Many times I find a really cool art batt, fancy hand-dyed braids, or batt in a braid — the colors or the texture attract me and I have to have it. What will I do with the finished spun yarn? Who knows! Many spinners ply their art just for the pure pleasure of it. There is always a place for indulgence spinning — it’s like eating comfort food, it just makes you feel good.
Periodically I spin for a particular project, something I want to weave or knit. How does one go about spinning yarn for knitting a sweater or a jacket? Several years ago, I wanted to make each of my sons a Tomten Jacket. I was inspired by some of the changes mentioned in a blog by Jared Flood. This was going to be a special project, and I wanted to add my own personal twist to it — spin the yarn myself!
There were a few considerations I needed to address first:
Here are some views of the Tomten Jackets.
Below are some of the details that I published in my project section of Ravelry. Zimmerman has you cast on 112 stitches, I was going to need a few more, but everything is divisible by 4 and 8, which is what you need.
My Schematic for the body of the tomten jacket.
What is next on the Docket?
Have you SEEN Knits about Winter by Emily Fodon? I want to made EVERY project in this book!
Barn and Soiree
Several of the sweaters (Barn, Soiree) use DK weight — you can also use a Fingering weight with a strand of Mohair Lace. For me, Spinning DK means that I have to use a spin gauge. I looked up DK and went for 12 wpi – 2 ply. In retrospect, I should have CALCULATED the yards per pound of Emily’s DK, and spun it at 14 wpi. DUH, Slaps forehead. I now have almost enough of a middle-of-the-road DK — around 980 ypp to knit a sweater. Emily’s DK for Barn and for the DK version of Soiree is 1178 ypp — I’m off by about 15%. What to do?
Sierra’s “what to do” List
I use support spindles. Yes it does take a much greater amount of time to finish a 4 oz skein of yarn using support spindles, but spinning isn’t exactly a race for the finish is it?
I experimented in the early days. I tried Some Neal Brand Tibetan and Russian spindles, Bristlecone Goddess Spindles, and Glasspin Spindles. I finally settled on Woodland Working spindles.
I had to find a spindle that worked with my right arm — many years ago I developed a problem called lateral epicondylitis in my right elbow and I have to be careful not to over work it. I needed a light spindle with a decent sustain, but more importantly lots of twirl.
I had heard about Bristlecone Glindles (a spindle with a hand blown glass whorl) from my friend Talia and wanted to try one out, but they are HARD to come by. So I tried another spindle maker which made Glass whorl spindles as well. I found that they were just too heavy for me. BUT I have to say, those glass whorls are pretty awesome. Since they are glass, there is virtually NO friction, so spin, spin, spin is what they do!
What was I Learning?
Weight IS a factor, but SHAPE also has something to do with the overall spinning experience. I gravitated to lighter spindles, so that when they filled up, they would not become unwieldy.
Then one day, while toodling around on Ravelry, I came across Woodland Woodworking. I asked my friend Talia about them and wondered where I could buy one — Woodland Woodworking is SO popular that Carl (the spindle maker) has a weekly update and turns ON the shop at a specific time — within about 5 minutes — WHOOSH they are all taken! Talia took pity on me and sold me one of her wand style spindles — I was immediately in love.
I started looking for used Woodland Woodworking spindles on Ravelry and bought quite a few (4 bead spindles, 3 or so teacup spindles and a wand spindle) I took careful measurements of these spindles and started working with them.
I try to keep the weight around 20 grams. One or two of my spindles are over 20, but they are what I call a pendulum style wand — the extra weight makes them spin better for a longer period – so as the spindle fills up with yarn, there is very little affect to the quality of spinning. I only have a few spindles that are not wand spindles — They are lighter in weight (under 20 g) and have a low whorl to shaft ratio (1 or less) so they spin pretty much like the wand spindles.
Carl uses Walnut, Maple (mostly) Purpleheart, Cocobolo, Flame Birch, Padauk, Holly, Ebony, Rosewood … and many other woods. He carves, does pyrography, dyes shafts, and even paints small figures/shapes on his spindles. As you can see below, they are something to behold. Most IMPORTANTLY — they all spin well!
What kind of yarn do I make — well — very thin, but not just thin, The yarn has an airy quality, like feathers. There is enough twist to hold everything together, but the fibers are a little more loose, the result is a yarn that is ethereal, light, feathery — just a pleasure to touch and to look at.
It takes around 8 spindles to produce a skein of yarn. I put around 0.5 oz of fiber on each spindle. I could put more, but the extra weight on the spindle affects the twist, so I leave well enough alone and grab another spindle.
Why did I settle on Woodland Woodworking?
There were several reasons. The tools are exceptionally well made and perfectly balanced. I spend a lot of time spinning and balance is the key to a comfortable, issue-free spinning session. These spindles are ALL wood, just wood, no polymer infusion to prevent warping — just the pure wood. The maker chooses good stock and is a true artist. If you EVER have any issue with his spindles, just email him and send them back (if necessary) — Carl will make it right. How cool is that? I love buying from one man shops – in this high tech, commercially controlled world — a single person, making a great product is well worth supporting.
It takes me a couple of weeks — spinning in 1 – 2 hour sessions to complete a skein of yarn. It is a labor of love and it makes a fabulous skein of Lace to Cobweb weight yarn. Sunflower (above) has 1536 yards — my highest to date. I usually have a spindle spinning project running concurrently with other wheel based spinning projects. It’s important to change up what you do with your body, to avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Explore spindle spinning — especially Support Spindles — the lack of gravity on the spinning single will give you a product that will astonish you!
Many know me as Dakota Skipper -- that's my Cowboy alias. I LIKE to write and I like to share. Please enjoy reading about my frolicking fiber adventures!