Sunday, April 10, 2011

Still Spindle Spinning - Cotton!

My apologies for having just disappeared; some stuff came up, mainly needing to study for a math placement exam next month...and it's been over 10 years since I was in a math class!

Anyway, I've been dyeing and spinning cotton as of late. And here's what I have post dyeing class...

The first picture is of the various skeinlettes of EcoButterfly cotton I spun up before the dyeing class. I had intended to just try dyeing these skeinlettes in different colors, but when Donna was excited to show me that adding ammonia to some water and microwaving them would result in a rich brown (even without dye), I went along with it. But now I think I'll dye them on my own to see what I get - I just want to see what comes of these little skeins. I don't know if you can tell, but the biggest different among all these skeinlettes is the plying; they're all different types of plies...

The second picture is of some cotton lint that we dyed. Most of the dyeing from the class resulted in "cotton candy colors," particularly the roving/lint that was dyed. This isn't quite my cup of tea, but I have some ideas (and a book) to work on getting the saturated colors that I love. Certainly the softness and non-itchiness of the cotton yarns is worth the work to get the right colors!

Next up is the solid blue roving I dyed...just need to spin it up, now:)

Then we have some pre-spun skeinlettes I dyed in class. I'm not thrilled with the two on the right; those colors are not my favorite ... but those on the left, those are my favorite! Purples! And that's the deepest color I was able to achieve in the dyeing class:)

And finally, we have some skeinlettes spun after the roving was dyed and dried. These cotton candy colors are perfect for Angela, I think...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recycled Sari Silk

Over a week without a post ... Okay, so Joseph's Skein was worth a lot of posts, I think:)

But I didn't stop spinning... In fact, last Wednesday I was able to make it to Grandma's! I love hanging out with the other fiber fanatics... I was wandering around the store, wondering what to spin for the night, and I saw Grandma's stash of recycled sari silk, and jumped at the chance to try spinning something new!

After spinning wool and cotton and milk fiber, spindle spinning recycled sari silk wasn't difficult at all. It was actually a lot of fun, seeing the different kinds of fiber come together to make a continuous strand ... I bought an ounce of it, and almost had it all spun up by the end of the evening at Grandma's.

I two-plied it, and am now in the process of free-form crocheting it into, I think, a scarflette:) Something showy; not for warmth.

On my plate:

A tussah silk hanky ... trickier to draw out and spin, but I'm working on it...

And weaving up a little bit of Joseph's Skein for the spin along weaving project on Ravelry:)

More later!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Joseph's Skein - Completed

Phew, what a week... it's the end of the quarter, and I'm ready for a break! So I can spin, of course.

So here is the finished product of Joseph's Skein. I AM IN LOVE with this yarn. This is my masterpiece thus far, and by far. I showed it to one of my crafting friends earlier today (the first crafter to see it) and I got the impression she genuinely wanted to take this yarn home with her... "Oh the socks I could make!" That was the actual quote ... followed by "what are you going to do with it?" And, "well if you need someone to take it off your hands..."

I gotcha Angela:)

So a few spinning things from this week; the spin-along is spinning, I think...things have quieted down while we all get to work (I'm assuming that's what's going on). Plus, there has been some discussion on things like temporary cops, and spinning directions, and single vs. plied, and what it means to be called a waylaka. Sheesh! What I call charming gets women called worse-than-lazy in another culture:)

I read this blog by Abby Franquemont, and now I keep having to remind myself that I'm not living in a culture where my self-worth is determined by the highest of high-quality standards for my handmade goods. I am in this for the fun of it. That doesn't mean I can't strive for excellence; it just means that I don't have to worry about being called names for my always-a-work-in-progress spinning/crafting techniques. After all, when people see me spinning my own yarns they tend to call me a "hardcore" crafter because I'm doing much more of the work than is typical in this part of the world.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the discussions and the pictures and videos... This one got me thinking quite a bit about my spinning techniques: So much so that I've started craving a different kind of spindle...

Now it's off to figure out how to make my own; because you know I can't have just one...

Monday, March 14, 2011

When the Cop Becomes the Whorl

Having never spun much more than an ounce at a time on my spindles, I encountered an interesting situation that I'd read about somewhere (more than likely, Abby Franquemont's Respect The Spindle).

