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!

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I took a lot of stuff.

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There were plenty of samples.

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I was really nervous but I pushed through it.

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The camera guys were awesome. And funny.

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And then it was all over.

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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.

Bobbins

I’ve been spinning a lot lately. Sometimes there are so many deadlines for writing that the spinning kind of gets pushed to the back but other times I need samples and things for articles as well as classes and I also get sad that my personal projects are being neglected and so i spin and spin and spin for hours every day.

This amount of spinning has gotten me thinking about bobbins. 2015-01-29 12.59.52

I started a project on my Norm Hall Wheel. I have 6 bobbins for that wheel but 4 of them are full with the yarn for the personal project. I have been spinning samples on my Matchless. I have about 18 bobbins for that wheel I think but usually only about 4 of them don’t have yarn. There’s another personal project in process on the Schacht Reeves. I only have 4 bobbins for that wheel and 3 are currently full.

As you can see, no matter how many bobbins you have for a particular wheel, it never seems to be enough for me.

Bobbins can be pricey. so what’s a spinner to do? Storage bobbins!

For storage of singles that I have spun for a project but I’m not ready to ply yet I like to use a couple of different types of bobbins for storage. There are 6 inch weaving bobbins that are great for finer yarns. They look small but you will be surprised at how much yardage can fit on one bobbin. Also, I like the cardboard bobbins that weavers use for warping. They are very cheap – less than $2.00 each – and can be reused.

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Now using these bobbins for storage may bring up an issue about how best to wind the yarn from the spinning wheel bobbin onto the storage bobbin. If you are a weaver, you probably already have a winding tool for weaving bobbins and this will work just great whether it is electric or hand cranked. Another option is an electric drill with a dowel put in where the bit goes. Then you put the storage bobbin onto the end. If the bobbin opening is too big, just use some wool and jam the bobbin on tightly.

I choose to use other bobbins as storage rather than winding the yarn from the bobbin by hand into a ball because it’s faster and also because I can put my storage bobbin right onto my kate for plying.

If you do choose to wind into a ball, make sure you wind from the side of the bobbin and not over the end as this can change the amount of twist in the yarn and mess up any calculations or work you have put into planning.

What do you do about bobbin storage?

In With the New

…But not out with the old.

I love lace and it’s not a secret to anyone who knows me. When I was a kid, my mom made custom wedding dresses and we lived near Philadelphia so I would travel with her to the fabric district in Philly whenever she neede to by fabric for the next wedding. I would get sucked into the room with all of the laces. From all over the world. Some hand embroidered, some beaded, some that cost hundreds of dollars per yard. I had a hard time not toouching them and I got in trouble a lot.

When I learned to knit, one of the first things I tried was lace after I had the basics down. But bobbin lace has been calling my name for years. I love the pillows and the bobbins and the very fine thread and oh how I wanted to try it. But I was a little afraid that it would be too much for me. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough.

Well, last fall Jillian – you all know her, right? – told me to just go for it. And she bugged me until I found a teacher. I was able to find someone a little less than an hour away. I got myself a pillow (not the fancy one I really want) and a few bobbins and I’ve been going for it.

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This is the last project I worked on.

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It’s not perfect butI can’t believe I can do it!

I have big plans for spinning for bobbin lace next. A fine, smooth, tightly plied thread. And because I am me, I will try it with a soft Romney and Blue Faced Leicester and maybe Polwarth and see how the laces differ from each other.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Buying Things

In the Ply Ravelry group in the thread about what people would like to see in Ply, there has a been a bit of discussion going on about the stealth reviews. Some people are happy with them, and some people would like to see more about the downsides of the products being reviewed. It’s a fine line and I think Jacey did a good job of answering concerns and explaining that’s going on. You can check it out here: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/ply-magazine/2611174/201-225#201

It got me to thinking more than usual about buying fiber tools and how to go about it. Since I owned a fiber shop I have thought about this question a lot but in the last year or so I’ve not been so invested in it for other people. But here I am, back again to thinking hard about the whole topic.

Here’s what I see happening. Somebody wants to buy a new thing. There are several makers of this thing and so it’s hard to decide which one to invest in. Fiber tools seem expensive and so this somebody doesn’t want to get it wrong. So they go to Ravelry/Facebook/Twitter/G+ and say, “I’m looking to buy a thing. Which thing do you recommend?” Then the spinner gets 1 million replies with all of the people saying that the thing that they own is the very best and all the other things are poorly made/don’t work/are stupid. Now the spinner is even more confused. What to do?!

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Here’s my advice, since not everybody has a spinning shop within a couple of hours of their home where they can try things.

