Tuesdays are for spinning

So for a little while now, the blog readers have been largely split on one issue. There is Camp A, who believe that I should be able to knit and spin what I want regardless of promises I may have made to a certain lovely Man who lives here with me in the wool house, and Camp B, who have been wondering (and asking) where Joe’s gansey project may have gone to and when exactly do I plan on making good on it.

Camp B is led by Rams who is a guilt-mistress of the highest order. Rams has left comments on the blog over the last several weeks pressuring me on Joe’s behalf. Rams wonders if I will ever return to spinning for Joe. Rams says she can hardly face another Wednesday where “Tuesdays are for spinning” comes and goes again without even a moments thought given to poor gansey-less Joe. Rams pressure has gotten so intense, that yesterday I decided that while I could totally live without dedicating another spinning day to Joe, I couldn’t live with facing the enormous disappointment that Rams would ooze today if I blew it off again.

Besides, I have a new drumcarder.


Here are some things I learned about drumcarding.

-drumcarding is way fast. While your average non-spinning person would probably still observe the process and think you were out of your mind for deciding to make yarn like this, it’s like greased lightning compared to hand carding.

-the tines on a drumcarder are extremely sharp.

-my last tetanus shot was in August of 2003.

-fleece that is still a little wee bit greasy (naturally, this is the way I like them, since I appear to have some sort of aversion to cleaning anything really thoroughly) are harder to card. This may mean that I need to do a better job of washing fleeces but I’m still open to alternatives, should you know of one.

-The small wheel on the carder is called the “licker-in”, and the process of removing the roving from the carder is called “Doffing”.

-This makes people (read: Joe) really interested in your after dinner converstation until they find out that you aren’t just talking dirty or making lewd suggestions.

-Drumcarders are so much fun that you will not stop until you have carded all available fleece in the house and forced the children to watch.

-Three batts off of the carder make this much spinning. (Please, lest you knock the wind right out of my sails, do not point out to me that I am so far away from a gansey for Joe that it almost seems silly to continue).


Despite my devotion to Rams and the fact that I begin and end each day with her happiness and satisfaction held foremost in my thoughts….I worked a tiny bit on the MSF.


I have placed them side by side so that you may note that I have reversed the direction of the braids for the right mitten. I have a thing about symmetry.

Finally, check this out


It’s a copy of a really cool Zine put out by Toronto local Jae Steele called “take back the knit” and I love it. It’s edgy, funky…and despite it’s non-glossy whole wheat appearance…just as much a decent read as the big fancy mags. (Maybe more…and I’m not just saying that because my thrum faq is inside). It’s representative of a whole grass roots “you can do it” approach to knitting that I love. There are 12 simple patterns inside…along with articles with names like “knitting for cheap” and “we don’t need no stinking patterns”. If it sounds like your cuppa herbal tea, tell Jae.

51 thoughts on “Tuesdays are for spinning

  1. Glad you’re having so much fun doffing! I bet mentioning the licker-in and doffer would be a great way to get my Ken interested, too… I can’t figure my drum carder out to save my life (also a Christmas gift)… everyone says “don’t put too much fiber on” so I put just a tiny bit, and I get little fluffs that look like the cat shed in multi colors on the cloth, but not enough to actually come off in bats. I keep adding more and more, to the same problem, and reach the point where I’ve got too much, without ever reaching the happy medium! WAHHHH!

  2. Joe has been with you long enough now that I am sure he understands that harlots are not known for being faithful (at least not when it comes to knitting and spinning). And this is totally unrelated to anything, but I smiled at the comment about Joe being interested in the after dinner talk. The other night I was talking to my husband, and I used the pharse “people (read: my mother….)” and he looked at me like I was from another planet. Seems he had never heard nor seen that expression “read: _____”. He insisted I was making that up. So today I will have him read this post and see I am, at the very least, not alone on this. Thanks for backing me up-knew I could count on you. Your powers extend far beyond the knitting/spinning world.
    Sweet zine-I’ll drop Jae a line. And its 28F here today-woohooo!!! Here comes summer ;o)!!!!

  3. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with your spinning and all it entails. In my 36 years the only times that I’ve seen anyone do that was at some historical re-enactment type destination, like Olde Sturbridge Village or Olde Plymouth Village or the such. I’ve seen it countless times at the historical homes my parents dragged me through during my childhood, but the idea that maybe someday I could do that was inconceivable. I’ve been catching up on your blog and am absorbing lots of info in the hope that someday I might give it a try. Combine that with the fact that your posts are hysterically funny and make my day, I’ve been checking in every afternoon. Thanks!

