March 9, 2005
You spin me right round...
Posting late today. Have any of you bloggers figured out how to do away with those pesky real life annoyances that interfere with regular blogging? You know the ones...jobs? Kids? Spouses? Anybody hit on a way to explain (tactfully...always tactfully) that you would really rather be blogging than earning a living?
I started up yesterday with Laurie's roving, but first (and I hear the Gansey brigade getting ready. Look at them, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to leave me comments about poor wee ganseyless Joe...abandoned, cotton clad and unloved with another Tuesday spun away) first I spun and plied another 150m skein of Joe's gansey wool. (Joe does all right around here, I assure you.)
Take that Gansey Brigade! Ha ha! You thought you had me, but I'm to shifty for you. Just when you think you have me pegged as fickle and unreliable, bingo. Gansey yarn. This brings the total to about 650m, and impressed Joe enough to lull him into my blog web, taking pictures of Laurie's roving.
I had this great spinning teacher and she was always going on about "prep". When I was a new and excited spinner, this ticked me right off. I didn't want to "prep", I wanted to spin! Spinning was fun, prepping was not. I can say with reasonable authority that I think most spinners would agree...since I have never heard "prepping" presented as a standalone hobby. You never hear anybody say..."oh yeah. "prepping"? I love it. I don't give a rat's arse about spinning, but drafting and combing are just the bomb. Why, I don't even own a spinning wheel but I've filled my whole house to the rafters with drafted rovings." As a new spinner, I didn't prep a whole lot. My spinning showed it. The teacher was always saying that the more time I put into getting fibre ready, the nicer the end spinning would be. This concept (planning ahead, investing for the long run, thinking things through...) was not me. Finally, I was forced to "prep" in front of her and was shamed into doing a good job. The spinning was so easy and pretty, so consistent and lovely, that I was immediately won over. I am now all about the prep. I'm telling you this because you don't have to be. This is my way of doing it, it gets the results that I like, and I think it's best for me.
Find your own way, there are no right answers. Spinning is like knitting, if you are ending up with something you like, then you aren't doing it wrong.
Step one: Step one is making a decision about what I want. I'm hooked on the continous change through one skein that I get with Laurie's roving if I draft it in one piece. If I wanted striping yarn, at this point I could (though I choose not too..) strip the roving lengthwise into pieces. Stripping it in half would give me two repeats of the colour change. Stripping those again would give me four, and so on. Since I want one long change, I'm just starting the drafting. Even though Laurie's roving is beautifully made the dyeing process compresses the fibres a little and makes them stick together. The first pass of pulling opens the fibres, unsticks them from each other and begins to draw the fat roving out into a thinner one.
All I'm doing is starting at one end of the roving and working toward the other, pulling the roving gently between my two hands. My hands are fairly far apart, and I'm moving pretty quickly. I'm not aiming for a whole lot of accuracy, just general looseness and lengthening.
Next, I'm back to the start with my hands closer together. I try to get them about a staple length apart. Wool is deeply variable stuff, and the staple length is the length of the hair. If we were talking about people, we would say that people with short hair had a short "staple" and people with long hair had a long staple. For pre-drafting, I start with my hands a few inches apart and pull gently. If I feel no movement, I move my hands apart a little at a time until I find the spot that the roving "gives" or starts to slide when I pull. This is about the right distance for my hands to be. I move along the roving, maintaining this distance and further lengthening and slimming the wool. This time I'm trying to even it out. I pull it apart more in thick spots and less in thin ones. I'm looking for evenness.
Finally, a third pass. This time I'm repeating the step above, again with my hands about a staple length apart, but this time I'm thinning it down to the fineness I want to spin from. I find that the thinner I make this go...the faster and more even the spinning. If Laurie's prep were not as anal retentive lovely as it is, then I would be on the lookout for neps (little knots of fibre than will make lumps in the spinning) or vegetable matter (straw, hay, grass etc) and pull them out at this point. Lucky for me, Laurie's roving is as perfect as it is lovely.
I do this last pulling in shifts, immediately prior to spinning, since once it's drawn out this fine it's pretty fragile. I take the stage two roving and put it in a pile by my spinning chair and break off arms lengths as I need them. With Laurie's roving I'm very careful to keep the colours in the right order.