So what happened? My over-an-ounce cop became a little too unwieldy for pleasurable spindling...

My solution? Easy! I have removable whorls ... so, I set my whorls to the side and let cop do the whorl work.

Here's my progress on Joseph's Skein...

Oh, and I updated a previous post to include a tutorial on how I wind my center-pull balls on a simple spindle (not Turkish), without a leader. See it here:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Joseph's Skein... (Working Title)

So in my last post I said that I was going to spin up the remaining roving from the sample variegated yarn I made last weekend ... and that's just what I'm doing.

Here's what I have so far. I'm spinning a similar length of each roving (one arm's length), the purples are staying in order as they repeat, but the other colors aren't quite as planned, I'm picking them as I go.

I plan to spin until I run out of one of the purples, then 2-ply from my center-pull ball.

I'm calling this Joseph's Skein right now because of all the many colors:)

Meanwhile, I've just learned that there is a spin along going on in my backstrap weaving group on Ravelry! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I'm on Ravelry:) Hit me up, I'm Illigator.

I'm super excited about this spin along, even though I haven't said "hi" to the group yet... I'm planning to right after I post this!

The reason I'm so excited is because I love backstrap weaving ... even though I haven't done much of it. You see, over last year's summer, I learned to weave using a backstrap loom. It was quite a project for me, making the loom and then weaving a backstrap as my first project (thanks Laverne!). And then I decided to take another step in the creative process and actually spin yarn for my weaving projects...but that meant I had to learn to spin. And so, I put down the loom and picked up a spindle and some fiber and focused on nothing but spinning for three months.

It paid off! I was able to complete two projects from my own spindle spun yarns for Christmas. The neck-warmer/cowl thingy from Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle for my Mom, and my first attempt at something other than a warp-faced weave on a backstrap, a scarf for my sister.

So to find a group of people spinning for backstrap weaving and talking about it is a wonderful surprise! It's a good thing I read Laverne's blog every week or I would have never known! (I've been so busy with spinning and the blog and the Etsy store to check into Ravelry very often...guess that'll be changing!)

Anyway, I'll leave you with this for the evening...

April 2nd is the scheduled date for my cellulose dyeing class, and I'm counting down the days. Anyone in Tucson want to join me at Grandma's Spinning Wheel for this much-anticipated event?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On My Spirited Spindles... And How I Make My Spindles

I've spent the last week drawn to my spindle, and now spindles, rather than writing ... so let's catch up!

First, on Saturday I started experimenting. I took several (6) different colors of roving, and spun little tufts of each together to create a variegated single, and then 2-plied to get even more color combinations out of the single... I LOVED the result. The colors came together so beautifully.

I pondered what I could do with this little tiny skein of color to show it off best... And I decided that weaving would be the best craft for that purpose. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do much with that little skein ... but that's okay! I have plenty of roving where that came from, and, to accommodate all those beautiful ounces I've made a larger spindle (and a couple smaller ones, too)!

My plan is to make a slightly larger skein, warp it up on my backstrap loom, and use a single strung with beads to make a bracelet... And the rest? Well the rest of the yarn will go on Etsy, of course.

But before we get to the new additions to my spirited spindle family, because I'm addicted to spinning, I spun up the variegated blue roving from my stash. It's currently in its "single state," awaiting plying...

And now, the new babies ... oh, the new babies! Last night I brought out my spindle making stash of wooden dowels and toy wheels and cup hooks, and got busy putting them all together, and ended up with three new spindles...

The one on the right is my largest spindle. I made it this long because I'm planning to spin quite a larger than normal skein (for me, anyway), and wanted more length to accommodate the fiber.

The one on the left is smaller, and only has one large wooden wheel on it... I made it that way because that's what the materials told me to do. Can't quite explain it; I just knew.

And the one in the middle is tiny, and only has one small wooden wheel on it. I just used the part of the dowel that was leftover from the one on the left... It's perfect for spinning fine threads:)

Here is how I do it.

