work with, from unprocessed goat fleeces to dyed and carded blends.

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Egyptians drop spindling by the Nile River.

Having no prior knowledge of handspinning, I conducted a fair amount of research. I scrolled through Pinterest pages, watched videos on YouTube, and consulted books and online articles. I was blown away by all the painted portraits, pictures and videos of women spinning from all over the world. It emboldened me to include not just the spinning implement, but the women, landscapes and cultures as well.

Setting up a panning shot.

Setting up a panning shot.

Once sufficiently inspired by the rich history and tradition of handspinning, I started making scenes. This involved needle felting sets onto sheets of rigid blue foam sometimes upwards of two feet wide. The wire armature puppets were secured to the set using felting needles. The spinning wheels were felted over all sorts of things- wire, toothpicks, cardstock, scotchbrite, foam- anything to give it a stable structure. Kevin and Beth lent me a miniSpinner, so I was able to work in some handspun yarn as well. I enjoyed experimenting with short strands of different diameters and color combinations.

Using the HansenCrafts miniSpinner to wind some thread onto my felted spinning wheel

Using the HansenCrafts miniSpinner to wind some thread onto my felted spinning wheel

I filmed these scenes more or less in sequential order, so you can watch my technique evolve alongside the spinning implement. For the most part, these scenes originated in my imagination, but I did include one direct reference. The introduction of the spinning wheel in China is a felted homage to “The Spinning Wheel” by Wang Juzheng, one of the earliest illustrations of a spinning wheel, dating back to 960-1125 AD.

My felted homage to Wang Juzheng’s scroll “The Spinning Wheel”

My felted homage to Wang Juzheng’s scroll “The Spinning Wheel”

There are 10 unique frames per second, all manually arranged frame by frame. If this seems tedious, it’s because it is! It took me three and a half months to make this. I used the music (an original song by my friend Eric Kuhn) as a guide, determining the rhythm and timing of the piece. It’s fun to imagine this as a music video, with the spinners masterfully playing their instruments. Revolution is very dear to my heart, and I feel like I’ve only just begun on this journey into fiber animation. 2017 is shaping up to be a fiber-full year, and I will be sharing more behind-the-scenes pictures and clips of my current projects through Instagram, as @andreaanimates.

Be sure to check out the full video to see it for yourself: Revolution!


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Andrea Love is a stop-motion animator and fiber artist, living and working out of her home in Port Townsend, WA. Her work can be found at www.andreaanimates.com. Here she is pictured between Kevin and Beth Hansen.