Today, I spin it ...right after I try to reclaim it from Millie, who obviously thinks it's the best seat in the house.
It only seems fitting, as we discuss lovely wooly things and making them by hand, that I give away the knitting journal that Emma made.
Posted by Stephanie at March 9, 2005 4:43 PM
The cover is felted wool (dyed by our esteemed Emma) and combined with the fur of her very own bunny, Gir. The spine is wood, there are blank pages, graph paper pages and project pages to fill in the details of your work. Each and every bit of it was made by Emma, and clicking on this link will let you read all about it and see more details. This of course, is so that you can all be profoundly jealous of Julie S., who owns it now. Congratulations Julie. Wish I was you.
Damn it. Now I'm coveting prizes and trying to kick Willie Nelsons arse. I'm showing so little personal growth.
Dropping by to say hello and that I think Millie is so adorable. I had some tasty grape tomatos today; they almost made up for the horrid cucumber I ate yesterday. Spring must be sprung soon!
Yippee!!!! I won Emma's book! This is just so amazing, especially since I don't win anything (except people over with my sunny personality). I swear I won't gloat.
Thanks to Emma, thanks to Stephanie, thanks to everyone who's made this whole MSF thing such a great experience.
What a nice cat. She's probably right about that roving being the best seat in the house; it's where all the action is!
Thank you for giving a little tutorial on how to prep--I've always been a little haphazard with getting ready for things, (chopping vegetables, swatching, drafting rovings) but maybe I'll give it another go. (Baa. Look at me being all sheepy and following our esteemed and clever leader. Mwa hahahahaha).
The book/knitting journal is beeeeeee-yew-ti-ful. Lucky Julie!
I want to be Julie, too! Or Millie, I can't decide.
Neps can be your friend. I bought some lace weight cashmere nep from Habu and I adore it. Not especially fond of straw or ticks or other items in the wool, though.
*sigh* Everything's about the prep, isn't it?
Spin, spin, spin, woman!!
Congratulations, Julie! And congratulations Millie for being able to lie in that wonderful goodness. I'd do it, too, iffen I could! I can only begin to imagine how beautiful that yarn is going to be when it's done.
Ok. I'm pacified.
To be perfectly honest, Laurie's roving is more interesting on its own than the gansey wool. There, I said it. I'm just trying to champion the under.... Joe.
Go mom! (That would be Julie.) You DO remember my birthday is in 3 weeks, right?
You should give that to me.
Love, your daughter.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for demystifying the whole "prep for spinning" thing! I've been clunking along using my carders to make little fluffy sausages of one single color to spin on my drop spindle, but I've been wondering what to do about multicolor roving.
You rock, Yarn Harlot! Not the least for making me laugh coffee out my nose on a near-daily basis.
Of course the cat claimed the roving. You were putting so much effort into it; it MUST be for her! :)
I will now sigh wistfully that I didn't get the felted book and remind myself that I took my name OUT of all the running, since I'm trying to de-stuff my house before I move.
I'm dying to see what the roving will look like once it's spun!
Mille has her own lovely roving - tell her to get off of yours!
Tell 'em, sister. Testify! All HEARRRRR the power of the prep, the pre-draft, the purrr. I'll give my testimony: I used to spin merino sliver without predrafting. There may be uses for merino rope -- lumpy merino rope -- but I have seen the light. No sheep police round my door, no Satanic rams (remember the knit one on the back of Spin-off which knotted so many knickers?) Now I draft it till it's cirrus (and a damned good thing, too, given this Wensleydale I'm currently tangoing.) Can't wait to see you pose in the middle of Navajo plying -- "Statues" for spinners.
Oh, poor, poor Willie. Hasn't life delivered him enough ass-kickings as it is? Seriously, if I have to see one more cable tribute concert where a bunch of two-bit hacks get to play his songs instead of him, I think I'll cry. So quit pickin' on poor ol' Willie. ;)
I don't understand why Millie loks so bored. I'm fascinated.