What you need:

1. Quarter-inch wooden dowel: This is just because the toy wheels I find have quarter-inch holes. I've gotten dowels from Home Depot and Joann's, but they ran 36-and-48-inches. Then I found a wood-craft section of Michaels where they have quarter-inch dowels 12-inches in length in bags of 10. Score!

2. Wooden toy wheels with quarter-inch holes (to accommodate the quarter-inch dowel): I like to use one large and one small wooden wheel together on the same spindle. I also get these at Michaels. Be particular as you're choosing your toy wheels; the actual size of the holes in these wheels vary quite a bit, and the quality of the wood in each wheel varies quite a bit as well... It works best if your larger wooden wheel has a slightly larger hole than your smaller wooden wheel.

3. Cup Hooks: I use the size that looks to be the right proportion for the quarter-inch dowel (also available at Michaels).

1. Masking Tape
2. Sand Paper (one coarse, one fine)
3. Optional: A hand-saw, if you like... a lot of times I just break the dowel with my hands, but that's less precise, of course, and results in some waste.
4. Optional: A little hand-drill, if you like (I didn't even know they made these until I saw it in the wood-craft section of Michaels...and man what a difference it makes when you're trying to get that cup hook screwed into the top of your spindle!!!)
5. Optional: A pencil sharpener.

How to do it:

1st, make the dowel the approximate total length you want the spindle to turn out. You do this first because if your dowel is going to split when you're cutting it down to size, you don't want to have wasted any more time on the other steps.

2nd, wrap some masking tape around the shaft of the spindle at the very top (at least twice), where you will be inserting the cup hook. You do this because as you're inserting the drill bit or cup hook, there's also a possibility of splitting the shaft of the spindle, and the tape keeps this from happening.

3rd, if you have a little hand drill, make a space for your cup hook, and then insert the cup hook to make sure it fits snugly. If you don't have a little hand drill, use a lot of patience and brute force to insert the cup hook into the top of the spindle - there's a little pain involved, but it can be done, I've done it. DO NOT REMOVE THE MASKING TAPE until you have completed this step entirely.

4th, remove the cup hook and the masking tape, and sand the edges of the top of the spindle to make sure they are nice and smooth. You don't want to snag your fiber as you're spinning:) If you choose to re-insert the cup hook at this point, careful that you screw it in just to the snug point, and not so much that you split the shaft of the spindle.

5th, If you're using only one wooden toy wheel, this is easy enough. Check to see that the wooden wheel fits on the shaft of the spindle snugly enough that it stays on the spindle and doesn't rotate around the shaft of the spindle, but not so snugly that you can't move it on and off of the spindle. If you can't get the wooden wheel on the spindle, sand the spindle shaft down until you can.

If you choose to use two wooden toy wheels as I usually do, then this part becomes a little tricky. Check to see if your wooden wheels fit onto the shaft of the spindle without sanding it down. Chances are there will be a little sanding required. The trick is to sand it down so that both the wooden toy wheels fit onto the shaft snugly, together, which is why I suggest that the larger wooden wheel have a slightly larger hole in it than the smaller wooden wheel - since I like to put the larger wooden wheel on the spindle first, and follow it with the smaller wooden wheel.

And, if you choose to do the next step, spindle sharpening, then I suggest you make sure the wheels fit a touch higher on the spindle (for a bottom whorl). If you're going for a top-whorl, well then you'll need them to fit closer to the cup-hook end, so keep sanding!

6th, If you like, use a pencil sharpener to sharpen the bottom of your spindle. Not too sharp! I don't want you to hurt yourself with that flying spindle later. But, this can help if you choose to spin your spindle in a supported fashion, or for a little wobble control later. Sand it down to make it smooth.

7th, Go over the whole spindle with the fine sand paper to smooth out any rough spots, making it feel lovely in your fingers.

8th, Insert your cup hook (carefully to the snug point, so as not to split the shaft of the spindle), fit on your wooden toy wheel(s), and get to spindle spinning!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Green-n-Pink Cabled Yarn

You can do many wonderful things with a spindle-spun single. Singles make some of the most beautiful yarns, and they tend to be the most eye-catching for me in the yarn shop (my favorite yarn shop is Grandma's Spinning Wheel here in Tucson, Arizona). But, when I first started spindle-spinning, my singles tended to run thick and thin (less intentionally), which can make a single a bit of a gamble when it comes to projects...