First, if you have a guild, take advantage of it. Ask people there if you can touch the tools they are using to see if they feel comfortable to you. If it’s a spinning wheel, it is not difficult to try the wheel with your own fiber and then take off the length that you spun even if they are in the middle of a bobbin. Most spinners are very happy to help.

If you don’t have a guild and you feel like you are out there on your own, chances are you aren’t – you just haven’t found the people yet, go with your gut. Don’t buy the cheapest thing but buy the best you can afford.

Here’s how this discussion goes in almost every class I teach.

Student: “Really? $75 for hand cards!?”

Me: “yep, that’s what they cost.”

Student: “Can’t I just use a dog brush?”

Me: “yes you can. But the tines aren’t as strong and you will be replacing them often and they cost $10 so once you replace them seven times over 7  years you will have paid the price for hand cards which will last more than 20 years at least. $70 over 20 years works out to $3.50 per year which is way cheaper than dog brushes over time.”

That’s how I feel about almost every spinning tool. Yes, the initial expense feels high but buying the right tool for the job will work better and the tool will last for almost your whole fiber life.

So, now, what if you buy a tool that’s not working for you? Well, there is a giant market for second hand tools. you won’t get what you paid for it but it will be close. Chalk this up to a learning experience. it’s like paying for a class. Now you know. Sell the thing and get a different one. There is somebody out there that will love it.

Also, when you are asking for opinions, be sure to talk to people who have tried more than one kind of thing. So many people will tell you that they just love their xbrand thingamajig and you should ahve one too when they’ve never even touched a different brand. And when people have a negative opinion about a thing, ask them why. It may be because the handle didn’t fit their small hand and you have a bigger hand so it won’t be an issue.

See? Easy.

Or you could just ask me. I have lots of opinions and they are all right.

 

Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. I love that it’s the beginning of the Holiday season. So many people celebrate so many things during this part of the year and it’s all great fun. I love that my family gets together most years – except for my one very far away sister who we always miss. I love all the food and I love that I can pretend that I am not constantly concerned about what I’m eating. I love that I can start decorating for Christmas and I love that my mom has taught me how to do it right. (She has 12 trees in her house this year) Here are the three I could see while standing in one spot.

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Anyway, just like many of you, I start to think about all the things I’m thankful for and this year I am thankful for my job. I’m thankful that I’m in a position that I can pursue this crazy life. I mean, for what other career could I dress up and go pet a sheep?

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And I’m thankful for the friends that I’ve made while working. I’ll just name 2 here but there are so many others.

meandjacey Jacey Boggs! Fantastic teacher, wonderful writer and owner of this magazine that I love so much.

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And Jillian Moreno who is also an extraordinary teacher, the kind of writer that makes you laugh and learn at the same time and a person who always is pushing me to be better.

Aren’t they pretty?

Ask me about all the other ones too. I could go on and on. But right now I need to go eat some pie.

Spinning, Stitching and Sampling

Anyone who has talked to me or spent any time with me in the past year knows I’m a little nuts for hand stitching right now. I started embroidering samplers and clothing that I wear. My stitching love quickly turned into, “what if I spun my own yarn/thread to stitch?” and boy, oh, boy have I been sampling stitching yarns.

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Spinning for stitching

I’ve been spending my time spinning fine and finer, experimenting with different fibers, different twists, manipulating color and stitching with it all.

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Sample it

Here are four small stitch samplers done in four different wools, with two different ply twists each. I love how different each fiber is. I liked the Shetland as an around fiber, the Wensleydale was especially beautiful with extra twist and the alpaca was the biggest surprise to me – easy to stitch with and really lovely in both twists.

 

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Top left: Shetland, top right: BFL; bottom left: Wensleydale, bottom right: alpaca

The two different ply twists I used were balanced or just under and more than balanced – sock-twist tight and more. The looser twist was better for filling stitches or any stitch I want to spread out or look soft. The extra twisty twist was better for outline stitches and any stitch I want to stand up, like for lettering. Here’s a satin stitch example with Shetland, left is balanced and right is more twist. See how the balanced ply twist yarn spreads out and fills the circle softly and the tighter twist is all about crispy lines?

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Shetland satin stitch – softly twisted, left and tightly twisted, right.

This is just scratching the surface of the spinning and stitching I’ve done. I’m afraid I may have passed on my new passion to a few other spinners in my Beginning Spinning for Stitching class last weekend at the Intrepid Spinner Retreat.

My Rhinebeck

I want to tell you a secret. It’s not a scary secret but I haven’t said it much to anyone, so I’m telling YOU. It’s this: I’m jealous of all of the people who got to go to Rhinebeck AKA The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.

