Tag Archives: spinning

Spinning – Deconstructed Sunset

This is a new page with photos I have put on my personal blog, but it seems that it needs to be posted here, with the Bus friends.


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Yarn School

There is a school for yarn, I kid you not.  I have recently returned from my pilgrimage to The Harveyville Project Yarn School.

My effort in Dye Lab.

My effort in Dye Lab.

Imagine, if you will, a summer camp full of adults doing all the naughty things kids can only dream of…  Late nights, indulgent food, our favorite activities, all the friends at which a person could shake a drop spindle.  Cookies, cheese, booze and sheep.  You can’t swing a ball of yarn at Yarn School without hitting a small clutch of people laughing, talking and creating.

Yarn School is perhaps best described as a small spinning retreat hosted in the Harveyville, KS school-turned-residence-sometimes-camp owned and operated by Nikol Lohr. 

The spirit of Yarn School can be seen in this bathroom decor.

The spirit of Yarn School as seen in bathroom decor.

I went to a place for spinning and I don’t spin.  Much.  I certainly didn’t (erm, things might have changed when I fell, swiped my credit card and bought a Fricke) own a spinning wheel.  Yarn School for the uninitiated can be a bit intimidating.  There is a bit of a cult following here – people who have been to many, many previous Yarn School weekends.  When one walks into the old gymnasium there is a circle of spinning wheels whirring contentedly while their operators chat merrily.

I was at a loss.

That didn’t last.  Once I got over the chilly temps in the “Seven Dwarfs Room” where I was sleeping, once I acclimated to dinner at 10pm, once I let go and got okay with no schedule that was easily discernible I learned to LOVE Yarn School.  People cared.  They asked why I wasn’t spinning.  They offered to let me try their wheels.  They helped.  One lovely attendee even sang at me once I’d made my first yarn.  I had my own personal sound track and I loved it.

There was dyeing with Adrian Bizilia of Hello Yarn.  There were alpaca courtesy of Alpaca of Wildcat Hollow.  There were bunnies thanks to Little Angora House on the Prairie.  But really there was just a tiny fiber of life, plied tightly with people who had found their place and dyed with the experience of a lifetime.

*cough* So, in a couple of weeks you might be seeing a post on my new spinning wheel.  What can I say?  I’m a sheep.

The sheep of Cupcake Ranch (the Harveyville Project herd) are a delight.

The sheep of Cupcake Ranch (the Harveyville Project flock) are a delight.

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 4)

When we last met, our intrepid hero had spun a small section of fluff into something that loosely resembled yarn.  Upon measurements, the section of fluff was about 3 yards long and weighed 3 grams.  It will never knit up into anything that looks like anything.  Back to try again…

Attempt #2 looked a lot like the first attempt, very loose, lots of fluffy parts with no spin to it surrounded by over spun and almost breaking parts.  It was 6 1/2 yards long.  Again, not a lot of yarn – but it looked more yarn like.  Here are photos of the first two attempts:

The first of the purple yarn

Over the next few days, I keep working at it.  Among the lessons that I learned are:

  1. Pre-drafting the yarn is a good idea when you are learning
  2. When the yarn breaks, it is easy to fix
  3. At the start, it is easier to do the spinning and the drafting as separate motions
  4. This spinning thing is addictive

At the end of the week, I had 6 teeny-tiny little bits of no-longer fluff, but stuff!  Here is the proof:

Lined up all in a row, 1 through 6

This past weekend, I have been spinning like a fool.  I measured out my fluff (40 grams) and divided it into two equal halves.  I spun the first half, being very careful with the amount of fiber I was spinning to keep a fairly even product.  I wound the first 20 grams onto a spare knitting needle.  Then on to the second half of the fluff.  I repeated the process.  As I was spinning I realized that I am getting better at spinning and drafting at the same time, falling into a rhythm that escaped me a week ago.  This morning I wound the second 20 grams onto another knitting needle and began plying the two strands together.  I discovered that I had about 3 yards more out of the second spinning than the first, so I broke it and plied it at the end – no knotting – and have a nice little skein of yarn.  I am unbelievably proud of myself.  Here is Attempt #7, the final product for this blog series.

Purple Yarn!

It will not be the last fiber that I spin, but it is a starting point.  Which brings me back to the beginning.  Now I know that I want a spinning wheel in my living room.  A functional one.

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 3)

Research.  A word that strikes fear into the hearts of students young and old.  Me?  I love research.  I set about researching spinning with an open mind ready to learn.  I was ready but it was like setting off to kindergarten.  What if I didn’t like it?  What if it didn’t like me?  I had high hopes for this spinning thing.  I had the newly acquired tools set before me like school supplies ready for the new school year.

Amethyst Top & Louet Spindle

Spindle and Top

Time to head off to school.  Which way do I go?  What turns do I take?  How will I recognize my teacher when I get there?  The internet is a marvelous thing.  I started with the place everyone should start: YouTube.  I started with Spinning Yarn on a Drop Spindle – Tutorial with Megan LaCore.  I learned some good information here about the leader and drafting.  Good stuff.  But I was not convinced that this was my teacher.

