It’s January and around my house that usually means a lot of wool washing is going to happen. I have 8 teaching appointments this year and almost everyone chooses classes that require unprocessed wool. That’s because around 75% of my class list consists of classes that are about processing wool from raw. I love it. I think the yanr you get when you do your own processing is better than the yarn you spin from mill processed stuff – that’s not to say that i Icelandicdon’t spin plenty of mill process wool. It’s like thinking about cakes. The completely home made from scratch cake will always be better than the box mix but that box mix surely has its place on my shelf.

Anyway, when I get to scouring I usually wash about 60 to 80 pounds per week. This year my list has 21 breeds that need a good dunk in the hot water. That will take me about 3 weeks to complete.

Everyone has their favorite method for scouring raw fleece and I thought I’d talk about mine today.

I’ve read every article that has come in my view about scouring and talked to other spinners who love raw fleece and from all of them I developed the method that works best for me and my space. I tried doing the whole fleece in the bath tub and I hated it. I ended up wet from my shoulders to my waist. Plus all that getting down onto the floor made me sad.

I tried it in the washing machine tub but I hated it because at first it was too scary and then it was just too much moving the wet wool in and out of the tub. as the water filled and drained.

I haven’t tried the fermented suint method because I need to get the wool washed now and it takes too long…plus it stinks.

In addition, I have tried most of the wool scouring products plus Dawn and Orvus and found that my favorite is Unicorn Power Scour. One of the main reasons I love it is because there is no need to boil water to get the temperature high enough to melt the lanolin. There is some kind of magic ingredient that makes that not necessary and since I wash wool in my laundry room on the second floor, heating water would make me crazy.

So after all that, what do I do? I have 4 tubs that I use. I got them from the people at Soak. They call the ones I use Phil. You can get them from the Soak website or your local shop that sells Soak products.  These basins hold between 1.5 and 2 pounds of wool depending on the breed and how fluffy it is. That’s why I have 4. If I have a fleece that weighs 8 pounds I can almost always wash the whole thing all at one time. woolwash1

So, I line the basins up using my washer and dryer as a counter top. I have a utility sink next to the washer and I have a cut off garden hose attached to the faucet. This way I can direct the water to the tub that is furthest away without having to move it an extra time. (ignore the messy stuff around the sink, please.)

I turn on the hot water and let it run a bit until it is as hot as it will get. We have our hot water heater set to 120 degrees F. (Unicorn recommends 140 but this temp works for me.) Then I start filling the woolwash5buckets until they are a little over 3/4 full. It seems like a lot when you are going to put the wool in but the wool soaks up some water and often I have to top them off a bit after the wool is in.

But before I add the wool I add the wool wash. The Power Scour works sort of like dye as far as how you determine the amount to use. It is based on the weight of the wool you want to wash. For these basins when I am washing about 2 pounds I add around 2 to 3 tablespoons in the first soak.

When I add the wool I push it down into the water. I have a couple of paint stirrers on the shelf for this purpose.

I soak the wool in the hot water and scour for at least 15 minutes. It’s important to not forget about the wool at this point because if the water cools and the lanolin sets back onto the wool it can be much more difficult to remove.

So, after 15 minutes I take the basin to the sink and dump it out. I squeeze out a bit of the water and refill the basin with hot water. At this point I add half as muchwoolwash4 of the scour to the basin. After all 4 have been emptied and refilled I let them soak for another 15 minutes.

I repeat the process 2 more times but with only clear water. So that’s 2 washes and 2 rinses. After the last soak the water may not be clear. There may still be some dirt showing but I don’t worry about it. There are several more opportunities to get the last bit of dirt out.

At this point when i dump out the basin in the sink, I transfer the wool into lingerie bags. I woolwash6used to just squeeze out as much water as I could and then roll the wool in towels but I like to spin it out in the washer now. It gets out more water and I don’t have as many sopping wet towels  laying around.

One bag will hold all of the wool from one basin.

I let it go through the whole spin cycle. Make sure that your washer doesn’t spray water  during the spin. If it does, you can turn off the water going to the washer during this part.