So what did I do? I plied. Plying does a few things for my yarns; it adds strength, it evens out the thick and thin spots a bit, and lends itself to my creative process, maximizing my ability to play with the colors, textures, and weights of my yarns.

Most of my yarns are 2-ply, but I've played around with Navajo/chain-plying and cabling quite a bit. Today, I chose to cable-ply the variegated pink and green rovings. First I plied the two singles together, and then I plied the resulting 2-ply yarn again.

If plying is a new concept to you, here's a brief run-down. I spin a single in one direction, then ply two or more singles that are spun in the same direction together in the opposite direction. For cabling, I then spin the resulting yarn again in the original direction.

I'm pleased with the cabled yarn result! What do you think?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I've Changed My Spinning Mind...

So last week I said that February and March were all about spinning cotton in anticipation for my cotton-dyeing class coming up in April...

Well, just as I said that, I changed my spinning mind.

What happened? I started my Etsy yarn shop, and then I got curious and started searching through other Etsy yarn shops for some inspiration for my own ... and what did I find?

Well, mostly better photography. But in addition to that, I found some art yarns that were quite interesting, and selection... So how can I improve my selection? SPIN!

Turns out I have quite a stash of merino wool piled up in my craft room, and so I've decided to take a break from the cotton (since I have quite a stash of sample cotton yarns to work with for next month), and diversify my Etsy offerings while keeping the Etsy yarns colorful.

So this weekend past, I spun up the blue and green yarn above ... this is the first time I've intentionally spun a yarn thick and thin (although I have intentionally not minded spinning thick and thin before). Actually, I spun the green as a thick and thin single, and the blue as a fairly consistent fine single, and then I plied them together for a neat effect.

And today I started spinning a variegated roving that's mainly pinks, but with reds and oranges and greens and blues ... and plan to ply that with a variegated roving that's mainly green, but with reds and pinks and blues and browns.

So that's what's on my spirited spindle this week ... what have you been spinning lately?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Winding On: Leaderless Center-Pull Balls on a Simple Spindle (Not Turkish)

When I was first reading about spindle spinning and the different types of spindles, something that caught my eye was the Turkish Spindle. One of the advantages of a Turkish Spindle is that the whorl makes an interlocking cross onto which you wind your cop (the newly formed yarn), and after you spin your fiber, you take the whorl off of the spindle and out of the cop, leaving your new yarn in a center-pull ball.

This concept fascinated me, and I started wondering how I was going to make my inexpensive spindles Turkish-style.

What I ended up doing was adding what I call a Turkish Twist to the simple spindles I made. I took a very small, almost toothpick sized wooden stick, and as I started to wind my cop around the spindle-shaft, I wrapped the stick cross-wise against the shaft of the spindle. This made the spindle-shaft and the little stick work just as well as the whorl of a Turkish spindle for making a center-pull ball of yarn; the big difference is that I still needed my whorl to create weight for spinning, and that whorl needed to be removable, so that I could get the center-pull ball off of the spindle when I was ready.

Turns out, I didn't really need the little stick to do this! I got so caught up in the fact that there was this cross in order to make the center-pull ball, that it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me that the reason a Turkish Spindle is like that is to make the cop part of the whorl. But I already have a whorl; I just need the center-pull ball. And with a little planning, winding a center-pull ball on a stick (or the shaft of my spindle) is simple!

Here's How I Do It:

1. You need a spindle (any simple spindle with a shaft and a whorl will do, but either the whorl or the hook must be removable so you can get your center-pull ball off when you're done spinning), and a poof (some fiber to spin).

2. I've never used a leader. It just always seemed simpler to me to draw some of the fiber out to about half the amount of the desired single,

3. Fold the drawn fiber around the hook of the spindle (maybe the hook is why I've never used a leader???),

4. Secure the folded fiber with your thumb (my right thumb),

5. Take the two sides of the folded fiber into your thumb and forefinger (my left),

6. And add some twist to this little bit of fiber by spinning the spindle.

7. Spin a length of yarn as if you'd already started spinning and winding on.

8. Wind that yarn around your hand, removing the end of the yarn from the hook, but careful to maintain the twist in the yarn.

