On our way back from Friday Harbor last Sunday, Emma and I stopped off at Weaving Works. Just to, you know, look around. OK, OK, so I had a list. Better to have a list to stick to, though, than to get all delirious and go crazy from the wool fumes.
I got almost everything on my list (they didn’t have cotton punis), and I stayed within my budget of $100. Not bad for an entire summer (and beyond) of entertainment.
That’s 4 weaving bobbins, 8.35 oz of 70% merino/30% silk top in the “Concord” colorway, 2.35 oz of New Zealand top in a very bright royal blue, 0.75 oz of silk hankies, a Cascade Spindle Co. “Tiger” spindle, and a Schacht 2.5” Hi-Lo drop spindle.
I love this picture. It's Emma’s first spindle-spun yarn, and my first spindle-spun yarn.
This is my first “real” time using a drop spindle. Many, many, many years ago, my sister and I – was she in on it, or was it just me? I can’t remember – talked my parents into getting a Learn To Spin kit while we were on vacation in Maine. I was desperate to have that kit, I so very much wanted to learn to spin. It came with a couple ounces of brown wool roving and a drop spindle. That spindle was truly a boat anchor. The thing was huge, and probably weighed 5 ounces. At least. Using it was an exercise in frustration, and I never got the hang of it. Trying to figure it out without knowing what I was doing didn’t help, either. So much for my first attempt at spinning.
These two spindles, on the other hand, are a joy to use. Emma’s Schacht weighs 1.1 oz., and my little Cascade Tiger weighs only 0.3 oz. I’m spinning the silk hankies on it, which is another new thing for me. The hankies don’t make a smooth yarn, that’s just the nature of hankies, but it will be a nice 2-ply. One layer takes about 15 minutes to peel, stretch, stretch some more while winding onto my wrist, and spin. Because there are lots of very long fibers in the silk, my hands have to be about 8-12” apart to draft, and that’s hard to manage while spinning. So I’m predrafting this completely, before any twist goes in, right down to the diameter I want the yarn to be, and spinning without drafting at all. The finished singles are right about 100 wpi.
Laceweight silk as my first spindling. For some reason, I find that hilarious. The spindle makes it easy, though. It spins fast, and keeps going and going.
And Emma – what can I say. SHE asked ME a couple weeks ago if I would teach her to spin. Not to help me spin; she wanted to do the whole thing herself. Since she’s not quite tall enough to use my wheel, I decided to get her a spindle to start out with. If she keeps on with it I’ll get her a wheel, but that’s a bit too much to shell out up front if her interest fizzles.
She picked out her own wool, too, from the wall of dyed NZ tops. I must say I was surprised at the color. She completely ignored all the purples and pinks, and wanted only this blue.
I showed her the park and draft technique, and off she went. I started her with the spindle held as a bottom-whorl, but she doesn’t have the finger strength to flick the spindle and get a good spin, and was getting frustrated, so I switched it around to top-whorl mode. This is better, because she can roll it along her leg and get a good amount of rotation, and using the hook is easier to manage than a half-hitch.
I’m so thrilled and proud of her. She’s four, and she’s making yarn! I’m enjoying my spindle, too, and have actually taken it out in public. I spun at the gym while waiting for my spin (exercise) class to start last night, and I spun during Emma’s swimming lesson this morning. I got a lot of attention from the kids!
I’ve always been wary of spindling, no doubt tainted by that early experience 25 years ago. It seemed slow and awkward, not as good as wheel spinning. Now, however, I think that (for me) though it’s not a “substitute for,” it’s definitely a good “addition to.” Slower, yes, but just as relaxing.