Spinning Yarn

Spinning Yarn

Taking a Braid for a Spin

Spinning

Spinning yarn is one of those things that so many people find to be amazing. Myself included! Lots of people who are into other fiber arts, such as knitting and crocheting, seem to believe that spinning yarn is beyond the realm of reasonable activities to take up. Spinning is something from the olden days, right? Why would I spend time spinning yarn when I can order thousands of different types of yarn, and get whatever I want already made?

Well, let me tell you, spinning is a glorious adventure if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your fiber arts! While there is certainly a learning curve, it isn’t actually “hard” to do. You can find prepared fiber in all kinds of braids or batts, you can purchase different types of fibers and blend your own mix, or you can even take the wool right off a sheep or alpaca and spin it in the grease!

Different put-ups for different spins

My favorite way to spin is from a braid of fiber already prepared for me. Sometimes I purchase a bare braid and dye it myself, and sometimes I get it already dyed by a favorite dyer, such as Kim Russo of Kim Dyes Yarn. When you’re spinning yarn from a braid, you will undo part of the braid and pull off a section, usually splitting the section into two or three narrow strands.

You can find prepared braids in all different types of fibers! My favorite is merino/silk, with pure Polwarth being a close second. I also enjoy alpaca blends (such as alpaca/silk, or alpaca/bamboo.) While I have certainly spun pure Merino before, I don’t enjoy it as much as when it is blended with another fiber, due to Merino’s short staple length. Getting to play with different types of fibers is so much fun!

Braid of Merino

Batts are another fun option for spinning yarn. Batts are made by carding different fibers together into a fluffy blend, kinda like a “cloud” of fiber. You can then take chunks off the batt and spin them however you wish. I’ve had batts before that were alpaca, mulberry silk, mohair locks, Angora, and stellina (sparkle strands) all mixed together to make an absolutely stunning blend of color and texture. While I have more trouble getting a uniform yarn from batts, I do so enjoy the fun of them! They always make for an interesting spin. As do rolags and p-rolags, but perhaps those are a post for another day…

Braid of Merino/Bamboo/Silk

Wheel vs. Spindle

spinning wheel
My sweet little baby wheel <3

Honestly, I kinda feel like the wheel vs. spindle is a whole other post by itself, too, so I’m only going to touch on a couple of things here.

First, a spindle (also called a drop-spindle) is basically a dowel threaded through a center hole in a round weight. Like a pencil through a donut, only tightly anchored. The round weight can be wood, stone, Fimo clay, or just about anything else you can think of. You hook your fiber around a hook in the top of the dowel, and you spin the whole thing either between your fingers or by running it down the side of your leg. When you get a long length of yarn spun, you wind it around the shaft. This is my prefered method of spinning, as spindles are inexpensive and easily portable.

I am not quite familiar enough with spinning wheels to talk much about them. I have a small one that doesn’t work, and intend to get a larger one that does sometime in the future. The reason I haven’t made the plunge yet is because A) they’re expensive (the cheapest being at least a few hundred bucks, and I’ve seen some go for upwards of $5,000) and B) they take up a good bit of space. For years, my spindles have served me well, so I’m in no rush. Eventually it’ll happen, when I have the money to spend and can make room in our small home.

Try it, you'll love it!

current spin
My current spin, dyed by me!

In summary, if you haven’t yet tried to spin your own yarn, you really should give it a go! There are lots of places online where you can find high-quality hand-dyed spinning fibers, as well as handmade spindles. There are books on spinning, videos to get you started, and I’m always just an email away.

Spinning is relaxing (once you get the hang of it) and it really is so much fun to be able to play with all different types and blends of fibers.

If this post inspires you to try your hand at spinning, I’d love to see your pics! Post in the facebook group, or on instagram, and hashtag them RowsAndRosesSpin so I can see what you’ve got going on!

Spun In The Grease

Spun In The Grease

Prepping Greasy handspun yarn

handspun

Not too long ago, my dearest friend and fellow yarnie Sarah sent me home with some handspun yarn. Wool, for sure, but what kind is anyone’s guess. She had gotten it from a friend who had gotten it from someone else, and apparently nobody knew what to do with it. Therefore, it was passed on down the line, ending with me. This yarn is lovely, spun by someone who clearly knew what they were doing. There was one little problem… It was spun in the grease.

Now that’s not ALWAYS a problem; plenty of spinners choose to spin in the grease. In fact, I’ve done it once myself (and hated every minute, haha.) I knew when she handed it over and I felt it, that I was going to have to do some serious cleaning up of this yarn before I could use it for anything. So now, since I’m in the middle of my annual psycho-creative period,  you get to follow along with me on a mini-adventure where we learn what it means for a yarn to be spun in the grease, how to clean it up, and why. While we’re at it, we’re also going to measure and reskein this lovely sheepy stuff as it came with no tags and I need to know what we’re working with.

What does it mean to be spun in the grease?

handspun

As we all know, wool comes from sheep. Sheep produce lanolin, a waxy coating that keeps their wool water resistant. This is why wool diaper covers are usually lanolized: lanolin is added to the diaper cover so that it doesn’t leak.

Sometimes, when a sheep is sheered and the fleece is skirted, it is then  spun without being washed first. This is called “spinning in the grease.” I’ve done it one time and one time only, and I hated every minute! My hands felt like they had had a spa treatment, sure, but the experience was a weird mixture of gooey/creamy/crunchy. Not to mention that raw lanolin has a very strong scent. Not bad, exactly, but STRONG!

Let's get this stuff clean!

This yarn is very heavily greasy, so I knew it was going to take more than a quick wash to get all this lanolin out. I filled my plastic tub with hot water and a big squirt of original Palmolive dish soap. I was only able to comfortably fit two skeins at a time, so everything I did, I had to do again. Let me tell you, this was no easy washing. I had to fill the tub with hot water and dish soap TWICE and then rinse in clear hot water for both sets of skeins.

After the final rinse, I squeezed out as much water as I could, and then took them out onto the deck and gave them a good twirling to spin out the rest of the water. They were then hung on hangers to dry in the laundry room. The yarn still felt a bit waxy, but at this point I’m thinking they should be clean enough to knit or crochet with. I can always wash the finished product really, really well before blocking, and the wool wash I use on finished objects is amazing. It really gets everything super clean! So this will be good enough for now.

washing handspun

And now we have a problem...

After roughly 48 hours, this gorgeous yarn was dry and ready to be measured and reskeined. I got out the swift, ball winder, and my yardage counter so that I could find out how much yarn I’m working with.

OMG

damnit

This yarn is so coarse, so thick, and still so loaded with lanolin (after TWO dish soap washes HOW???) that it BROKE MY FREAKING COUNTER! Okay, so it’s a cheap-ass counter anyway and I’ve been telling myself I need to get another one. But I don’t HAVE another one right now. Ugh.

Feeling somewhat disgusted right now. That’s okay, gonna keep going. I finally got all four skeins wound into balls, and decided to just leave them as is to save myself the hassle of reskeining. Furthermore, I can knit or crochet directly from the center-pull balls so reskeining would actually be hurting me anyway. At this point, I’m finished. And I need a new (and better) yarn meter, so off to make a purchase. Now I get to try to figure out what this yarn wants to be. Mitts, maybe? I’m thinking yes because if worn on the hands, the lanolin in this still-greasy yarn will offer a built-in spa treatment, and who wouldn’t want that?

finished winding

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