  4. I had to sell my drumcarder in Dec. Why? Because I bought it last March after wanting one for years and promptly carded lbs and lbs of fleece by May. And strained my back. I took the rest of the fiber (oh, say, 30 lb) in Aug to a processor (to protect my back, you understand) and realized the price of the drumcarder = the processing charge. Without the back strain. Hmmm. Then a friend sent me two batts of a lovely blend she made on her Christmas drumcarder and here I am, with drumcarder envy. My back feels better, tho.

  5. You know, I think sometimes that somewhere between the raw fleece and the finished sweater, there is a spatial vortex that causes fiber to go poof. I’ve been laboring for a long time trying to spin enough llama yarn to make a cardigan, and it never seems to get anywhere.
    (The existence of this vortex would also explain why one can knit forEVER on a sweater body without getting anywhere, and why socks like to disappear — they’re just following the fiber imperative to enter the vortex.)

  6. Goodness, I love that grey color. I can’t wait to see what it does! (Like the subtle encouragement there?)

  7. Spinning is definitely for people who enjoy the process. Tell him you’ll knit it quickly, but to be patient while you spin. The yarn looks lovely, by the way.
    To answer a question in a comment from yesterday. Tin pants are heavy canvas pants (or overalls or coveralls) that are lined with quilted material. I lived in mine during the winter in Montana. Do you call them something different in Canada?

  8. Did anyone else notice the TSF mention in the Metro today? Very cool!
    That carding thing looks dangerous, I’m glad you’re doing it and not me! I would hate to get all that nice wool bloody. Ew. Sorry.

  9. Stephanie, is there anything you could do to convince Jae that she should do some mail order with her ‘zine? I can’t seem to get a response from her about doing that. I’d love to get a copy of it down here in Boston, but no one I know is heading to Toronto to buy it in person.

  10. I was telling my spinning students about the licker-in bar last night and I don’t think they believed me either. Joe-doffing, on the other hand, is entirely in your court.
    (Missbedora, if you think the carder looks dangerous, you ought to see a picker — like something Edgar Allen Poe devised and is best handled while wearing raptor gloves.)
    But thank you, Harlotele – those batts are so beautiful (and after all, =I’m= not the one who told you to make it triple-ply.) Still, since my happiness and satisfaction are foremost, I’ll enclose the forwarding address for the MSF — just so you can sleep well, you know. (Your own damn fault for making me like Joe — I think it was the Walenda-hamster which did it.)

  11. I hadn’t checked your MSF total for a few days and nearly croaked. Over 50 THOUSAND DOLLARS. *Unbelievably cool*….

  12. Oooooooh! Drummmmm caaarderrrrr! (Sorry. A little Homer Simpson moment there.)Makes me think that the drop spindle I’m trying to get a handle on is just silly. Drop spindle to spinning wheel as hand carding to drum carder.
    I can just imagine the after dinner conversation with Joe…poor guy. Actually, poor guy nothing. Those beautiful batts are for him!
    As soon as I saw the MSF photo I noticed the symmetry. Nicely done! I’m with you on the symmetry thing. I have been known to re work patterns to incorporate it. They’re looking great. (crosses fingers and squeezes eyes tight wishing against hope that the MSF are coming home here…)

  13. So, *cough*, any chance you’d share a chart for the MSF mittens? *cough* I realize it’s highly unlikely that they’re already charted (I expect you winged it for the first one, and are now simply making the second like the first). I was planning to make a chart from one of the many photographs, but I just wanted to make sure the chart didn’t already exist in any form…

  14. Okey doke. Time to de-lurk. Good (blustery) day, everyone! I’ve been sporadically enjoying your site (well, always enjoying it, just only periodically GETTING here) but was moved to donate, so figured I’d better come out of the yarn closet and ‘fess up!
    You folks are a wonderful group, and I look forward to drooling and kavetching with you as if I’d been a part all along.
    Steph, you made me realize how rich I really am today. Thanks for that. Now pardon me while I go knit myself into a sleeping bag…with ties.. on the INSIDE. Brrrr!!!

  15. I saw someone else mention that zine yesterday (I completely forget who now), and wished I had a way of getting my hands on one!
    Any Toronto knitbloggers out there willing to mail me a copy? I can paypal the postage. 🙂
    Or would Jae have electronic copies available?

  16. I stared mesmerised at the symmetrical mittens for a good minute. I’ve got the folk knitting in Estonia book, and I’ve knitted a braid…but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to reverse it… Not that I’ve really tried THAT hard.

