While I was searching the Internet for information on spinning, I stumbled across a couple sites with incredible yarns. These spinners have taken the rules of traditional spinning and applied them in new and creative ways to create unusual novelty yarns: ones with giant slubs; spun-in flowers, pompoms, beads and uncarded locks of fiber; intentionally overspun crinkles; and spikes of cut commercial yarns, to name only a few. Maybe it is just my new interest in freeform knitting and crochet, but these sites seem to offer the spinning equivalent: freeform spinning!
- Pluckyfluff (even more inspiration from Alexis Boeger, the author of the book Handspun Revolution - see below)
- Houndscroft Farm (items inluding handspun yarn, spinning kits, and plus an online newsletter, Twisted, that shows how she made some of the yarns)
- Pink Peppercorns, (handspun yarn plus some hand-dyed ribbons and other items)
- Lampe's Lumps (hanspun yarns and other items)
- Fun with Yarn (both handspun yarn and hand-dyed fiber)
- The yahoo group Spinning_on_the_edge
- The live journal group A Weekly Fiber Extravaganza
and some sites with wonderful freeform crochet creations made from these yarns:
- fuzzybumblebee (both wild freeform crocheted items and hanspun yarn)
- Ana Voog's hats (an example of one of her hats is also in the back of the book Handspun Revolution)
All of these amazing yarns inspired me to purchase two new books from Amazon: Spinning Designer Yarns
by Diane Varney and Handspun Revolution by Alexis Boeger.
Spinning Designer Yarns is the most useful book I've found on designing and spinning yarns. Not too long or complicated for a beginner, but still packed with enough information to keep me spinning happily for quite a while to come.
The first chapter, General Considerations, includes information on wheels, sampling (spinning small amounts and testing out the yarn - the spinner's equivalent to gauge?), finishing yarns, and integrating commerical yarns. I expect that the information on wheels will be useful once I'm ready to get a wheel, and the section on sampling will be more relevant once I am ready to spin a larger quantity of yarn with a project in mind. But for now, the best part is Diane Varney's suggestion to add in commercial yarns as cores and binders for fancy handspun plied yarns. How freeing! I was so caught up in getting the handspuns "right" that this hadn't occured to me. Among other things, I've found that plying commercial yarns with handspun ones is a great way to test fancier plying methods without worrying about my newly handspun yarn falling apart when I go back and re-ply a section that didn't work as I would have liked.
Anxious to start designing yarns, I skimmed the next several several chapters -- Thinking About Design, Spinning Control, Color, Fiber and Color Blends. Some chapters, such as the one on spinning control, overlap with what I'd already read in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' High Whorling: A Spinners Guide to an Old World Skill and the ones on color and fiber blends are essentially a shorter version of what Deb Menz explains so well in Color in Spinning. Other chapters, such as the one on design, will definitely be useful once I'm ready to come up with a project and spin a yarn for it, rather than my current approach of spinning something and then letting the finished yarn inspire the knitting project.
The information in the longest chapter, Making Yarn, is reason enough to buy this book. Diane Varney begins by encouraging the reader to dissect commercial yarns and see how they are spun, an excellent idea. I pulled out some of the more unusual yarns from my stash and kept them with me as I read through the rest of the chapter. How wonderful to really understand how these yarns are created, and what a great source of ideas! The chapter moves methodically through sections on textured singles yarns (curly, fuzzy, and slub yarns), plied yarns (basic, Navajo), corespun yarns (this form of plying seems to have lots of potential for fun yarns: spiral, boucle, double wrap, snarl, knop, tufted, and crepe yarns), and finally on to items that can be spun in to the yarn (feathers, cut pieces of yarn, beads, sequins, rags and ribbon, metallic yarns, etc.). By the time I had read this chapter and tried out some of the techniques, I felt like I had taken a huge leap forward in my spinning.
The other book that I got, Handspun Revolution by Alexis Boeger of www.pluckyfluff.com, takes the basic rules of yarn design that Diane Varney explains so well and elevates them to a whole new level. The book is filled with luscious pictures of 22 different yarns, general directions on how to duplicate these effects, and short but useful discusions on the wheels, materials, and methods (carding, setting the twist) used to create the yarns. It is difficult to choose, but my favorite yarns include:
I've made something like Candy Stripe by letting a thinner yarn or thread wrap around a thicker handspun core, but this one is spun as a single with stripes of different color fiber drafted together, and the thin thread held slightly away so that is stays on the outside of the yarn. This is definitely on my list of yarns to try.
Scraps is a wonderful, lively mix of colors; it starts with cut up scraps of yarn added to the carded wool and then spun in, using the wool to hold everything together. I've tried this technique in more subdued colorways: see Green Monster and Poseidon below.
Sequins - Alexis Boeger offers several methods for spinning in sequins. I haven't tried any of them with sequins yet, but did find that they worked well with beads (see Princess below), and I assume would work equally well for other items.
