This Might Backfire

Welcome back, everyone! January was a perfect example of how lots of making often translates into very little blogging. One of these projects is top secret, but thankfully another is ready to show off.

Cat sitting on a spinner's lap
Helpful Kitty!

Inspired by the very talented makers at my local craft guild, I have cracked my spinning wheel back out and made yarn.  The last time the wheel saw any action was last April when I cracked it out for Knitting in the Heartland, when I filled one bobbin with some pretty BFL and another with messy attempts at learning different drafting techniques.  I remember the spinning being slow and a bit tense.

When I came back to it last month. it went much more smoothly.  I have no explanation for that.  I wasn’t spending the time practicing, obviously.  Perhaps I did learn something in my plying class.  Or, more likely, one of the teacher’s adjustments to my wheel fixed one of the problems I wasn’t even experienced enough to know I had.

I filled my second bobbin with pretty BFL pretty quickly, one of the ladies at knit night taught me how to chain ply, and unexpectedly, I had yarn.


It is not entirely perfect: the second picture represents my first bobbin, which turned out to be much more even and closer to a sport weight, while the second bobbin wobbles between sport and a light worsted.  The color is really lovely, though, and I am setting them aside until I can plan out the perfect project.

One of my former frustrations with spinning was that I had a really hard time getting a balanced yarn in the plying process.  Invariably, one ply would be thick and softly spun just as the second ply became very thin and tightly spun, making for a wonky yarn.  With chain plying, I am much happier with the finished texture.

As an added bonus, I got to learn some spinning-wheel repair.  Right as I neared the end of my plying (when else?) my drive band started jumping off the wheel.  I dug out a screwdriver and Allen wrench (of which we have only one, in spite of our numerous pieces of Ikea furniture) and tightened all the screws, but that didn’t help so I took a good look at the drive band.  It was starting to fray and the stray threads were forming a big lump around the knot.  Every time the knot hit a certain spot on the wheel, it caused the whole band to come off.  I’d never changed my drive band (hmm, wonder why it was fraying) and the whole operation seemed too scary and drastic to undertake when I was so very close to the end, but trimming away the stray threads was not helping, so I did it.

I had to look several things up.  First, instructions for replacing a drive band, then, to make sure I had the names of all the parts right, this diagram on parts of a spinning wheel.  Their spinning wheel didn’t look like mine, and I was starting to fear that this was all a horrible, irreversible mistake, so I found another diagram.

The drive band turned out ok if a little tight (the least of every ill I was imagining), and I got my yarn done.  The whole process was mostly reassuring: I really do know more about spinning than I’d thought, and I can fix at least one problem with my wheel.  I was struck, though, by how different my spinning is from my knitting.  I learned to knit from books, and so for as long as I can remember there has been a knitting book handy to tell me how to do all the things.  Books tell you at least one of the names of most techniques and problems, so looking them up online for a better picture or a video is no biggie.  Spinning I learned in a class, and *gasp* I don’t own any basic spinning books, so I don’t know all the names of all the parts.  I own exactly one spinning book, but it’s for spinners who already know how the process works and what all the wheel’s parts are called.  As a result, I know the orifice is where you stick the fiber through and it goes on a spool and there’s a treadle and a drive band and a bobbin, but off the top of my head that’s it.  There’s a knob that changes how fast the yarn goes onto the spool, and a little hook thing to get the fiber through the orifice, and the whole thingamabob that holds the spindle in place.  To be perfectly honest, I am still not entirely sure I even have the drive band on right.

When I think about it too long, this lack of signposts on my spinning landscape is terrifying.  Knitting is the known world, where there are knits and purls and selvedge stitches and lace charts and kitchener stitch and every mistake is fixable.  Spinning is terra incognita, and while I’ve made yarn, and it’s more like the yarn I want than the yarn I made beofre, and less stressful to make than when I first started, it will take many more mismatched pairs skeins before I can eyeball a bag of roving and say “Yes, I know exactly how to turn that into what I want.”

I’ve bought many braids and bags and anticipation of that day, and also because it’s a great cheat for supporting fiber artists without adding to my stash.  Unfortunately I now realize that little trick is backfiring.  My two baby skeins of sport-ish weight yarn that I just finished?  They’ve added a hundred-odd yards to my stash.

2 responses to “This Might Backfire”

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