  17. Well, so you know, I’m taking a spinning class in February. I’m completely stoked. So I’ve been enjoying watching you play with your new toy. What wheel do you spin on? Do you like it? I’m going to need to pick one before my birthday in May. There’s plenty of time, but I’m collecting information.

  18. This is in response to Klaus’ comment–it depends on which technique you use to make the braid. If you’re doing the braid where you bring the yarn forward and purl each stitch either bringing each successive color over or under the preceding one, then to change the braid direction you change the under/over sequence. (So for a left pointing braid the first layer of braid involves bringing the yarn over and the second layer involves bringing hte yarn under. For a right pointing braid, the first layer involves bringing your yarn under, and over for the second layer.)
    I don’t know if you can swap the direction of the knit only braid, though.

  19. I’m weeping over the beauty that is your mittens. Weeping.
    Although some of it may possibly be the fact that I never ever ever thought of reversing the braid. My braids are all the same.
    sigh. Underachiever again.

  20. The mittens are looking awesome. I actually stole your idea of “Tues is for Spinning” (I used Wednesdays), but I haven’t spun on a Wednesday in months. I think since the first time I said Wednesdays are for spinning! lol. I’m owed a drum carder for a Christmas gift and as soon as I can make up my mind I now need one after seeing all your fluff. Very cool!

  21. Forget cheese, behold the power of Rams!
    And I’m all for allowing certain persons to believe that technical spinning terms are lascivious talk. Especially if canoolding is the result. Remember? -33C freakin’ degrees out there!

  22. Oh, I am so very glad that Tuesdays Are for Spinning again. I have missed it so much, I’ve actually wondered if I should take up spinning again to console myself. The drum carder looks *almost* as much fun as my lever-style orange juice squeezer. (Canadian winters require thrummed mittens. Floridian winters are when the new citrus crop comes in, and we all know how important it is to eat locally-grown produce.)

  23. Camp B foot soldier reporting for duty here.
    Please don’t think that one measly half a bobbin full is going to placate us.
    Poor Joe, sooner or later he’s going to figure it out. You’re not serious about his gansey.

  24. I’m still amazed by people who can hand-spin. I tried it once and only succeeded in gumming up the works with a gigantic knot. Don’t ask me how, I was about six and can’t remember many details.
    That zine looks to be the most keen. And the author has a good name. 😀 Need to talk to some of my friends in the General Toronto Area into finding and sending me a copy. Any suggestions on where to pick it up?
    (Also, heard it was only -6c today. Must be a nice change from yesterday!)

  25. Oh, Stephanie! I just talked to my next-door neighbor, just as she was being dropped off from the airport. She’d been in Thailand visiting her grandchildren for an extended visit… And her phone mail had filled up and there had been no sign of her since just before Christmas…
    She says she and her family had planned to go to the beach that day. And somehow it just didn’t happen. She cried as she spoke of the people she knew, that her ex-pat son was close to, of being able to be there to help deliver supplies, of how helpless they’d felt–she couldn’t begin to describe what it was like, except through her tears. Honey, c’mere, and I gave her a hug. For my own sake, intensely grateful to finally not only hear from her but to see her and know she and her family, at least, were okay. And for the sake of all those who were not. She said the hardest was all the people who were the only ones left of their families. The ones who were most alone. The woman they knew in a hospital who no longer wanted to live. But THEY needed her to!
    And she expressed hope that the good she saw in person–the rebels honoring the relief workers–would carry over into other parts of the world, that people would learn from it that we are all one human family and that loving each other is the only–it’s all there is that’s real–her hope that maybe, somehow, what she and so many saw would bring more good into the world.
    I told her about your blog. I told her about the $50k you’d raised for Medecins Sans Frontieres. She was so grateful. You’ll never meet Sandy, but what you’ve done here meant a huge amount to her personally.
    And all of us. Carry on. Blessings on you.

  26. p.s. and I can’t say it strongly enough, and I hope it doesn’t sound selfish when I know so many others were not, but, I’M SO GLAD TO FINALLY KNOW SHE IS OKAY!!!

  27. I saw the article in the Metro today and I’m so glad I remembered to check your site this evening! You made a lazy knitter go dig out one of her many unfinished projects!

  28. The drum carder. One of the best inventions ever, in my humble opinion. I’ve borrowed a drum carder from a friend of mine, and am beginning to think I may just not give it back. Sure, she and I have been friends for 27 years, but hey—this is batt productivity we’re talking about. Screw the rolags, baby.

  29. Oh! Reading your entry and comments suddenly made me remember my grandmother. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old when she taught me to card by hand. Unfortunately we never got to the spinning part, I can’t remember why. I hadn’t thought of that for years, it was nice to remember. 🙂

  30. thanks so so much for your kind words, stephanie. i’m allergic to whole wheat though. but spelt flour’s fine… now i have to set myself to the task of letting your lovely readers know how to mail order.