And finally I take the wool to the drying racks.woolwash These are just sweater drying racks that are stackable. I have several of them and if I run out of space i move to the floor. I wash wool until there is no more space and then I may need to take a a day or off while the fleeces dry and some space is available. I make sure to write the breed on a card and place it next to the wool. Sometimes if you have several white fleeces drying next to each other it can be a little confusing so the labels are important.

All of this takes about 90 minutes from start to finish and I feel pretty accomplished.

Do yu have any special things you do to wash your fleece?

If you are interested in playing with the fleeces i’m scouring now, come and see me in Boulder Colorado! I’ll be ther in February. Here’s the link for registration.

Use Your Yarn

I teach a lot of classes and I am always surprised at how many spinners I meet who don’t use their handspun yarns for projects. They give me lots of reasons for it. (1) They don’t think they have enough yarn for a project or (2) they don’t have enough matching skeins or (3) they think their yarn is crappy or (4) they don’t really know how to use it or (5) they sell it.

I have answers for all of this and I hope if you are a person who doesn’t use their hand spun yarn that I can help you change your mind. Let’s go through the reasons one at a time.

Number 1: Not enough yarn for a project. 2015-11-29 12.06.07

For this problem, if you are a knitter or crocheter, I love Ravelry. If you go to the Patterns section you can search based on yarn size and yardage for projects and you would be amazed at how many projects there are available for small amounts of yarn. I just finished this Lucky Cowl  designed by Amy King with a teeny tiny skein.


Number 2: Not enough Matching Skeins


It’s funny how we all have some kind of color scheme that we stick to when we buy fiber. what that means is that most of your fiber will coordinate. It doesn’t need to matche exactly to make a project. In addition, this shawl was made with 3 different thicknesses of yarn. and it worked and it’s warm and I love it. This shawl was made using the Knitting Lace Triangle Shawls book by Evelyn Clark


Number 3: The Yarn isn’t Good EnoughIMG_20140128_164238

This is a terrible excuse! Here’s the great thing about using your yarn – The lumps get hidden in the fabric or make a nice texture. See the yarn on the right? It’s Columbia, three ply, spun with a long draw which is less consistent than short draw. It also is a roving that has a lot of neps in it so that adds to the texture. I used it for the Hiro hiroSweater which was designed by Julia Farwell Clay. But check ouot the finished sweater! All of those lumps disappear!

I wear this sweater all the time! You can even see the dirt stains in this photo because I don’t want to take it off long enough to clean it. I love it so much I’m thinking of making another one. Probably with lumpy yarn, too.columbiaskirt

I used the same fiber for a weaving project I’m working on. I made the yarn a bit thinner but it still is not very consistent but I made a beautiful skirt from the woven fabric! (Ignore maggie’s messy room behind me.)


Number 4: Not Sure What to Do With It

This is where sampling or trying things or just swatching comes in. Maybe you need a beginning knitting/crochet/weaving lesson. Maybe you need to find a group of people who are also interested in yarn. Maybe you should pick out a project from a Ply Magazine issue and work on it.Most of us are spinning smooth yarns and the magazine reflects that but there are plenty of articles, the current issue and a couple of issues coming up that will inspire those of you who love textured yarns.

Number 5: Sell The Yarn

Here is where I will climb atop my very tall soap box. And these words go for even those who don’t sell their yarn but aren’t using it. How can you know how to improve your yarn if it isn’t being used in any projects or swatches? How do you know that it even works as intended? Please, please, please! Use your yarn. See how it acts in the fabric. See if it softens or gets more firm. check if the plying is too tight or too loose. Make sure it doesn’t fall apart or begin to pill before the skein is even used up. These things will make you a better spinner.

If you don’t know how to weave/knit/crochet, ask a friend to try some out and give you feedback. You can always use these samples and swatches to help sell future yarns.

Yarn is not a finished object.

What are you working on with your handspun yarn? Let me know!

And the Winner Is!

Thank you so much for all of you who took the time to review the Texture Issue of Ply. The winner of the batts is Christina Bowers!