The colorful, circus-like Superslub is another one that I'm itching to try. It is a lovely singles yarn with giant slubs, all done in barberpole twists of multiple colors.
In Mohairy, the slightly transluscent mohair is fuzzed out around a colorful core, creating a beautiful yarn with bits of the core peeking through in random places.
consists of a fiber spun around an elastic core, creating a wonderful twisty mass.
I'm not sure how knitting with it would be, but might be fun! Testing it out will have to wait for a bit; it seems difficult to do with a handspindle, and may have to wait until I am a bit more accomplished.
For Shag, she cut short, even lengths of various yarns and then spun them into an amazing, shaggy yarn by spinning sections of cut yarn beteen two core yarns. Yet another one I can't wait to try.
Beehive alternates sections of handspun coiled tightly around a thread core with sections of thread wrapped loosely aroun the hanspun yarn. The pictured yarn -- a great, green yarn with coiled sections in salmon and pink -- would make me want to take up spinning if I hadn't already.
My final favorite is Flowers, a cute yarn in which flowers made from differently colored rovings are spun right in to a neutrally colored singles yarn. I'd love to try something like this and then knit it up into a child's hat or scarf.
Creating My Own Freeform Yarns
Inspired by these two books and the many websites, I set out to create my own adventurous yarns. I began by combining fibers, which led to a rather painful lesson on the differences between combing and carding. When I was at Carolina Homespun, the owner, Morgaine, had effortlessly demonstrated both carders and combs, making both seem equally simple. And the pictures in Color in Spinning also seemed to confirm that either method would work to combine fibers. Well, since I had been spinning mostly combed top, I figured that I should start with the combs. Big, big, mistake.
First of all, once I got home and tried spinning the carded bats from Crosspatch Creations, it turned out that carded wool was just as easy to spin (see pictures at the end of my Adventures in Spinning post) as combed wool. And then there were the combs -- once I tried to use them, the evil nature that they had sucessfully hidden while at the store emerged. After their nasty, sharp teeth drew blood for the 32d time (I am not exaggerating here - I counted), I buried them at the bottom of my spinning basket, put band aids on the three worst gouges, and headed to the pet store. One problem with Carolina Homespun is that it isn't that close and has very limited hours. So I figured that two large dog brushes could fill in as carders for the moment. What a relief! Carding, even with dog brushes, is much, much easier (and less painful) than combing.
Finally, after reading the Spinning Designer Yarns and Handspun Revolution, it turns out the carding also is the way to go for adding little bits of yarn and other fun things before spinning. Yet another count against the combs; I really wish I'd read these books before I bought the combs.
With the carding moving along quite nicely, I raided my yarn stash and other craft supplies for materials. I pulled together a pile of yarn scraps, discontinued yarns that might work well for plying, some blue silk thread that had been living in my sewing basket for at least 10 years, some glass beads, and some scraps of a green knit fabric scattered with random blobs of fur.
I started this guy by spinning a thinnish yarn in shades of hand-carded green Merino and Corriedale wools mixed with scraps of silk and novelty yarns and long strips of the green knit fabric. In some sections, I tried adding the scraps in as nubs to add a bit more texture. I then plied the resulting yarn with a ball of discontinued green Artfibers Tiara to make about 100 yards of soft, bulky-weight yarn. I am thinking of combining the yarn with some Cascade Indulgence (superfine alpaca and angora) and Kidsilk Haze (superkid mohair and silk) in shades of spring green, along with the rest of the handspun green boucle wool from Magry Knits that I used to make my mossy wrap.
Poseidon and Neptune
I made the base handspun yarn for Poseidon in much the same way, spinning together blue and turquoise Merino and Corriedale wools with scraps of fuzzy yarn. When I finished spinning yarn, I plied it with a turquoise silk yarn so that I could try making knops with both the silk and then the handspun yarn - quite fun! Finally, I plied the resulting yarn with a the thin, blue silk thread.
When I finished Poseidon, I still had a large pile of extra yarn scraps, some turquoise silk yarn, and a good amount of silk thread left over. To finish these off, I plied together the yarn scraps and the silk yarn, and then plied them again with the silk thread to create another version of the yarn that I named Neptune. I plan on using both yarns together with some blue Mirella, Phos (scratchy but beautiful), and Tsuki, all from Artfibers.
Princess is my first attempt at a yarn with beads -- something that requires quite a bit of patience. I started by carding plum and fuscia Merino and Corriedale wools, and then got out some pink and white glass beads that I had left over from a tiara that I made to go on a cake. The most time-consuming part was stringing individual beads onto roving and groups of beads onto lengths of laceweight yarn. Once I had the beads ready to go, spinning them together with the fiber wasn't that bad. To add some bulk, I plied the resulting yarn with some discontinued fuscia Artfibers Tiara (silk and superkid mohair). This has the added benefit of coordinating the yarn with the remaining Tiara yarn, as well as some discontinued metallic Artfibers starlet.
Now, on to figuring out what to make with all of these creations!