Some questions, out of the comments.
Jim wrote, in part,
I sense a continuing series or even the beginnings of a book...
I’ve said several times that I wouldn’t write another book, but I’ve never said I wouldn’t work on one with somebody.
And as far as a series goes…oh hell, I dunno. I mentioned I was thinking of closing the blog down since I’m running out of things to write about, and Mar threatened she’d hunt me down if I did. I guess I’ll have to write about something, but I don’t know much about spinning. I’ve been working on some ideas about socks, but after that, who knows? Suggestions?
I'd welcome your comments and suggestions about the things that you find important when trying to produce a constant, relatively fine yarn. My goal is to spin sock yarn (and eventually laceweight), but I don't know what to aim for with handspun -- something quite tightly twisted that releases a bit when washed, or something softer that produces a hard-wearing fabric when knit more tightly? Perhaps it's a matter of preference, and I should just knit everything I spin until I discover my own likes and dislikes.
Good spinners recognize that the yarn they make is not the finished product. The handknitted socks or lace scarf, or the coat made from handwoven fabric, or the crocheted blanket is the finished product. So part of spinning is a bit of reverse-engineering to figure out how to spin a yarn that will give the desired characteristics and behaviors in the finished project, when combined with the craft technique used to make it.
They spin a dozen-or-so yards of yarn, and work a sample, wash it, let is sit around for a bit, and see what it's like as the end product. Not what they want? Work another dozen or so yards doing something different and work it up and finish it, and see what they have. With experience and knowledge, you get better at predicting how things will work out, so your sampling may be reduced.
The thing is, people who come to spinning from knitting –-I’m one-- aren't good at making samples to check stuff like this, because as knitters we usually don't, unless we're designing. The closest most knitters get to sampling is to check gauge, and most do it grudgingly. If they get gauge, do they evaluate the fabric? Do they give it a wash and a steam, or maybe hang it up to see what happens when gravity has had a go with it, or carry it around in their pocket to check for abrasion? Weavers, I think, do more sampling, because they use the information derived from the samples to plan their work: determining the length of the warp, calculating the percentage of length and width lost to shrinkage and take-ups and stuff. So do as I tell you and not as I do. Get in the habit of buying more fiber than you need for you project, and work samples.
I realise that there are many people who just spin for the pleasure or meditation of spinning. But they're not spinning to produce a particular yarn; they're spinning to spin.
And as far as spinning a constant yarn, when you decide what you want your yarn to be, take a sample of it as a single and as a plied yarn. People wrap lengths of them around a recipe or index card. Keep those samples near your wheel or spindle, and frequently compare what you're spinning with them in terms of thickness/thinness and amount of twist. It's too easy to drift away from that, and most people don't know when they are. Some spinners do a check every 15 to 30 minutes or so.
Do you have a grouping of spinner's blogs you read often? Or resources (beyond Alden Amos and Spin Off) to recommend?
Well, I have a preference for reading knitting and spinning blogs that have some solid technical information in them or which are inspiring in some way. (I do read blogs thta aren't heavy on technical stuff, of course. Some are written by people who knit and spin, and I am pleased and honoured that some of these people consider me a friend.) I’m not finding many spinning blogs that fit, mostly, I think, because I’m just not finding them. (I’m sure they’re out there, so I hope you’ll leave a comment and point me to your blog.) I do read June’s blog (her spinning and understanding of technique is inspirational) and Jenny has some good information as well. (You may want to gloss over all the stuff about indigo vats filled with urine if you have a weak stomach.) Sarah Lamb’s blog is very inspirational; great colour, weaving, knitting. Dan does very good work as well.
That said, getting out and spinning with other spinners is a great way to learn, and to get inspiration. (Someday I will go to SOAR. Lookie: Soar has a blog ! And there are links to blogs of spinners! Could be my blog reading has just expanded.)