PLY Registration Rocked!

As the clocks clicked over to 10:00, everything went live.

I was nervous that I was throwing a party that nobody would come to (highschool was a tough time for everyone, right?) but at 10:01 we had 2 orders! The guides worked! Those first 2 spinners went through there like the wind! Or like somebody posted on Ravelry, like silk.

By 10:11 we were 48 registrants deep and Stephenie’s 2-dayer was sold out! By 10:20 Deb’s 2-dayer was gone too! Over the next hour over 110 spinners zipped through registration and by the end of the day we topped out at 150 spinners, most with full schedules.

Here’s how it shook out:

All the 2-day classes are sold out except for Coleen Nimetz’s Silk, the temptress unraveled, which is dangerously close to being sold out too! If you want this class, hurry, Coleen is amazing! I had her as my 1st year teacher in the Master Spinning program and she knows lots of secret things about silk!

There’s a bit more space in the 1-day Friday classes. Jillian’s Cheaper by the dozen class is long gone and it’s soon to be followed by Esther’s Wild Fibers class and Amy’s Sock it to me, both of which should be awesome and lots of fun.

The other 2, Illegal yarns and Technically Twisted both promise to be great but very different. Illegal Yarns is taught by the great Patsy Sue Zawistoski and she’s got such a brain in her head that I just want to walk behind her all day and hope some leaks out onto me. It’d be gross but probably worth it. Her class should be super fun and teach you how to break all those rules you want to break but are afraid to. Technically Twisted with Michelle is going to blow your mind! Michelle is the lead teacher for the Master Spinning Program and girlfriend can spin! She’s cutting her teaching down some after this so get in this class if you can! You’ll learn a ton, I can promise you that! If you can’t get in the 1-day, any half day with her would be worth your while!

The half day classes are a mixed bag. Many sold out right away (but some have other time slots available) and lots are on the brink. The totally gone ones are Deb’s and Jillian’s but Beth’s Going Steady which I may sneak into, is almost there as are all of Abby’s spindle classes and most of Amy King’s classes. Amy Tyler’s variations on long and short draw classes are also pretty full.

Ones that should be sold out but are only half full:

Silk Tasting: all the silk! Testing, trying, learning from a silk master! Seriously, I can’t believe there is any space! Did you read her silk articles in the Silk issue? Amazing!

Twist and Twine: If you have space for one more class, take this! Chris is so fantastic, you love her articles, she’s better in person!

Maximize your minis: I’m not as good at fiber prep as I should be so don’t be surprised if I totally crash Michelle’s classes! She knows so much.

Twist for Grist: If you want to know how to adjust the size and feel of your yarn, get in here! Michelle is great with twist and grist and again, she just knows a ton about spinning.

Wild Combing: It’s Esther, come on, the queen of texture!

There are a lot of great classes gone but there are still some gems to be had. I scheduled each of these classes/teachers based on how great I knew they would be, the things that I want to learn, and the people I want to learn them from. It’s going to be amazing no matter what classes you get! If you want to come, here’s the reg page!

And to those spinners that made yesterday such a success, thank you so much! And Jessica, man alive, you were outstanding!

A Little More About Consistency

Last month I talked about consistency and gave you a couple of my favorite tips but I left out the one thing I do at the start of every project. I make a sample card.

I know that lots of people love those spinner’s control cards with the diffeerent line thicknesses to compare your yarn to.  I have a couple of those laying around but I find I am more consistent over the whole project if I make my own and it only takes a minute.


I find it easier to compare the singles this way. My eye can see it easier and I spend less time trying to figure out if IColumbiasamplesmall am remembering the correct line or if the yarn was slightly inside the line or not. Check out my card. This is the card I used for the columbia yarn I am using for the skirt I made on my floor loom and the one that is currently being woven on my rigid heddle loom. So that’s about 10,000 yards of 2 ply that I needed to spin. Obviously, consistency of yarn was pretty important. And it all was spun using this lowly card as a reference.

This particular card is done on a blank index card. I also use those large shipping tags which are easy to attach to my wheel if I have a long term project happening.

