Finally! Time To Start Stitchin’!


Well, it took a while, but I finally have my yarns and hooks ready to go!

I have enjoyed the process of starting out with wool roving, then dyeing and spinning it into yarn, immensely. The learning curve was not bad at all. Plus, I got a LOT of help from The Gods of Google, who referred me to The Lords of You Tube.

Now is the time, before I scamper off into Yarnia,

to share what I’ve learned so far, and where I learned it.

About the dyeing…I believe I posted this already, but it’s worth boring you to into a drooling heap  by repeating it. The roving has to be “drafted” from its natural state, into something of a proper thickness (about the width of a pencil) for spinning.  draft out more for a thicker yarn, less for a finer yarn.  “About a pencil width” gives you roughly a worsted weight yarn.

To “draft” the roving, you pull on it…careful!…until it looks and feels right. Perfection is not an issue for me.  I LOVE the thick/thin texture I get from hand spinning the yarns, and from a less-than-perfect draft.

I must, with my lack of spinning experience, draft a length of roving before I attempt to spin. I can not draft on the fly. Yes, lengths of roving got broken off, or drafted out so thin, I just gave up and broke them off. Know what? These broken lengths splice together again during the spinning process, easily and beautifully.

So, that’s the first thing I learned…Draft First.

On dyeing, and this brings us right back to drafting, I found that, no matter how careful I was in the dyeing process, the roving felted a little.  That made drafting a little more of a challenge.  One skein, done in Kool aid orange flavor, was dyed after the roving was drafted and spun, and came out great (see below.)

Lesson Two:  Draft and spin your yarn, “set your spin,” BEFORE you dye.

Set you Spin?  Hah?  I won’t get ahead of myself…the video links I’m about to post for spinning, dyeing, setting your spin…all explain things pretty well.

On spinning…again, total newbie here…I keep the lengths of drafted roving at a manageable length, only a couple of yards..maybe even a couple of feet, depending on whether the roving tears off when I draft it out.  I also tend to keep the spun yarn at a more manageable length, only a couple of feet, before I drop it from the spindle hook and wind it onto the bobbin end of the spindle.

Here’s a great picture of the two kinds of whorl spinners (bottom whorl on the right) that show how the yarn travels, and where it gets wound onto the bobbin end when it starts to get too long.

Top or bottom whorl…which is better?  Beats me!  I ordered a bottom-whorl, used it to spin the yarns.  I have, since I started, ordered a top-whorl spinner, with a notch (center spinner in the picture) and I’ll let you know which one I like best.  The new one, not here yet (but I’m hopeful that my letter carrier will gift me today) will weigh substantially more (twice the weight) than the one I started out with.  I don’t know how that will translate yet.  I’ll let you know when I figure it out.  I am assuming it will provide a longer “spin.”  More weight, stronger momentum…maybe.

As you can see from the picture, a top-whorl spinner requires a much shorter “leader” than the other, and doesn’t require that spin up the shaft.  I had no trouble working around the need for a longer leader, or making that spin up the shaft.  Really, the learning curve for working with my bottom-whorl spinner was easy.

I learned to keep the roving away from the spinner.  It can get caught up in the spin, and it’s a real challenge to get loose after that.   tossing the length of roving over my shoulder while I spun did the trick.

Once the yarn was all spun, I went through the process of “finishing” my skeins…I don’t have expensive  tools, like yarn swifts or yarn ball winders.  I used the back of my computer chair to wind the yarn off the bobbin, and I’ll wind the finished skeins into center-pull balls on my thumb.  I have looked at those really cool yarn ball winders and, much as I’ve coveted them, turned away every time, thinking…by the time I get this ting set up, I can wind an entire skein of yarn around my thumb.  Sure, I love the flat cake, neat finished product the yarn ball winders put forth, but don’t like the fifty-dollar price tag.  My thumb has never let me down.
The spun yarn, now wound into a skein, or hank, around the back of my computer chair, now has to be returned to a hot water bath to “set the spin.”  Get it hot and wet, wring it out, and hang it up, with a weight hanging from the bottom of the skein.  I used tent stakes.  You can also use more hangers.  Vids forthcoming, I promise!