…One thing I have wondered about - I don't think I can use a wheel because I am handicapped. My left leg is my strong one and I'm not sure that would work with a wheel? But I have wondered - can you spindle spin sitting down? Or would that be crazy tedious?...
I spindle-spin while sitting all the time – more often, in fact, than while standing. Your concern will be how long you can spin before you need to wind on, and that will be very strongly influenced by the height of your chair or stool, and the length of the shaft of your spindle. I’ve been thinking about getting a nice, high bar stool, just to use for spinning.
You could also look at using a supported spindle. I don’t work with them, so really know very little, but here goes. You have to use the spindle resting on a surface of some kind -- your knee, a small dish, whatever: they have to be supported -- so they’re used in situations where you will be seated. Typically, they’re used for spinning fine threads from short fibers, like cotton, cashmere and silk. The goat down used for Orenburg shawls was traditionally spun into a very fine single and then plied with silk using supported spindles. Jeannine Bakridges (Spinning Goddess) has information on her blog about using a tahkli for spinning silk and silk blends (and making punis) – well worth looking at.
There have been articles on supported spindles in past issues of SpinOff, now reprinted in “The Handspindle Treasury”; you might see if you can find a copy of that.
Supported spindles are typically also small, light and very portable, and you’ll hear of people who keep them in their desks at work, spinning a few yards when caught in a boring phone call. Lorraine spun enough yarn using a supported spindle to knit a blanket, while traveling across Canada on a Greyhound bus.
Also falling within the category of supported spindles is the large model used by the Navaho to make the yarn for their woven rugs, while seated on the ground. There’s also something called a “lap spindle” and I believe it’s a form of supported spindle -- kind of a mid-sized version. (Anybody?)
I’m not sure why you’re seeing treadling with only your left foot as a potential barrier to spinning, unless you’re only thinking about double-treadle wheels. Remember that before those became very popular about …what?...10 years ago, maybe?…we saw far more single-treadle wheels. Many of the Saxony-style wheels can be set up for left-hand or right-hand spinning, and I would assume the set-up will determine which foot gets to treadle. If you prefer an upright style, you may find one where the treadle can be oriented for left or right, as well. The Schacht “Matchless” upright can be bought as a single treadle. The treadle itself is quite large and I’ve seen pictures of people treadling with both feet. Speak with a reputable experienced vendor: explain you concerns and see what solutions are offered.
(I suppose I could say here that I have a Lendrum double-treadle upright, and I find myself using it as a single-treadle wheel, especially if I’m plying. It will probably horrify experienced spinners that I’m doing this –-and I admit I lose power when treadling this way-– but it’s saving rotational wear and tear on my back. In fact, I’m really thinking about buying a single-treadle Saxony style wheel. I’m sure that Alden Amos --who champions single-treadle wheels-- will think I’ve come to my senses.)
I’ll also recommend that you read “In Spite of It All” by Julie Beers, in the Summer 2006 issue of SpinOff. Like you, she has mobility issues, and her article gives some ideas about how she has adapted for spinning. In addition to what I’ve suggested, she works with a charkha, and an electric-driven spinner. Well worth a read.
In Other News
It’s now the time of year when daylight hours are scarce. It’s also the time of year that I get hit with Seasonally Affective Disorder, and this year it’s bad. All the lights are on in the house. I’m watching my caffeine intake. I’m doing my best to balance my introvert and extrovert time. I’m watching my carbohydrate intake. I'm getting exercise, within the limitations allowed by my knees. Still, I feel I’m falling flat. I’m really looking forward to December 21st. (And it doesn’t help that I’ve realized that I’ve missed 2 important goals I set for myself this year. Rather than losing 20 pounds, the fit of my clothes suggests I’ve gained them, for example. And what’s shocking is I didn’t even have to try to gain weight. Seriously, if I’d made and eaten pie, I could understand it.)
But there’ll be fewer posts, I think, until I rally. Hope you are all spinning and knitting (and crocheting, weaving, whatever) wonderful things.