I did a little research and saw one name mentioned above all others Annie Franquemont.  It turns out, she has a video available on YouTube also.  Great.  I started watching Introduction to Spinning, Part 1.  This video started at a much more basic level.  Was this indeed my teacher?  Perhaps, but I thought I would look at a few more options.  (And, no, I have not yet looked for Part 2.)

Books?  How about books?  The problem with me and books is that I am an immediate gratification kind of person.  So, off to Amazon I went to look for books that could be downloaded instantatiously to my Kindle app on my iPad.  I found two that looked interesting and downloaded the first chapter of each.  I ended up buying them both as they are each good for different reasons.  The first is Spinning in the Old Way: How (and Why) To Make Your Own
Yarn With A High-Whorl Handspindle by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts.  The second is Teach Yourself VISUALLY Handspinning by Judith MacKenzie McCuin.  Great books.  These are going to be fabulous resources as I progress into spinning.

At this point my little brain is full of information.  I have not done one single thing with my school supplies though.  Even though I was uncertain that I had found my teacher, there I was, seated in a classroom with people who knew more than me instructing me on how to go about this thing called spinning.  There was no better time than now.  I picked up my supplies and tried to put together everything I had heard and read and seen.  I put a leader of black wool on my spindle, I broke off a chunk of my purple wool, I pre-drafted.  I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

Turns out, I had no idea what I was doing.  But on I went.  I spun, I back-spun (oops!), I made yarn and broke the yarn.  After about an hour or so, I had a bunch of loose, tight, medium, over-twisted, under-twisted yarn.  SUCCESS!  I made a bit of purple yarn!  See?

Spinning: Attempt 1

My first yarn

I obviously have a lot to learn.  But this is kindergarten, right?  I have a long time to go before I am expected to graduate!  Next time, I will show more about my attempts and display more purple yarn.  Real purple yarn.

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 2)

Where were we?  Oh, yes.  I believe I had just determined that if I am going to put a spinning wheel in my living room as a, erm, decoration, I should probably be able to use it.  It doesn’t seem to me that a spinning wheel is an intuitive machine.  There are so many different looks – some very old fashioned, others ultra-modern.  This spinning stuff looks complicated.  Maybe I should not just buy a spinning wheel, but do a test drive of sorts.  I shouldn’t just buy the first available and cheapest model on eBay, should I?  I hear that people make yarn out of fluff with a spindle.  That sounds less, well, invasive on my living room and my pocket book.  But where does one get the immediate gratification?  This is not something you can just pop to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy.  Off to Ravelry to check what the Ravelers have to say!

It turns out there is a large group of people spinning their own yarn.  Who knew?  I knew that Christy (aka Junipero on Ravelry) was spinning some fabulous stuff, but I had no idea how many people were spinning!  I found that the Yarn Barn of Kansas is only about 20 miles from my new home.  Not only do they have what looks like a fabulous c!ollection of yarn, but they stock looms and spinning wheels and the supplies for both.  And they have classes!  Classes that I may be able to attend (depending on when they are offered) and learn new fiber crafts.

A trip was called for.  Immediately.  But how to ditch 2 or 3 kids on the last days of summer vacation and get to Lawrence?  In the middle of the day?  Hmmm…  Turns out that the Middle Child had to go to her middle school for a tour and to get her schedule.  Said Middle Child is definitely the most amenable to fiber arts and yarn stores.  And she can keep a secret like nobody’s business.  So, off we went to tour her school and run (quickly) to Lawrence and back.  The Yarn Barn is amazing.  Worth driving for.  Huge looms, yarn, books, wheels, tools of every kind.  And right next to a Jimmy John’s (#6 no mayo please).  And two doors down from a quilting store!  Is this heaven?

Fifteen minutes later, I was out the door with some Amethyst colored merino fluffAmethyst Merino Top

and a Louet top whorl drop spindle.  Next time, we’ll get into the beginning of my learning curve.  And the tools and web-sites I have used to climb this hill.

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 1)

At the same time my Back of the Bus friends were working on breaking black, I determined that dyeing is probably not for me at this time – it is a little fussy and fiddly.  The house that we have recently moved into screams for antiques and other similarly styled objects.  The corner of the living room was occupied by a baby grand piano when the former owners lived here.  Being not musically inclined, I was not willing to move another baby grand in.  But what I thought would be perfect there was a Spinning Wheel!  A full-on, Sleeping Beauty type spinning wheel.

I was in love with the styling of the spinning wheel and how it would look in the corner of the room.  I also thought it would be a great tie in with my love of yarn and knitting.  I never really gave a lot of thought to whether it should be a working wheel or a really beautiful antique with ‘some parts missing’.  I set the 14 year old son who is addicted to EBay about finding me a spinning wheel.  He gave up when he saw how much they cost and how difficult it is to find a nice looking, working antique.

It was at this point that I started researching new, but still old looking, working wheels.  And the thought crossed my mind that perhaps if I had a spinning wheel in my house, I may actually use it.  This thought was spoken out loud in front of the 14 year old boy who promptly rolled his eyes and pronounced me a “Dork”.  Apparently, I am not a dork if it is used as decoration, but if it is a useful and decorative tool, then I have passed over some invisible threshold into Dork-dom.

At this point I took a step back to think about spinning my own yarn and how I would do this.  This post is but one in a series about my new foray into the art of spinning.  There will be more to follow.