Monday, 4 February 2008

Spinner's Review

I am seriously getting addicted to this spinning lark. Some kind of Twelve Step Programme may be in order before the month is out. Gorgeous packages of lovely fluffy roving are threatening to smother me (and I said I wouldn't have a fibre stash, hah!) although the insulating effect in the lounge may well do wonders for our heating bills. I am ordering new spindles left, right and centre. Not good, my friends, not good.

Being the scientific sort of person that I am, I decided to get me some proper reference material because I've either forgotten most of the stuff from the course we went on, or I need more detail than we were given. I therefore purchased three very different books last week, for instructional purposes.

Creative Spinning by Alison Daykin and Jane Deane

A beautiful, lush book this, definitely more for inspiration rather than technicalities, though there is a "how to" section at the front. Most of the book consists of gorgeous projects of various art yarns inspired by nature - titles like "Shell", "Seedling", "Lapis Lazuli" and "Frost" should give you some idea. My favourite is "Pasture", a darling, cuddly yarn made from pastel green, blue, pink and grey angora rabbit fibre (it would make me sneeze but never mind). Actually, when you read the projects, there's a surprising amount of instruction on fancy techniques such as snarls, knots and beads, which aren't covered in less OTT books. I'm unlikely to make any of the projects - most would be ruined if anything other than those particular colour and fibre pairings weren't followed, and that's not my style - but it really is lovely to wallow in.

By the way, my stupidity caused me to order two of these from Amazon, so I have a spare if anyone wants to buy it. Sigh, I surprise myself with my idiocy sometimes.

The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Subtitled The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using and Enjoying Yarn, this really is a tome. This isn't so much about spinning as such, but is, in great depth, about the properties of different types of fibre, different ways in which it is combined, spun and plied, and how those translate into the final yarn. Very interesting in terms of why superwash wool spins differently to non-superwash, why singles behave differently to plied yarns, why commercial angora is so bloody sheddy, why hand-dyed sock yarns pool, and how these affect the eventual knitted product. There are plenty of patterns, nothing of great interest to me, but that's not why I wanted it. There's loads of information in here about every possible type of animal, plant and man-made fibre type, including a cool "family tree" on the frontispiece. Definitely a book I'll refer to again and again so well worth the price.

In Sheep's Clothing: A Handspinner's Guide to Wool by Nola Fournier and Jane Fournier

Definitely the most hardcore of the three, this. Only about sheep's wool, but by god, they find a lot to say about it. After a short preamble about the anatomy of a wool fibre and how it grows, the bulk of the book consists of a breed-by-breed analysis of wool, with a black and white photograph of a lock from each type, and a description of its spinning properties. This couldn't be further from the beautiful colours and misty landscape backgrounds of Creative Spinning! Terribly austere but very informative. I'm sure no-one but a spinner or a sheep breeder could be even remotely interested in this sort of thing. For me, it's made me want to have a whole field full of different sheep breeds and rub my face in their cuddly fleeces. The last section of the book has lots of technical help on sorting the fleece, carding, spinning and plying, including the first sensible description of Navajo plying I've seen (it still looks impossible). I'd been looking all over the net for the various definitions of batts, roving, tops, rolag etc, and how they should each be spun, and it's all here. There are even hand and arm exercises for after a long bout of spinning. Fantastic.

Other than books... well, there's the fibre of course. I've been photographing what I have so far and will be putting it all up on Ravelry eventually, but I can thoroughly recommend Etsy sellers loop, copperpot, alltheprettyfibers, and enchantedknoll for the lovely things that have arrived chez Ginger so far, with more on the way from hobbledehoy, fibermonster and fyberspates. Dear me. I am the proud owner of a pretty butterflygirldesigns spindle, and there's another coming from Sublime Spindles for plying purposes. Oh deary deary me.

So, what with being all kitted up, you'd expect me to produce some yarn, wouldn't you? I can't say my output has been prolific as such, mainly because I'm doing one large batch of merino tops and so whilst I've been working on it steadily, there's nothing to show off yet. But with my enchantedknoll order came a tiny mini-roving of merino in Gypsy, a combination of blues, greens, oranges and pinks, so I immediately spun this up (read: ballsed this up). So here is my first home handspun:

Any prettiness there is wholly down to the roving, not to my skill. There are some good bits but some unintentional thick and thin sections and some horrendously over- and underspun bits. But still, it's yarn, hooray! All two yards of it (four grams or 0.1 ounces).

I am so over actually knitting anything...

One final thing: I've found my spiritual home on Ravelry in the new "Lazy, Stupid, and Godless" group, for all of us who just love swearing and can't be arsed to do anything useful when playing on the internet's an option. I love you guys!


stash haus said...

This is why I gave away a (still in the box and brand spanking new) spindle I won at a guild event. I've seen how the whole black hole of spinning pulls everything in its path into it's stash-enhancing, time-grasping maw. It's bad enough I've got a whole closet full of yarn. The last thing I need are batts of fiber all over the house. Or unwashed fleeces.

But I tip my hat to you. This will be fun to watch the results of your spinning. Thanks for letting me be a spinner - if only vicariously through you.

Helen said...

Love your first efforts - v. pretty. BTW you make my day! I've nominated you for an award.