Sunday, February 12, 2012

You Spin Me Right Round, Baby....

It is a poorly kept secret that yours truly is a fiend for learning The Minutia Of How Things Are Made, as well as Things To Do With Yarn. A sub-section of that would be also Training Myself To Still Be Useful After The Zombie Apocalypse.
Unnecessary capitalization aside, all 3 of these things happen to intersect nicely in spinning. As in, you know, sitting in front of that thing Sleeping Beauty knocked herself out on and actually making yarn on it. Yes, seriously.
I was somewhat curious about it but mostly content to simply let others make the yarn for me when I was invited to the Lancaster Fiber Retreat last year. While there I met a metric ton of awesome people*, and a very large number of them were not just knitters but also happened to spin and dye their own yarn, too! How cool was that?
I like to research how things are made down to the finest details, part of what drove me to put together my previous 4 computers and get a programming degree. I wanted to know how this box in front of me worked, inside and out. I've done the same with cooking and food science, with exercise, with birds, with gardening (subset of cooking, btw, but became its own "thing"), with bookbinding and fountain pens and ink and you name it. I know some seriously useless stuff in the midst of the post-industrial era because of the drive to know the basic unit by which something can be considered created.
So I watched all of these people create yarn from fluffy things shaved off animals or stolen from silk moths, and I slowly realized that I seriously and very badly wanted to do the same.
A year passed, another fiber retreat came and went, and I had only my drop spindles and support spindle to play with. I had asked for a wheel for Christmas but, you know, this whole moving our entire lives 5 miles down the road occurred. I was happy to let it rest because so much was going on. But after seeing what all my friends were doing, and how awesome it was to have the ability to create your own yarn from whatever fibers you chose, in whatever colors, I HAD to be a part of it. Also, as always, I'm looking for ways to keep myself a viable member of society should we finally experience Oil Wars or Zombie Infestation, and I figure since nobody will want to wear that godawful Red Hart yarn against their skin and it would be the last fiber standing after all the mills shut down**, knowing how to spin and knit up things is not a bad skill to have.
So this past Wednesday in the midst of impending Snow Events, I moseyed on up to Lancaster county and visited Flying Fibers, where most of my nifty fiber-related friends are centered. They had let it be known that a certain Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel was there and waiting to go home with someone.
I was totally that someone. I got there, sat down, fed my fistful of fibers on to that spinning bobbin, and I was sold. Or rather, the wheel was sold and I was keen on it. But you know what I mean***.
I happily skipped home with the wheel and displayed it for the pets. Zen was particularly interested in it.
He actually sniffed it for the better part of 5 minutes, which really makes me wonder where that wheel had been before it got to me.
Perl's reaction was vastly different. She jerkingly snuck up on it like she expected it to leap from its sedentary position and pound her in to the hardwood flooring. She has approached it that way 3 times so far and sniffed it, so I guess it'll always be a weird surprise when she sees it.
Chaucer didn't care, as is Chaucer's particular idiom.
I was initially a bit scared about spinning on it, as I had overspun my sample stuff in the shop and created a big, knotted mess that wouldn't feed. I also wasn't entirely sure how to go about pinching the fibers and pulling them forward to spin, then feeding them in to the machine. But as you will see, I kinda learned, and rather quickly actually. The fibers began to fly out of my hands and while I think perhaps I'm not the smoothest and there is most certainly variations in width yet, I got past the "oh fuck, that is a GIANT slub of wool that just choked through my wheel's orifice there."**** I actually blame the presence of Blade Runner on TV as I spun as being a calming influence, just enough of a distraction to keep me from over thinking everything.
Eventually I had the full 2 ounces of practice wool sitting on my bobbin and I was thoroughly happy. I should spin another thing! I thought. Then I realized... wait... I needed to ply what I had to clear the bobbin.
Except I didn't have a Lazy Kate to rest the bobbin in. And normally I would expect to ply with 2 bobbins, but I only had the one. Which meant I had to use the only other method I had seen, which was Navajo Plying. And of all the techniques I decided to try, of course I decided to go for the one that required dexterity and timing to come out looking good.
But this is me doing it, so you know it didn't. And you know that bobbin rolled all over the floor like bonkers.
This was the result. A giant, awful mess. BUT... it looked that way because the stuff on top was the uneven first few yards I'd spun up, and I thought "Hey! Wait! It doesn't necessarily look that bad the whole way through! I should try to skein it!"
Except not only do I not have a Lazy Kate, I didn't have a niddy noddy. So in a moment of desperate genius***** I just wound it around the back of one of our kitchen chairs. It's still there, 24 hours later, mostly because I don't know what to do with it next. But as you can see, it's actually quite tamed down and not nearly so crazy.
I even like it a bit. I may keep it as a testament to my progress down the road. As of right now I think I'll just hang on to it and remember it fondly as "that skein where I did everything wrong and it still turned out yarn".
I've moved on to my next bit o' roving, and this one's the oldest I have, being literally the first thing I bought to spin up at last year's Fiber Retreat. It's a gorgeous sunny yellow with bits of orange and dyed silk in it. It's spinning up rather oddly, and I like it. No idea what I'll make with it once it's done, but I'm really looking forward to pounding it out and moving on to the bright pink I also snagged last time. I've decided I should practice with all my solid-colored pieces first so I can see mistakes and variations and not be caught up in a debate on whether it's the color or I really did something dumb.
I went on a roving-buying frenzy in the aftermath of the wheel's arrival and there are many, many super-colorful bits of proto-yarn headed this way. I'm trying to stick with types of wool for now, as silk and other things have proven difficult to spin (although that was on a drop spindle and that's a different beast altogether). I am waiting until I have an official Lazy Kate set up to work on the yarns for things I'm making for Bob, which is some lovely Jacob wool in dark brown, and some wool/alpaca in a light brown almost coppery color with shots of color throughout it. I can't wait! I want to make him a fetching hat and gloves from it to counter the ones that got felted from the snow last winter.
One last thing... as a Schacht "Ladybug", each wheel comes with a ladybug mascot somewhere on it. Mine is on the right side halfway down, and easily visible. I think it's terribly neat they do something like that. You can see it sort of in this picture, my phone is horrible for focusing, which I apologize for:

I was asked almost immediately "Did you name it?" Initially I scoffed at the idea of naming the wheel since it's just a tool. But then I thought that I had named my computer, my car and even the refrigerator (It is Galactica, and yes that's serious. The freezer is Galactica Actual. Don't ask, it was a silly conversation and a long night that brought it about.) and I thought what the hell, if the fridge has a name, the wheel can have one, too.
Siggi. No idea where it came from, but there it is. My wheel is named Siggi. And I have plans to customize the hell out of that thing with wood-stain and a wood burner and paints to turn it in to a lovely piece of functioning artwork. At some point once I figure out how to do it without affecting the balance, I'm going to put the contents of a Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag around the outer rim of the wheel, so each time it goes around... yup, it puts prayers out in to space. I'm sure I'm not the first to think of that, but I feel terribly clever that I did.
And there you have it. My newest obsession, the most relaxing and meditative out of anything I currently do. I will end up with a LOT of yarn, and I'm thinking I'll need one of those over-the-door shoe pocket things to store all the skeins I'll be pounding out. It's strangely exciting in an utterly-not-cool-in-any-way-whatsoever way. I dig it.

*There is some possible exaggeration in that number.
**I have a theory that Red Hart Yarn will be lying around after World War III with all those cockroaches that will supposedly outlast us. They can have it.
***If you don't know what I mean, you're probably not going to get much out of this blog.
****I giggled right after I thought that, too, it's okay.
*****I get those a lot, actually.

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