It’s pretty simple. I take the singles and wrap them around the card several times. I just tie the ends together on the back. You can tape them but tape doesn’t necessarily staty stuck forever. This is my reference during the spinning of the singles.

I punch 2 holes in the card and make a ply back sample that is 2 ply and 3 ply. These are my references for a balanced ply. I don’t always match this exactly but it is my starting point. If I want a more drapey yarn I may put less twist and if I want a sturdier yarn or a more elastic yarn I might add more twist than the balanced angle. But I always have this reference of fresh twist as my refernce.

I make both a two ply and a 3 ply sample regardless of what my plan is for the yarn because I save some of these cards for future reference so I can avoid all of the sampling that happened before the start of the project. I have a lot of these cards.

On the card I write the kind of fiber and the preparation – this card should say roving corriedale1but I neglected to write that. I write the spinning method and often I will add the rhythm I’m using like 12 inch draft to 5 treadles. Again, I didn’t write that here but let me give you a photo of a card I did the right way. This Corriedale project card has all of the information I need to reproduce this yarn. Often I attach it to the swatch or sample I made with the yarn to make sure the yarn would work. All of these samples go into a bag with that breed so I can find them later.

I hope this extra little tip has helped. It’s so easy and has made a huge difference in my spinning projects that require more than 4 ounces of yarn.




I love a smooth, consistent yarn. I do. I love how that kind of yarn feels and drapes. I love to spin them too. I love the rhythm of it.

I’ve spent almost my entire spinning career working toward getting my yarns to be more consistent and learning what helps to make that happen. The great thing about all of that focus is that learning those things has helped me to be able to have the control I need to make almost any yarn that I try.

Every spinning skill that we learn transfers to so many other techniques.

So, let me give you two tips for how to be more consistent in your spinning.

Tip number one: When you are drafting using a short forward draw, draw out only about one half of the staple length for each draft. This will improve things almost immediately if you are sturggling with consistency. Do that with every draft and your yarn will improve.

Tip number two: get your hands and feet into a rhythm. This works with both woolen and worsted spinning. For example, say you are treadling at about the tempo of a waltz. 1,2,3 and 1,2,3. Now draft in the same rhythm. Draft, slide, hold and draft, slide hold. Often inconsistencies in yarn can come from inconsistencies in twist so if you can get your hands and feet to work together the twist will be pretty consistent over the whole bobbin.

If you are interested in knowing all of my tips for consistent yarn, I have a new video that was just released yesterday that’s called Spinning to Get Even. It’s from Interweave and is available as a DVD or a download. 


Proper Chairs

Don’t ask me about what chair to sit in when you spin. Don’t ask me about posture. I got nuthin’.

I will say that when you are learning to spin it is important to sit in a chair that is a height that allows you to reach the treadles. I think one with a back is nice.

I have always been a comfortable chair spinner. I sat on the couch when I was learning but at home I have a rocking recliner that I sit in.
20150903_135707 - Copy


Sometimes I like a little stool off to the side so I can prop one foot up. The arm on this chair is just about right at my elbow so when i’m doing long draw I can prop my elbow and just move my fore arn back and forth. It’s very comfortable.

But last weekend I went to spin at Jillian‘s house and I sat in the spot I usually spin in. I like that spot. There is a table on my right side just like at home. I can put my cup there and it’s very comfortable.  One thing I noticed this time (and maybe it’s because I’ve been spinning so much lately) is that the arm on Jillian’s couch is much higher than the arm on my chair at home.20150830_102219_002 - Copy

Seriously, it’s like armpit height. That means I had to adjust my spinning technique. Instead of holding my arm at a 90 degree angle like at home, I held it straight out. See? I still found a way to use the arm rest and make myself comfortable.

I’m not saying that certain chairs don’t work better for different wheels. My Norm Hall Castle wheel has treadles that are a bit higher off the floor than the Schachts and it is a bit more heavy feeling to treadle and so I need a chair that is a tiny bit higher. That calls for Lou’s (Mr Beth) recliner with a pillow behind my back. It works great.