9. Here's where the photos might be a little odd; to photograph this section well enough, I had to switch the direction that I usually wind-on in, but the concept is the same. Place the end of the newly spun yarn against the shaft of the spindle.

10. Secure it with your thumb (not pictured, I use my right thumb), while you begin to wrap the yarn around itself to keep it in place. This picture is the beginning result of the yarn being wrapped over its end to keep it in place.

11. Wrap it a few more times...

12. Push this wrapped end of the yarn against the whorl of your spindle.

13. Spiral the yarn up the spindle a few times, allowing room for your center-pull ball to grow. Then spiral the yarn a few times so that each revolution of yarn is touching the yarn from the previous revolution; this creates the base for the center-pull ball.

14. Now wrap the yarn around the section of spiral that is tightly wound, up and over and back around down and under. This is the basic concept of winding the center-pull ball. When you remove the whorl or the hook of the spindle, you slide the ball off, and the end that is wrapped to the spindle shaft becomes the "pull" end of the center-pull ball.

15-17. Watch your center-pull ball grow as you spin your fiber!

Have fun!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The advantages of making my own spindles.

Making my own spindles has been rewarding to me in several ways. First, because I get to say I made it myself:) And then come the other advantages...

For me, it is less expensive because I use simple, inexpensive materials to make my spindles. It costs me no more than $2.00 to make a spindle.

But using inexpensive materials is only worthwhile if it doesn't take too much time and effort; so it's a good thing spindles are easy to make! Using a little sand paper to smooth things out, and a little tape (temporarily), I put together some pre-cut wooden dowels, wooden toy wheels, and cup hooks, and I'm good to go. I've even used bamboo skewers with washers:) I could leave out the cup hooks if I wanted to learn to spin without a hook, but I'm kind of partial to the hooks (after all, my first craft was crochet!).

Another advantage that comes along with my spindles being so inexpensive and easy to put together, I can have many spindles for little investment in time and money. At first I only set out to make multiple spindles because I wanted to try different whorl placement and weights... But then I realized that having more than one of the same size and type of spindle could be an advantage, particularly when it comes to multiple projects and plying... Plus, when I'm spinning, other people notice, and it's fun to be able to offer them their own spindle; I think it's natural to want to spin with others.

One of the best parts of making my own spindles is that I can move and remove the whorl whenever I want, and I do ... a lot! I spin mostly with a low-whorl, and since I choose to wind my cop into a center-pull ball, it's important that I be able to take the whorl off the spindle in order to take my center-pull ball of yarn off the spindle. I suppose that wouldn't be an issue if I didn't have a hook, but like I said, I prefer the hook:) A lot of people ply from spindles, or wind off into balls for plying, but that doesn't work for me. The simplest way to ply for me is from a center-pull ball, and rather than wind the cop on the spindle, then have to wind that cop off into a center-pull ball, I just spin and wind the center-pull ball as I go.

So there you have it, my reasons for making my own spindles:)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My New Etsy Store!

So I've done it! I set up on Etsy this afternoon, and now I have an online yarn shop.

You can visit me on Etsy at

Right now the shop consists of a few yarns (pictured above) that I have lying around, projectless.

In the future I will be a bit more intentional as I stock up the shop with yarns that I'm dyeing to create (sorry for the pun!).

But to do that, it's back to spinning for this spindler.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On My Spindle: February 2011

So this is what is on my spirited spindle today...

For February and March 2011, cotton is the fiber to spin! Actually, cotton is what I intend to spin most anyway, but for these two months I have something specific in mind.

Being my father's daughter, when I wanted to learn to spin I went out and collected books and blogs on the topic and read and read and read. I knew I wanted to spin cotton, but those who came before me warned that spinning cotton could be trickier for a beginner. I took their advice to heart and started spinning the longer-stapled wool at first. And I was in heaven. Spinning merino top, sometimes with a little silk, in a variety of beautiful colors. I got to play with color and textures while I was learning, and that made the learning that much more enjoyable.

But cotton ... I love cotton. Cotton is soft and light and inexpensive. People who won't wear wool will wear cotton. Cotton is beautiful. And while not colorless, it does tend to come in all shades of natural ... but a girl's gotta have some color!