I haven’t decided if I will “ply” any of these yarns yet.  That would be, taking two strands of spun yarn, going back to the spinner, and spinning them together, to form a thick yarn.  Yes, I will have to set that spin and dry that length of spun yarn again if I decide to ply any of these yarns.  I’ll probably reach for a smaller hook for the thinner yarns.

All of this blathering leads to a simple Lesson Three:  Spin, spin, spin!  Spin, it, wind it, set it.

I’ll keep the noise about dyeing short.  In most cases, I used Kool Aid unsweetened mix.  In all cases, I used the microwave!

For the Kool Aid dyes, and this is huge…do NOT add sugar.

I used a huge measuring has this fifty handle, see, and, while a big glass mixing bowl does the job, it gets HOT.  Use oven mitts!
A package or two (or three if you want really intense color) to about an ounce or two of roving (or yarn) in about a quart or so of water (cover the wool with an inch to spare) and a splash (tablespoon or two) of white vinegar are all it takes.  Do not skip the vinegar.  I “nuked” my roving (or yarn) for about five minutes, checked…Kool Aid dye is awesome in that, when it’s done, the water around the wool is clear, all color having been absorbed into the wool.  When it’s done, just let it cool, rinse it in warm water, and let it dry.

I did the blues with Rit Dye, again in the microwave.  That’s a little trickier.  Rit runs.  Mike, who, in addition to being a garden Guru, did a lot of quilting and dyeing in his day, told me, “Set your syes with vinegar.”  Now, I had done that, but it was still running, so I did it again, with more vinegar, for a longer period of time…a half cup of white vinegar to an ounce or two of yarn, in the bathroom sink for about an hour in warm water.  Rinsed it out, and it stopped running.

What’s our dyeing lesson?  Well, for one…make sure you have plenty of white vinegar on hand.  Watch your heat.  Never go from hot to cold with wool.  It felts immediately.  (Yes, I plan to felt this project, just…not yet) Always let the wool cool off naturally, then rinse in water about the same temperature as your wool is.  Most important, have FUN with the colors!  Experiment!  Mix colors!  Run with it!
The biggest lesson I learned:  take your time.  This isn’t something that can really be rushed.  Take your time, experiment, enjoy.  While taking the woll from roving to spun, dyed yarns was essentially an easily-learned series of processes, it was time-consuming.

And that’s okay!
All is said and done now…or rather, all are dyed and spun now, and I got some really cool yarns, and a really, really cool sense of satisfaction from having learned the basics of spinning.

These funky hanks are the ones I dyed and spun.  I also have some purchased Lion Brand wool, to add to things for color, texture, whatever.  Since this project will be free form and felted, weights don’t matter much.  It’s all about color and texture.

This lovely orange skein is the one I dyed after I spun the plain roving, and I love the result.

and next…time to start stitching!  according to yarn weight, stitches used, the moods my hands are in at the moment, and my Muse, I’ll grab a hook at will.  I am a confessed crochet hook freak, so I keep a lot of them.  These are the ones I gathered for this project…I might use one or two, or I might grab them all…who knows?  I rallied them from left to right, according to the onmes I figure I’ll pick up the most often.

Whether I grab a Sculpey handle (made those handles with Sculpey eraser maker clay) or one of the bamboo handles (my favorite hooks) will depend on my hands.  Fourth, fifth and sixth hooks from the left are “bullion” hooks, and I’ll grab those for making bullion stitches.  Eighth and ninth from the left are BIG hooks, to be used if I ply any of my yarns.  The ones off-kilter, on the right, probably won’t get used, as they’re pretty small hooks.  I put them in there because they’re cool.

Now, at last…links to where I got my best information!

I think top-whorl spinners are a lot more popular than bottom-whorl, because most of the video tutorials I found were for the former.  I did, however, find a great video set from a young man who prefers his bottom-whorl spinner.  Part one of his two-part tutorial is here:    Part two of his video tutorial is here:
Megan LaCore has several wonderful videos on You tube for spinning, from drafting: , to spinning on a drop spindle (she uses a top-whorl, but her instructions are clear): to finishing: and finally, to plying two strands together:

Take all of these videos, all of this cool information, and make it your own.  Be comfortable with it, play with it, until you’re doing things your way.

And above all…have fun!

I’ll be back with the purse…stitches used, ways of free forming yarn into fabric…painting with wool!

Stay tuned….


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