Friday, September 1, 2017

Get back to spinning by Bringing your Fibers out of the Closet

Sometimes we experience a gap in our spinning, knitting, weaving or fiber what have you, because of necessity. But sometimes it happens unwillingly, we lose our groove and have trouble getting back to it, even though we still harbor wistful longings of a time when we were enthusiastic and productive. Sometimes we lose our mojo due to illness, work, obligation, guilt, depression, boredom with a project that is taking too long, or stress and anxiety.

With everything going on in the world right now, we can get into a state of anxiety that causes us to forget that spinning is a stress and anxiety reducer, if we remember to use it that way, and not stress over anything about it, just enjoy it for what it is.

In the next few blog posts,  I am going to look at some of the ways to get back into spinning when you have lost that old spinning magic.

 Part 1 Organizing your Stash and Bringing your Fiber out of the Closet 

 There is nothing like a fresh look at your "fiber on hand" to inspire you to spin. Sometimes we drift away from the spinning we love because we have forgotten just how lovely wool, cotton, linen or other hairy or smooth fibers are to just to look at and play with. If we forget its beauty, we might also forget how satisfying and fun it is to design and spin, knit or felt, weave or crochet, or even just display and admire our finished yarn.

Fibers on parade across a shelf in my office

 I am a big believer in organizing your  art materials, but this is not what this post is about. For a great article on organizing fibers, you might want to read about that over on the Spinzilla Series at the SweetGeorgia blog.

 No, I am talking about putting some of your fiber on display. Out of the closet, out of the plastic,  out in the open, where you can admire and be inspired by it and play with it.

Vintage magazine rack holding fiber samples
 My own stash over the years has dwindled down to less whole fleeces, or lbs of roving, and more small snippets of leftovers, impulse buys of an ounce or two here or there, and small bags of multi colored hand dyed roving.
 I have always dreamed of super organizing it, photographing it, and  cataloguing on  Ravelry, but realistically, this is going to have to wait till (and if) I retire as a busy "one-woman business"

No, with my limited time, getting my fiber out of the closet was going to have to be a rush job.

 Sadly my fiber stash has been stored in the loft of my wood shop since I moved here a few years ago. This has been very inconvenient (if not downright dangerous) because to scramble through the clear bags and plastic totes looking for a bit of green roving required climbing on a ladder over the top of power tools,and awkwardly moving the ladder to the next section if my search was fruitless.

At the end of one very long work day, on impulse, I brought back several large bags into my studio/bedroom/assembly department, tossed them on the bed and began to go through them. I was looking for some bit of green to spin to knit for a pixie vest (and to use as prototype plying testing stuff)
Organizing by color (don't look at the mess in my bedroom)
I found it! but then I realized that here were all these other great colors, isn't this pink pretty? or oh wow, I forgot I had that really great purple. I decided to buck the system and quickly reorganize according to color. As serendipity would have it, I had just picked up some canvas totes and more baskets at Goodwill earlier in the week (yes, I am a basket junkie) and decided to do a rush job and get everything divided up by color. (except for the cotton, linen and silk, it went into one separate basket)

Then, you know how it is, once I was in to it, I decided to bring in all the rest of the fiber, which required more organizing, and soon it was getting close to my bedtime (I get up at 4:30 am, so bed time is earlier for me than most folks) and my bed had wool on it, so I had to hustle and put the totes and basket up on shelves, and add another shelf to another wall.

All and all, I was right proud of myself for getting everything all tucked up and away, inside for easier access, with plastic over it for dust protection.
One of the walls of fiber storage

But then...a few days went by and even though I had labeled the totes and baskets as to colors they contained...blues/greens, yellow/oranges/reds, black and brown, whites and tans, pinks and still felt like I didn't exactly know what I had...I wanted to see it.

As it happened, a little while back I had purchased an old, retro magazine rack from a nice lady at a yard sale, she was trying to come up with a use for it to get me to take it...."you could put, well..magazines in it!!" she said. I laughed and told her that I might use it to put my lathe tools in, but suddenly, I knew that this was a better use for it.

I took samples of all the colors that I have and left the bulk of the fiber up in the totes, unless the amount was so small that it was all I had of that color.  I plan on putting some of it back out of the dust after I have finished enjoying it, but for right now, I am very happy to see my fiber colors and already am using it up faster than before, because it is inspiring. Each color can smile at me as I work.

