Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Well-Tempered Drop Spindle

I've been in the mood to spin on my spindle lately. The above is the result. It's the contents of a Snohomish Custom Carding Mill grab bag bought long ago at a fiber fair of some sort. I love these little grab bags. They consist of 6-12 blobs of roving, all somewhat different. There's usually some wool, a bit of mohair and alpaca, and a bunch of interesting blends. The colors are fun. The quality is high. The roving is well blended, drafts very evenly, and has very little VM.

This particular bag had 13 blobs of roving. It tended heavily to blues and purples, obviously. I've been grabbing a bit of roving and spinning at odd moments. Each blob got self-plied into a 2-ply yarn. I have about 30-50 yards of each 2-ply yarn. Dunno what I'll do with them. I have an idea about a hat that these might be used for.

Here's a photo of my favorite kind of spindle. My cats have helpfully moved into the photo to give a sense of scale (and to see if the spindle is secretly a cat toy).

Yes, it's a CD spindle. I love CD spindles. I've been spinning on them for close to a decade.

Why do I like them so much? Two main reasons: balance and momentum. It's a very well-balanced type of spindle. Slight adjustments to the CD whorl can fix any little problems.

The momentum is awesome. One quick whirl down my leg, and the spindle will spin for as long as I need. I reach down and stop it when I've drafted as much length as I can, and it's still spinning. It spins wicked fast, too. Even a finger-twirl will give me enough of a fast spin to draft out a meter or more of fiber into yarn.

Another reason I like the CD spindle is because it seems like the epitome of a modern ethnic tool, something quickly made from materials easily found in one's local environment. Dowels, grommets, screw-eye hooks, and spare AOL CDs are a lot easier to find than traditional ethnic materials such as sticks, carved gourds, big beads, and shaped wood.

True, these are not works of beauty compared to many of the gorgeous and useful spindles one can buy from deserving vendors. However, the incredible functionality of this tool makes it a very worthwhile piece of spinning equipment.

I have several CD spindles. They're easy to crank out. I have a few tucked away with various larger spinning projects. Some are used for traveling (the whorl comes off the spindle for portability). Some hang out with the other spinning tools, ready and waiting to be used for the next spindle project.

A lot of the CD spindle directions I see online and in print look like they make clunky and heavy spindles compared to mine, or maybe it's a difference in spinning preferences. Mine are made from dowels that are about 1/4" to 5/16" in diameter. They are roughly 14" long, give or take a bit. I use two CDs. The balance seems best when the CDs are a few inches below the hook.

Over the years, I've broken any number of whorls. Luckily, my environment provides many replacements. The shafts are getting very smooth, some combination of spinning oils and the polish developed through long use.

In general, if I have a few ounces of roving, I'll use the spindle. If I have more than that, I'll use the wheel. There are exceptions, of course. Also, I spun exclusively on a spindle for many years before I bought a wheel.

Here are some samples of yarn I've spun on my spindles. I'm tempted to call them Yarn Porn.

This first one is finer than it looks. It's Targhee, from Mountain Colors, in the Northern Lights colorway. I bought it and spun it years ago. I have about 2400 yards of yarn. I can't remember if I have 4 ounces or 8 ounces of yarn, but either way, it's relatively fine.

When I decided it was time to spin the roving, I stripped it lengthwise into 16 long and skinny lengths of roving. Each was spun separately. This way, the color lengths were fairly short and each skein had a similar sequence of colors. I wanted to maximize the variegation. I loved spinning it. I love the bright colors.

It's in singles form right now. Some day I'll decide what to do with it... Ply with another yarn? Self-ply into a 2-ply? Navajo 3-ply? Use as a singles? Until I decide, it will sit in my stash. I take it out to admire every now and then.

I have another 8 ounce batch of roving from these folks in the Sagebrush colorway. I'll probably do that one on the wheel. I probably will spin from the one long piece of roving. That way, I'll have long color repeats instead of short ones. I might very well 2-ply it, though I never know for sure until the inspiration strikes.

The yarn on the right is llama. I won it as a door prize at some fiber show many years ago. I only had an ounce or two on a small cone. It was another fun thing to spin. I ended up with over 700 yards of genuinely laceweight yarn. It seems like a shame to ply it. It's enough for a small shawl. The last bits of roving were darker than the first bits, something which was not at all visible when I first started to spin it. I wonder if that's why it was donated as a door prize, but that's a rather uncharitable thought.

I had another photo or two to share, but they're not as well-focused as the above two are. I'll re-shoot the photos and inflict them on everyone in the next Yarn Porn session.

Here are some applicants for my next spindle project -- several blobs of dyed roving. Every now and then I get together with friends and we have a dye day. We take a real Mad Scientist approach to dyeing and end up with beautiful results. Even the un-beautiful results are interesting, and look much better after a dip into a different dyepot. The photo below shows some of the results of our last dye day. The yarn is a light gray Romney. Some of these might be spun on the wheel, though they're about the right size for a good spindle project.

Yeah, we did a lot of red and purple that day. It looks good with the light gray roving. I wasn't sure that yellow shades would work as well. I also like the greens, blues, and the bright orange. Although it's hard to tell from the photo, one of the blobs is a beautiful deep teal. I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks as a yarn. Ditto for all the others.

And now it's time to publish. I have a doily to knit! Not to mention all the other fun fiber projects, plus all the non-fiber obligations.

We shall see if blogger puts the photos in the same place where they appear in my preview. If not, I'll be doing some editing and rearranging.


Katherine said...

Hey, JP, you probably want to remove the word Pr0n from your posts and tags. Spam, you know.

Love your blog and the doilies. I haven't been bitten by the doily bug yet, although I am thoroughly and completely obsessed with lace and will probably capitulate at some point.

The Doily Underground said...

Thanks for the advice and the nice comments.

Dang about the word causing problems. I haven't figured out how to edit the tags yet. Once I do, I'll probably be sensible and remove the troublesome reference.

You should definitely succumb to lace knitting. Even if you don't do doilies, try something else. There are fantastic scarf and shawl patterns out there, for example, ranging from dead simple to incredibly complex. Or how about a nice lacy facecloth?

You can use your favorite knitting yarns. Lace doesn't have to be done with laceweight yarn or thread. Moose lace, as a lot of us call it, is just as fun and lends itself to faster gratification of the lace-knitting urge.

You probably knew all this already, but I'm only trying to give you a little extra encouragement. Capitulate! You know you want to...