All I’m saying is get comfy when you spin. Try out all the chairs and try different sitting positions. And if you are very comfortable and your one foot is propped up and you are too far away to move the thread to a new hook, get your kid to do it, or teach your dog to do it. Not sure if the cat will, though.


Thin? It’s All Relative

Moreno Big Yarn 1 sm Our latest issue of PLY is all about spinning thin yarn. When I think about thin yarn I think about that finer-than-fine yarn, that’s really thread, some spinners can spin.

I say some spinners because so far I’m not one of them.


As I read through this issue I realized that thin is relative. I usually like to spin fattish yarn, aran weight or worsted so my particular thin is a 2-ply fingering weight yarn. One person’s thin isn’t another person’s thin and it doesn’t have to be. I’m happy with that. All of the knitting I’m doing lately is for fingering to aran weight yarn, so my thin-for-me yarn is perfect.

I’m sure I could spin finer if I had a burning desire or a particular project where I want to use a finer yarn. Actually, there may be finer yarn for me in the near future because my current fingering weight yarn isn’t quite fine enough for the stitching I’m getting more and more excited about.

ply blog fine

How fine will I go?


It’s a Process

Last week Jillian spoke beautifully about rejection. She said it all perfectly. I agree with every feeling.

Today I thought I’d talk about my process of writing an article after the joyous news comes that my article idea has been accepted. This is the way I go about things and I happen to know that Jillian’s process is completely different than mine so ask her to tell you how she works.

OK, so when I submit an article idea for consideration I have an idea about how the yarns will look if I use a certain spinning method and I often want to talk about the technical details about how to get to the final yarn. That’s usually all I know and more often than not, I don’t have samples to back my words up.

When I write I need to have the yarn and swatches sitting right next to me so I can feel them in my hands. If I get stuck I pick up the samples and sniff them, hug them, feel them, rub them, anything that will get a littel spark going.

What that means is that all or most of my samples need to be spun before I start writing. What that also means is that I need to have a pretty good idea of what I want to show. I’m not great at writing detailed outlines. So for articles I usually just have a short paragraph that I’ve written to give me some idea of where I’m heading and then I choose fibers and spinning techniques that will get me there.

For example, the article in the Leicesters issue, I knew that I was limited to the three Leicesters and my article was about spinning for softness. Of course I wanted to choose the most coarse Leicester to demonstrate what I do so English Leicester was the choice (aka Leicester Longwool, or Dishley Leicester)

After I choose the fiber then I choose the wheel that will do what I want most easily. Often that is my Schacht Matchless. I can treadle pretty slowly and count treadles or whatever I have to do to make the yarn exactly what I want on that wheel. My other wheels have much larger drivewheels and I usually choose one of them when I want to get the work done fast and I don’t have to slow down so I can describe the process later.

This was actually the same process I used for writing my book. I had an outline which really was just a list of chapters. I wrote the breeds I wanted to use for each chapter under each heading and started spinning. Spinning for that project took about 6 months with 6 months of writing following the spinning. But having all of the samples right near me for inspiration was the greates thting I could have done for myself.

Right now I’m almost finished writing an article for the Singles Issue of Ply that’s coming up. It’s due in 5 days. I think I can make it because I have my samples.

2015-06-25 08.59.05

Studio Time

Sometimes I call my work room at home my studio. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I was in an actual recording studio with cameras and stuff!

I recorded two vidoes. One called Spin Thin all abut how to spin fine yarns and the other is Getting Even, all about spinning more consistently. It was scary and fun all at the same time.

Plus I had professional makeup with EYELASHES!



I took a lot of stuff.




There were plenty of samples.

2015-05-13 14.02.35 2015-05-13 09.39.14


I was really nervous but I pushed through it.

2015-05-13 13.19.59 2015-05-13 13.35.38 2015-05-13 10.07.29


The camera guys were awesome. And funny.

2015-05-13 09.21.05 2015-05-13 13.20.16


And then it was all over.

2015-05-13 13.39.47

The videos are being produced by Interweave and will be out in July and August of this year if all goes according to plan. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when they are ready.