 Every time I sit down at the computer to print postage or answer a customer, I glance up at the fiber, pick up the spindle near by and spin just a wee few minutes while the computer or the printer whir away doing what they do. Before, I sat there impatiently and thought of the next things I needed to do. Now I get a tiny bit of spinning done, my mind is clearer and full of color and I am happier.

So I say, get some of your fibers out of the closet!!!  Not everyone wants a big magazine rack on their office wall, but maybe tinier samples on a cupcake display? or baskets nailed to a bored, or a shoe organizer, or any way to get those colors and fibers out where you can see them, it will get you spinning again, even if just a wee bit at a time.
Bridget wondering what I am doing

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Winding on for Tangle Free Plying from a Spindolyn

Plying can be fun! (really) It can also be very frustrating, whether you are plying back on to a spinning wheel from bobbins on a lazy kate, or plying from wound off yarn back on to a spindle, there will be some tangles and consternation. How well you prepare the singles (on the wheel or on a spindolyn) can really help reduce both.

At the top of the photo below is a good example of both a poorly spun and poorly wound spinolyn of yarn, when compared to the lower spindle. I have been digging out old, full spindles to test the prototype of the new plying apparatus that you can see in the photo. As I have been doing this, I have noticed that the way the spindle was wound made a huge difference in how often I had to stop and untangle or "uncatch" the yarn so that it could flow freely. The lower spindle in the photo flowed smoothly and never once tangled or snagged. The upper one was so frustrating that a couple of times I nearly just gave up and cut it off.

So what is the difference? Besides the unevenness of the spin, what made the unevenness of the wind? It helps to imagine the way yarn is wound onto a spinning wheel, first.  On a wheel, there are hooks along the bobbin, and when you spin with the yarn forming over a hook,  under that hook, it builds up a little mound, and you move it on to the next hook before the mound gets to big. If you build up a big mountain under that hook before you move on, then the winding on yarn will slump down the sides of that mountain as the next one builds, and you will have some yarn that should be above the layer, trapped underneath. This trapping underneath is a $#%*$ when you go to unwind the bobbin.
Thinking of it this way, as building layers needing to stay on top of each other so they can wind off again smoothly, helps you stay consistent.  Winding on firmly is important for the same reason. In the upper photo, it is apparent that the yarn was wound on too loosely, but also that the layers were built up in spots up and down the shaft, allowing for slumpage and "underlayering".
I seem to have the best luck keeping my layers seperate with building a cone shaped cop on the shaft, but I would love to hear opinions on this, especially those winding an oval shaped cop.

I have often thought that in the spindle spinning world, the spindolyn could be a great way to ply, because it can go slowly and is easier to control. But how to get the singles would off and tidied up and then delivered back to the spindolyn requires a bit of thought.

Many people wind the singles off onto a ball winder, nostepinne, regular ball, or ball of yarn around a felt ball. Then these ball are put into two containers to keep them separate while you ply.
To help with this, I came up with the ply baby bracelet, which I what I use.
But I keep thinking that it would be better to have an apparatus that would hold two or three spindolyns so that you could ply directly off of them, and am prototyping this "plying apparatus" right now (you can see a part of it in the photo) Also, it would be better to have an even bigger than the harmonic spindolyn, an am still working that out (wish me luck on both)

So the take away here is wind on with winding off in mind.
Enjoy your plying and your finished yarn, however you accomplish it!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The new ambit convertible, blending hair color

Here is a sneak peak at the new style base, the "ambit convertible"  It can transform from a regular base, to a tilting base, to a base with a floor extension! I have been proto-typing this for a while, trying to get just the right amount of "tilt control" into a simple form that can be easily converted depending on your seating situation.

When working on a prototype, it really helps if you have a project to work on, because it makes you work with the spindolyn in a way that is more realistic, as well a motivational.

For fun, I am working on a needle felted doll to wear some little hand spun, hand knit sweaters and hats that I have already made. I wanted her to have knitted dark auburn hair, so I chose this wool to blend to get that, do you think they will make dark auburn? We will see.

No, not dark enough, will have to add more brown. Looking at the photo in retrospect, should have you did.

Ratio-wise, I had to add twice as much as is shown in the above photo, but eureka! 


I now have the right color and enough to spin for her hair, so off to the new ambit convertible spindolyn.

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