I know what you are thinking. You are sure I was there. You saw me in photos or you saw my name on the workshop instructors list or you heard me talking about getting ready to go.

I was technically there. It’s true. But here’s the sad part of my story. I didn’t even see one sheep. Not one! I don’t even have very many photos because they all would have looked very similar to this one:

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I also saw the inside of the bathroom but that doesn’t make a very interesting picture at all.

Here is the plus side. I got to meet a lot of amazing people who were my students. New ones this year and some who had been in my classes before. Also, I spent very little money. (We aren’t counting the fleeces I bought because most of those are for more class materials.) Also, I had dinner with Jacey and Abby and Esther A LOT! And I got to meet Jackie Graf who is a most awesome dyer and Tove Skolseg who also loves to buy wool and is from Norway.

Spinning friends!

Spinning friends!

So, no, I have no sheep photos, nope, not even one lovely leaf color picture. Didn’t even make it up the hill to see what was for sale. but I made some new friends, taught some lovely people what I know about spinning and wool preparation and signed a lot of books!

So back to the beginning. I’m jealous of some people’s Rhinebeck experiences but I don’t think I would trade mine.

Here is my favorite photo of the weekend though. It’s Lauren. And if you ever see her, tell her I said hi.

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Spinzilla team roster: Kimberley Burnette-Dean, aka Spinnlady!

kimberlyName: Kimberly Burnette-Dean

Spinning nickname: Spinnlady

Years spinning: almost 26 years

Location: Virginia

Spinning tool of choice for spinzilla: Kromski Minstrel  for spinning, Country Craftsman for plying.

Favorite weight of yarn: DK/heavy fingering

Favorite fiber for fast spinning: mill prepared loose roving OR some of my hand-pulled roving

Favorite treat to eat while spinning:  Eat?  Who has time to eat during Spinzilla?

Project you’ll be spinning for: WAIT!  Project?  I’m supposed to have a project in mind when spinning?!

Personal Spinzilla goal: To spin AT LEAST 7,000 yards and hopefully much more!

I confess. I am a serial crafter/hobbyist.  I become obsessed with a particular craft/hobby, quilting for instance. Buy everything I need for it, well, maybe some things that I don’t need too, and obsessively work on it for several years, then I move onto the next craft or hobby.  So far:  quilting, spinning, weaving, natural dyeing, rug hooking, embroidery, cross stitch, knitting, crocheting, tatting, dulcimer playing, gardening, herbs, sewing, 19th century Reenacting . . . And the list goes on!  This may explain why my office/craft room and my basement look like a huge yard sale in progress. I do cycle through my various hobbies/crafts, so I don’t just do them one time!

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PLY like an eagle

 

Spinzilla invited me to be part of their 2015 blog tour.  I was assigned the topic of plying and if there’s anything I know, it’s plying.  I’ve plied even, I’ve plied off-tensioned, I’ve plied with a push up and a squiggle, I’ve plied the same yarn this way and that way and over and over.  I used to devote one workday a week to experimental plying. Once I plied a yarn 6 times, just to see what would happen.

Yep, it’s no secret that I’ve made my career off of plying, from the beginning to now and into the foreseeable future.  My first years selling yarn, teaching and writing were based on plying.  Man alive did I love spinning coils.  It’s all I wanted to do for a while.  Did I ever tell you how I learned?  It was way back before etsy and ravelry.  People were still using LJ (live journal) and I happened upon a photo of a yarn by Adrian Bazilia.  I’d been spinning straight and sturdy yarn for 2 years and here was this poppy, fun yarn that sung to my spinning soul.  I e-mailed her and asked her how she accomplished such a feat.  She (gracefully, for I was a complete stranger asking her to write a tutorial for me when she’d rather be spinning, canning, and dying fiber) sent me a quick run down of the steps needed to coil .*

plycoilscover1The first 5 years of my spinning career was all about plying.  I supported a family of 3 and then 4 with what Esther Rodgers now calls “wild-plied yarns” but what I called “textured spinning” in an attempt to escape the moniker “art yarn”.  I spun 6 hours a day 5 days a week and we scraped by. I mean, seriously scraped by. Of course, Sit and Spin came and went and then articles for Spin Off (and my first cover!).  Thank goodness for Spin Off!  I really feel like it was due to that long-running magazine that current-day textured spinning got legitimatized in the eyes of the larger spinning community.  And then Spin Art.  All the while, my adventures with plying stayed the course.