So I'm going to dye. Literally. I'm going to dye lots and lots of cotton, and my cellulose dyeing class is scheduled for early April, so I'm spinning and spinning and spinning ... so that I can have some yarns to dye once I learn. I'll also be dyeing yet-to-be-spun cotton, but I want to try my hand at both, and so I bought 24oz of cotton to spin between now and my dye class (I aim high!).

I usually like to learn from a book, but after having read plenty on the subject of dyeing, I've decided that this one time I'd like to learn from someone who has made all the mistakes I don't want to have to make in order to become proficient...

Monday, February 21, 2011


So I can't adequately blog about spinning without posting some pictures ... so, here's a taste of what I've done with my spindle spinning. These represent the first two projects I've used spindle-spun yarn to create. The top row was for a scarf for my sister, and the bottom row a little something for my mom. All of the fibers were from animals, mostly Merino, but also some Angora and Camel. And the results? Beautiful:) And if you think you see Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle cover in the background on the bottom, that's because you do! (I love that book...)

What I love about spindle spinning...

I've already told you that I love spindle spinning, so here are a few of the reasons why...

First, I love seeing things transform. And the transformation from fiber to yarn is fascinating to me. That something as simple as twist, which I've played around with since I was a girl, from hair to paper to string, can be stored in fiber and other things, organizing them in ways that can then be manipulated in to any number of necessary and beautiful things ... wow.

The control-freak in me wants to play an instrumental role in this process. If you go all the way down to the fiber before it's been spun, you can make choices and decisions that affect EVERYTHING from that point on.

Of course, if you go all the way down to the biology creating the fiber in the first place, you can have even more control ... I'll get there, my friends. I'll get there.

But for now, I'm fascinated by the endless possibilities of yarn creation by spinning.

So why spindle-spinning? Well, I kind of like to make things myself. Last summer I made myself a backstrap loom and learned to weave (thanks Laverne!!!). Then I decided to take up spinning, so I made myself a few different spindles: top whorl, bottom whorl, make-shift tahkli, and all of these with what I call a turkish twist for making center-pull balls, which I have come to discover isn't necessary for making center-pull balls right on the spindle... Maybe someday I'll try spinning on a wheel and discover that I've been missing out, and then I'll buy one. But I can assure you, the drum carder purchase will come first. In the meantime, I love love love the way the spindle feels. I like that something so simple and so small can do so much ... all at my command.

But why do all of this? I call it charm. I'm still a beginner when it comes to spinning. My consistency is improving each day, but I'm not a machine. And, I don't want to be a machine. I think the inconsistencies, so long as they don't compromise the required structural integrity of the yarn for the next step of making something else, is the charm of spindle-spinning yarn myself. And I think the number of ways I can play on the inconsistencies to create beautiful yarns is fun! That's not to say that consistency isn't worthwhile; the control-freak in me says that the inconsistencies are made more beautiful by my choice to be inconsistent, so I'm always striving to increase my say in the end product as I'm spinning...

So that's a bit about why I love spindle-spinning. Do you love spindle-spinning, too?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome to my new blog!

Hello everyone. My name is Tonya, and I'm addicted to fiber crafts.

I started thinking about spinning over the summer of 2010, and finally made myself a few spindles and bought some fiber in September.

Living in the heat of Tucson, before even having touched a spindle I decided cotton was probably the most logical fiber choice for me. And now, having spun a few different blends, I have returned to cotton a more adept spindle spinner. I'm still using the spindles I make myself, and have developed my own methods and styles.

At first my hubby teased me that I hadn't made anything with the yarn I was spinning; but that has all changed, now that I have turned out a weaving (I use a backstrap loom), and a knitting project (for which I learned to knit), so take that babe!

But, I must admit, I LOVE to spin more than anything else, and so I've decided to blog as part of a potential side-business of spinning.

Since I'm going to be spinning (and dyeing, soon enough) anyway, I might as well be doing it for beautiful projects that, since I'm spinning so much, I don't have time to make myself.

Before I get ahead of myself, though, welcome to my new blog, and I hope to offer you something interesting here. If you want to talk spinning, let me know!