Oooooh, I can hardly wait to see more! My friend says I should get a drop-spindle and try spinning. I have the feeling your demo will get me to do it, if only as a first step. Ohh, I can hardly wait!
I see plenty o' personal growth. I see you prepping (necessary, but not the most fascinatingly fun activity ever) and Being Tactful When Silly Things Like A Job Keep You From Blogging. That seems like enough personal growth for anyone for an entire month. So enough with the Harlot-bashing!
As for Willie, he is helpless in the face of the TSF. And if you didn't covet Emma's amazing journal, you wouldn't be a human being. Even Mother Theresa would be begging Emma to make her a journal (a begging journal, of course) if Mother T. were still around. It's a gorgeous piece of handmade art. We little humans crave beauty and art in our lives.
Great prep lesson! (And for Millie, I'll repeat a popular saying: Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.)
Can't wait to see the next installment.
(PS: rams, you crack me up. now i'm gonna have to sift through my spin-off back issues to see the satanic knicker-knotting ram. and as for julie's daughter: give it up, girl. mom won it, fair and square.)
Yeah, I want to see the Satanic ram too. *grin* However did I miss it?
I'm laughing about the prep problem. I've been laboring over the same damn stash of llama fiber roving balls for _years_ now, because, alas, they are all full of the little scratchy plant bits -- even after going through the mill! When I first started spinning, it was all about the lumpy weird "novelty" yarns that were scratchy enough to use for backscrubbers. Now I'm making nice smooth stuff -- but it's still part of the same veggie-filled stash!
Of course, being limited to the speed and make of a drop spindle may have something to do with that too... Someday, years from now, I hope to have a cardigan. Heh.
Rana, I'm with you here on the drop spindle gig. This woman breezily dashes off (for those of you keeping track at home here) 450m of singles to ply to 150m of yarn in one morning ... as a warm up act. After a few long brainless, I mean meditative evenings of spinning and loading up the spindle, I plied it out today and came up with a whopping 55 yards of Navajo plied sock yarn. And that's not even meters, or metres, or whatever it is in Canadian. ;-) The roving is gorgeous - even I would be inspired to give it the due respect of a careful prepping.
Thank you for the prep lesson. My first wheel is due to arrive in less than 5 months! No, I do not want a drop spindle, thank you. I cannot wait to get my hands on some really cool roving and have some fun myself!
Note to Jaime:
I love you, my darling daughter, but no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks are you getting the journal. Nice try, though.
It is amazing what a little pre-drafting can do! It's the best; I often pre-draft rolags and batts into roving, too. When spinning lovely combed sliver like Laurie's, sometimes I'll cheat and just fluff it and pull off a handful at a time and spin from the fold.
How many projects do you have in progress now?
Interesting, very interesting, and lovely too, but what's really on my mind is this:
My daughter dribbled orange soda on her pink wool coat, which now has permanent orange stains. We've decided to dye the whole coat a deeper/hotter shade of pink in an effort to cover up. I've read back through the Laurie blogs about dying (and about the y'alls again, soooo funny)... anyway, this is a shout out to Stephanie, Laurie, and anyone else who cares to comment, advise, or hold my hand as I try to determine the best dye to use, water temp, etc.... if only she wanted an orange coat, I could just get more soda and be done with it. Oh well. Thanks y'all.
Time solves all impediments. Children grow up. Retirement comes. Husbands can be redirected into projects that absorb them. Of course, by the time all this happens you may not be able to see very well, and your fingers may be full of joint pains...but it won't matter because you won't remember what you wanted all that free time for anyway. :)
Normally I would be very happy about seeing the gansey wool, but cripes! you have Laurie's roving! I want to live vicariously through you as you spin it and show us all your techniques!
Off to lie down with 3 year old in efforts to keep her in her own bed. :)
my stepfather's last name begins with an S, and I sometimes get called julie, can the book be for me? Yeah, I knew that was dumb even before i wrote it down.
one repeat of the colour? Are you knitting socks with one repeat? Am I as dumb as my lame attempt to make of with the "S" Julie's book? I am really trying to follow this because my dream project is to dye/spin/knit socks like you did with the last batch.
Stephanie, I just love your blog so darn much! Funny and educational. Yeah, baby!