For me, for a long while, plying was about texture and balance.  I was really concerned with balance.  I remember telling the Yarn Harlot once, on a shuttle to Madrona, that I felt like everything I spun must be balanced.  She asked me why I hated singles so much and I replied that it wasn’t that I hated singles, it’s that I felt like the yarns I was spinning, teaching, basing my career on, were assumed by many to be novelty, unbalance-able, unworkable, and to be taken seriously I needed to show everyone that everything that came off my wheel could hang perfectly straight and was never tension-set.  She told me that was silly.  She also told me that wearing a sweater the first hour of class until everyone realized I was nice before I took it off and revealed my tattoo-covered arms, was silly too.

She was right on both accounts.

Just like it took me years to find comfort in spinning longdraw, it took me a long time to understand the subtlety of plying.  Back before the Yarn Harlot took me to task for not giving fiber people enough credit, both as spinners and as people, I  didn’t realize that different yarns required different plying (outside of textured techniques, of course). I was long into spinning before I knew very much.  Here’s a few things I’ve picked up about plying:

Yarn shouldn’t come off bobbin hanging straight and limp. I used to feel such a swell of pride taking my yarn off my bobbin seeing no twist in the skein. Limp and flaccid, bah. That’s not how we want our yarns! Give it some life!  Let that baby have a bit more twist. You want it coming off the bobbin with a twist or 2 in the skein. It’ll balance out in the end but you’ll have a yarn that feels and looks better, a yarn that says “I’m alive!!

Woolen and worsted yarns don’t’ get the same amount of ply twist.  It’s true.  A woolen yarn’s structure is in the PLY, that’s what really holds that light and fluffy thing together.  It’s what gives it strength and the ability to ward off the dreaded pill.  It needs more ply-twist than singles-twist.  For reals.  Worsted yarn, on the other hand, has it’s structure in the single and it wants less ply-twist, relatively speaking.  Truth.

The tighter the ply, the better the wear (not the tighter that single, that way lies rope, my friends).

plysweater1Oh my, this one took seeing my sweet Olive wearing a handspun, handknit sweater to really sink in.  Spun out of the softest merino but with lots of singles-twist for (I thought) better wear and then a balancing amount of ply-twist, it was lovely to look at.  To look at.  When had her put the jacket on, baby, did we both have a surprise!  A surprising amount of strength was necessary to get her arms down by her side. I pushed them down and they popped right back up! Look how she has to hold on to the body of the sweater to keep her arms down! I managed to get a couple of shots off before she shed the thick, stiff sweater complaining of ickiness.

Remember when I said it doesn’t always have to be perfectly balanced? if current-jacey-spinner could talk to past-jacey-spinner this is what I’d say – dude, don’t increase your single- twist, increase your ply-twist or your going to have to store that sweater, unworn for the rest of your life and when you die, it’ll get passed down and down and everyone will wonder how you ever ran a spinning magazine because it’ll be the only example of your spinning left since nobody ever wore or touched the sweater more than once, and that, past-jacey-spinner, is not the example of your spinning you want standing the test of time.  Also, it’s okay to take off your sweater, especially if it’s hot, they don’t mind.

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These two yarns, for instance, are the same fiber, the same dye-job, the same ypp!  The only difference is that the one on the right has lots of singles-twist and is plied to balance and the one on the left has smaller amount of singles-twist but the same amount of ply-twist as the other!  That’s right, the ply-twist amounts are the same.  If you could feel these yarns, one would make you swoon while the other would make you avert your eyes and secretly wonder how I manage to fill any class, spinning cord-y yarn like that!

The more plies in a yarn, the less ply-twist it takes to reach balance (I knew this before Patsy Z’s illuminating article, but just barely).  Math is cool, right?

 

So don’t think I hate singles yarns.  I love singles yarns!  I just love plying too.  Theoretically, you could say that singles yarns are about the individual and Plying is about the team. It’s part of the reason I named the magazine PLY.  PLYing is about texture and balance and strength and bringing different things together so they can lean and benefit and support.  And if, in 10 years time, I wrote another post about plying, I’m sure the things I will have learned since now will be far more than I’ve learned so far.  That’s the way of spinning, the more you learn, the father you have to go, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, right?

Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals compete in a friendly challenge to see who can spin the most yarn in a week! Spinzilla team registration is open until September 22. The Ply team is full, but there are plenty of teams that still need you! There will be prizes! Click here to register.  One hundred percent of your registration fee will go to the NeedleArts Mentoring Program.  For more information, see their FAQ page.

* Huh, I’ve never put that together before.  The first time I asked a stranger to share their spinning know-how with me, she did.  Just like that.  I asked, she told.  Must have sunk in on some level I didn’t realize because that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.  Silly me to have never seen that, thanks, Adrian!