  31. Ah, yes…there I am minding my own business ordering a Dremel for DH on Amazon when what leaps into my shopping cart but a preordered THE BOOK aka BOOKBOOKBOOKBOOK!!! What will come first? My Book or Joe’s Gansey? Inquiring minds want to know…
    p.s. The weather is broken worldwide…

  32. Sweet drumcarder! I have got to get me one of them. So it’s because I haven’t clean my wool enough that I’m having so much trouble with the carding? Hmm.

  33. Hi Stephanie!
    Remember me? I asked about the Estonian knitting vs. Folk socks book a while ago and you helped me out a bunch. I’m making the same Estonian mittens that you made in November ( http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/images/estm.jpg ) and I have a quick question about the braid technique. Have you found any way to make the start and end of that particular braid (yo, K2togtbl) look better? My beginning and end look pretty whacky. For the paired braids, the first one looks like it comes up and meets the 2nd one in a spiral.

  34. Someone else posted the question of whether the Harlot would receive more $$$ if we wait and order the bookbookbook on her site. I’d like to know too…I am all for the author getting the most available.
    yes, jae you need to post the order info for your magazine. Looks like something I’d enjoy and its a long drive from Edmonton to Toronto, especially in January.
    Barb B.

  35. The licker-in alone would immediately and miraculously create room in our budget to go out and get me one of those, just so my husband could ask me every five minutes how my licker-in is working…
    Still, how in hell are you going to stay warm now that you don’t have to hand-card anymore?
    My husband is from the south of France. We live in Montr�al. He is considering burning the building next door to keep warm. I need to knit A LOT faster.

  36. I don’t remember if you said somewhere what you wash your fleece with, although I do remember you washing individual locks and placing the rats on the heater to dry.
    Have you tried Kookaburra Wool Wash to clean your fleece? It works really well, and they also have wool scouring solution.
    I used Kookaburra to clean half a fleece, and my mother in law used detergent to wash her part of the same fleece, and hers turned into a sticky mess on the drum carder and mine carded much better.

  37. How bad do I want an issue of “Take Back the Knit”? Not only do I crave it for it’s feminist birthings, I just love the picture!!!!

  38. How bad do I want an issue of “Take Back the Knit”? Not only do I crave it for it’s feminist birthings, I just love the picture!!!!

  39. It was -58 C last week this time on a Sheep farm in Saskatchewan. I am just starting to get beyond basic knitting in the past few months. I think I need the Knit Wit for my daughters , after all with 20 fleece to spin and knit up, I think I need a bit of help ! I had to clean my monitor after reading the after dinner * comments* about the drum carder! Love your outlook on fiber arts and life.

  40. I just had the most exciting encounter at my local book store in Collingwood, ON. A rep from Thomas Allen was there. She overheard a conversation I was having with a friend (that I just taught to knit) about her latest project, and asked if I had heard of the Yarn Harlot. Have I heard of the Yarn Harlot, what a question! She started to rave about your book and how excited everyone is about it! She is hoping to bring you to us on a book tour. Imagine the Harlot in my LBS!

  41. I actually emailed Jae at the address listed on her blog, and she sent me her address for getting an issue of Take Back the Knit sent to me (living close to Boston does not make it easy to get to Toronto).
    If you send her email, she will respond and fast. I got my response less than an hour after I sent the message.

  42. Egad! And to think I was considering spinning enough merino/silk to make myself a shawl. Perhaps I shall reconsider that 2200 yards and stick to knitting hats, scarves, and non-latvian mittens from my handspun.

  43. I have been enjoying your site for a while and have found inspiration and cheer. I finally made my donation and you can add $35.00 to your total. Just a little warm fuzzy for your day!

  44. I confess, I pop on here daily for the pictures, then I read for shits and giggles. It still amazes me how you can not only make such beautiful knit thangs with your bare hands, but also that you can MAKE the damn beautiful yarn that magically transforms into beautiful knit thangs.
    that’s a little backwoods ass kissin for ya. . .cussing denotes sincerity, by the way . . .

  45. AHHHHHHH!!!!! I think that is the zine that my knitting pattern is in!!! Yay! I just finally told her I can’t actually pick my copy up (as I am kind of in America at the moment) so she is going to mail it to me. Guess what pattern it is? The THRUMMED MITTENS. Wierd. The whole thing with those mittens started with me reading your blog and you asking about what mitt… Well, I think you remember that part. Heh. Got a little excited there…

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