Posts Tagged ‘handspinning’

Still fighting with the Spindle from Hell.

I’ve been trying to challenge myself in spinning during this Tour de Fleece, and to that end, I’m trying harder to learn more about using my more difficult spindles, get better at consistent yarn thicknesses on the wheel and the spindles, and trying out fiber I’ve never used before. I even gave my blending board a shot.

These self-challenges have brought me back to the Spindle of the Damned, the spindle from hell: the Scottish dealgan.

I cannot emphasize enough how difficult this thing is to use. I am wearing out my cuss word stockpile. It’s supposed to be a drop spindle, and the operative word, here, is “drop”, something that it does constantly. I have resorted to park-and-draft spinning to build up a cop on it. Apparently spinning on it improves once you have a buildup of yarn. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Normally, spinning is a very calming activity for me, on the wheel and every spindle I own…except this one. I refuse to be beaten by it, but it’s very difficult not to throw it across the room.

I’ve had much better luck from the Mayan spindle. I now have two of them. While scrolling through a weaving hashtag on Instagram, I came across a weaver with an absolutely stunning shuttle, so I asked her where she got it, and she directed me to the woodcarver’s profile (I haven’t decided whether her help falls under networking or enabling. I think it depends on which side of the transaction you’re on. If you’re the carver, it’s networking. If you’re the weaver, it’s enabling. Makes sense to me.).

My new sugar glider Mayan spindle, and the tiny bit of yarn I spun on it so far, wound onto a nostepinne.

This gentleman does beautiful carving, and he doesn’t use power tools at all. He does it all the old-fashioned way: with a pocketknife. Knowing that makes looking at his work all the more impressive. No laser, no lathe, no chainsaw, just a simple pocketknife. He has a waiting list, and no wonder! I made sure to get myself on it, and told him I wanted a Mayan spindle, a shuttle, and what he calls a tall whorl spindle, which means the whorl is several inches tall.

I mentioned my likes–sugar gliders, Arctic dogs, etc.–and left it up to him to decide what image went on the Mayan spindle. I am now the proud owner of a sugar glider Mayan spindle. He’d never heard of them before I brought them up, but he did justice to the tiny terrorists, and the spindle arrived yesterday.

That meant it had to be tried out immediately, of course, and since my gliders are special to me, to honor them, the fiber had to be special too. I have a tote dedicated to spinning fiber, so I dug in, and came out with a package of a yak-silk blend that I’d forgotten I even had. Beautiful, soft stuff! And onto the spindle it went. I was not disappointed by the yarn or the spindle. Both are beautiful.

The blending board experiment was much less successful. The less said about that, the better. Lol. Granted, it was only my first time using it, but it was still pretty bad, even based upon lack of experience. I’ll try again, but I won’t show what happened this time!

Since I’m just about out of the muga silk on Anansi, I think I’m going to go fight with the dealgan some more, and see if I can’t narrow the gap between its score and mine. Wish me luck!


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Ply-split braid

Tour de Fleece is a yarn-spinning event, created about fifteen years ago to run concurrently with Tour de France. You know, because we’re all using spinning wheels, although in different ways. They’re riding bikes, we’re making yarn.

Basically, it’s kind of a challenge, to yourself. You set a goal to reach by the end of the tour, whether it’s to spin a certain amount of yardage, a certain type of yarn, whatever you want your goal to be. And initially, it was an online thing. Now, in some places, such as Colorado, it’s an annual guild event.

I never participated before; there was always something else I had to do during such things. And technically speaking, I guess I’m not really even participating now. I’m not on a team (yes, that’s a thing), nor have I joined an online TDF group. I am spinning at home, with no particular goal in mind, just a plan to spin until the tour is over and see what I’ve got. So I’ve buckled down to the gold muga silk that I had started a little bit back, and am now close to the end of my supply, with a nearly full bobbin. I’m not sure the little I have left to spin is going to actually finish filling the bobbin, but that’s okay.

I’ve been spinning all day, for the most part, but now I’m taking a break because my hand is tired of drafting out the silk. It’s hard to make myself stop spinning, because, like everything else, you get into a rhythm. Sometimes I even zone out completely; it’s that peaceful. But as I said, my hand was beginning to raise objections, and so I stopped for the evening. That, of course, does not mean that I didn’t pick something else up. Yes, it was the ply-split braiding.

I actually am improving. I don’t know if you can see it in the photo, but there’s a safety pin on one of the edges. You start the band in the center and work outwards, first on one half, then the other. The safety pin marks the starting point, and I can see the difference between the first half and the second half that isn’t done yet. The first half starts out not pulled in tightly enough; my edges are inconsistent. In some places the band is wider, but as you get to the end of that side, it starts to draw in more. The band becomes narrower, the edges are smoother, with fewer bumps. The second half has started out much better, already narrowed down, the cords pulled in tightly, no bumps along the edges. So I can definitely see improvement. Once I’m sure I’m being consistent most of the time, I’ll try a different pattern.

The funny thing is, there seem to be a finite number of patterns available on the net, and even in the books I have. Different authors show the same patterns, as do Pinterest and Instagram, and I find myself wondering why that is, if it’s something about this style of braid that is self-limiting. When I do a search on Google or Pinterest or Instagram, I see the same patterns over and over again, in different colors, and there truly aren’t that many patterns. It appears that there is more flexibility if you use ply-split braiding for making baskets. Something to research, I suppose.

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