Reader Feature: Ruth Venables

words and photos by Ruth Venables

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started spinning. My mother and grandmother always encouraged me to be creative, and I really enjoyed visiting craft shows with them growing up. I was lucky that my primary school had some great volunteers who came in each week to teach us art and craft, and this is where I discovered weaving and then spinning, which was demonstrated for us to learn where yarn came from. My mum made me a drop spindle, and one of the school volunteers agreed to give me a few lessons on her wheel, and that’s where my love of spinning really began. I joined a local group and got my first wheel (an Ashford Traveller) soon after.

Rainbow through the clouds fibre club yarn, wheel spun and chain plied

Do you have a favorite type of yarn to spin? At the moment, my standard yarn seems to be a sport weight 2 ply; I’ve been really focusing on creating smooth and consistent yarns to knit a sweater, but I’ve also been spinning lace and thread weight on my Turkish spindle. I’d like to have a go at creating art yarns next.

Wheel spun yarn for a fade sweater

What do you like to make with your handspun yarn? I love a good scarf or shawl knitted in handspun yarn; now the weather is cooler I really look forward to choosing one to wear because it makes me so happy to be wearing something I’ve made! I’ve also been using my handspun yarns for weaving on my knitter’s loom to create scarves and cloth I can cut for jackets.

How long have you been reading PLY? I’ve been reading PLY since the very first issue. I was so pleased to find a spinning magazine that was colourful and relevant for the modern spinner. Before I read PLY, I had been led to believe that handspun yarn had to be woollen, 2-ply, and never, ever forward drafted. Imagine how my eyes were opened!

What do you look forward to most when you get an issue? I love to find a quiet moment and sit down with a cup of tea when I open my issue of PLY. My favourite articles are about techniques as I always find there’s something new to learn and I also love reading the reviews of wheels, spindles, and equipment. Although I sometimes find the articles quite technical, it really deepens my understanding and I’m a better spinner because of it.

Turkish spindle in yarn bowl

Tell us about a project you worked on that was inspired by an article, project, or issue of PLY. I was really excited to read the support spindle issue as this is a new technique I’ve learned this year. I have used a drop spindle since I learned to spin, and last year I bought a Turkish spindle to add to my flock. This was soon joined by a support spindle, and I figured that if I could spin on a drop spindle it would be easy to transition. I watched a couple of videos and read an e-book and could spin quite smoothly, but I was finding it hard work; I could control the spindle, but the fibre and yarn was unruly – maybe it wasn’t for me?

My first batt and singles on my support spindle

When I swapped to a support spindle, I presumed that I would use my normal fibres, straight from the braid like I would for spinning at my wheel, but after reading PLY I could see where I was making mistakes, and I realised I needed to make some changes and start over. I changed my fibre straight away and reached for 100% alpaca; I would never consider using this with my wheel as it’s so fine, but it seemed it was made for the gentle art of support spindling.

I also read with amusement that I had been holding my fibre supply incorrectly and needed a lighter, more lady-like hold, so I carded an airy rolag and followed the photos and directions – suddenly I could spin on my support spindle without a death grip on either the fibre or the spindle and the yarn was flowing beautifully! My support spindle is now my friend, and we spend many happy evenings together spinning superfine fibres into yarn.

Support spindle singles Andean plied on my Turkish spindle
Support spindle woollen-spun alpaca (pink) and Jacob wool (orange)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the PLY blog readers? Try different fibres. In general, I’m a wool or wool blend spinner, but I’ve spun some wonderful yarns on my support spindle by using finer fibres that I wouldn’t normally consider. I’ve become a better spinner by adventuring outside my comfort zone!

You can find Ruth on Ravelry as Ruthietoothie.

If you’d like to participate in an upcoming reader feature, fill out the reader feature form and Karen will contact you.

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