Hmm, looks like I am not prepping enough! Certainly not for my first attempt at laceweight.... food for thought! Thanks!
I am, not for the first time, an idiot. The standing, knitted ram (wearing, as I recall, an Aran coat) was on the back NOT of Spin-off but of Threads. The reaction, or at least the horrified segment, is probably why they ended up dropping knitting. Apologies all round.
Oh, Harlot -- what would we do without you? I'm (trying) teaching myself to spin, exclusively using information available for free on the internet. I can easily blame my interest in spinning on my Yarnharlot Addiction ("Hi, I'm Mary, and I'm addicted to the Yarn Harlot...."), but now you're doing that true "enabling" thing by helping me learn!
I'm not doing too badly (if I'm allowed to define, for myself, what "too badly" means), but your post today is going to have made such a big difference! Yeeha.
I am confused about plying, though, and what's going to happen when you ply the singles (see me using the REAL TERMS like I know what I'm talking about? HA!). If you didn't split the roving in two, to have two identical/similar singles to ply, won't the colors muddy when you ply it?
Ah, well....I'll have to TUNE IN TOMORROW to see the next exciting installment!
You rock, Harlot!
Congrats to Julie. Such a lovely book. I envy her and Millie.
Thanks so much for the prep lesson. I'm just learning to spin and have been having a tough time. I think this will help a *lot*!
Ha!! Now I KNOW our Millies were separated at birth. Mine must try every new roving that enters the house; to date, I believe her personal favorites to be the higher-priced alpacas and the faux cashmere. At least she's got good taste......
Most interesting website I've ever landed on. I just started learning how to knit and finished a scarf and a pair of slippers, and now I'm feeling very ambitious, but after following the Yarn Harlot daily talks, I think I enjoy sitting in front of my laptop reading, smiling and laughing more than I do picking my yarn and starting another project.
Hey, I loved that Ram. I actually got myself a machine (which I later abandoned) just because I found the ram so fascinating.
I think it is a question of what you want to use your knitting for. I find that the softsculpture I knit often is much more valued than the lace sweaters.
As a non-spinner, I am beginning to think that a spindle may follow me home from MSW. Especially after seeing the beautiful roving and your tutorial. I did have a question though. How do you get matching socks when you do one long strand of changing colors? Or, is this yarn not for socks.
A stray thought on Millie: is she in the green? What is it about cats and green dye? My spinning teacher's light-colored cat climbed into her dyepot she'd set out to cool, and yes, suddenly there was a half-green cat in the neighborhood. My neighbor's cat Hobie later watched me bringing roving and washed wool I'd been dyeing--just sat there on my back porch all morning, waiting, I guess, till I brought out the green. That was hers. She claimed it. There was nothing I could do to keep that cat out of that wet green wool, though the other colors didn't interest her in the least. I finally brought it back inside, and told Hobie's owner just in case (good thing that one at least was a black cat.)
Now I'm asking myself, did my spinning teacher skip the lesson in prep? Or have I just clean forgotten it? I swear this whole "drafting" thing is news to me ... and explains alot about the characteristics of my so-called yarn.
"Abandoned, cotton-clad, and unloved" sounds like the Knitters' 10th circle of hell. Or maybe it's the Harlotville equivalent of putting people in the stocks?
Not a knitter myself, but love your blog. Saw this today and thought of you... xx
Did anyone check out the link Jen gave? What exactly are those things in pictures 8 & 9? DH thinks they're supposed to be b-day candles, but I'm thinking something else entirely.........any suggestions?
Anna, I see what you mean!
Um, ahem. *coughs*
It is hard, very hard to learn about patience from the Yarn Harlot. Quite frankly, someone who swatches, ahem, starts and abandons multiple plans for a peace fleece cardigan in a single weekend does not seem to be a model of patience to ME. However, she is absolutely right about the prep work. In fact, I now realize the reason that I prefer the combed prep version -- MUCH less predrafting. Undyed bluefaced leicester top does not require three bouts of predrafting and so I have always just been mostly frustrated with spinning the dyed version, however lovely it turned out. I now faithfully promise to try the three-draft approach to spinning that form of dyed roving.