Be forewarned, this post will be about spinning, and therefore possibly incomprehensible/boring to non-spinners, but also possibly fun and interesting (?).
There is no way to do justice to all the information out there on this wheel. I’ll just give you a quick overview and a synopsis of my feelings about it. So, here is my beautiful Kromski Sonata. Kromski is a family company, and they still build their wheels in Poland. The main thing I was looking for in a wheel was that it was compact and portable. We live in a small house and we own a lot of stuff, so I knew I didn’t have the space for a large wheel. Also, apparently, wheels with two pedals, as opposed to one, are easier for beginners to operate. (I don’t know about this from experience because I’m hardheaded and I usually just buy what I want after doing research, instead of trying things out. This generally works okay, so I haven’t altered my practices.) Price, of course, was also a factor. You can spend a lot on a wheel, but it seems like the very least you can spend is around $350. This one cost a bit more than that, but it is also full sized, which a lot of folding wheels are not. This wheel folds down and fits into a nice carry bag, that I can wear as a backpack (though it is big enough that I look a little like a Ninja Turtle). Also, like many of the other Kromski wheels, it has a more traditional look, which I thought was attractive. Also, I sprung the extra $20 for the walnut finish.
Let me tell you, learning to spin from written instructions and short clip videos on Youtube is not for the faint of heart or short of patience. I chose a weekend when my husband was away fishing and I had the whole house to myself to curse, cry, etc. I had a dickens of a time getting started. To get started you attach some leader, or waste yarn, to the bobbin where the spun yarn will be collected, and then attach your unspun wool to that leader. Well, I was remembering my spindle, and trying to use acrylic yarn for the leader, or some of the unspun yarn, twisted up into rudimentary wool. These things really do kind of work on a spindle. But the wheel was too strong and my spun wool kept breaking. Additionally, I got one spindle “full enough” before I realized while reading an article on plying, the second step in this process, that I was doing the whole thing LEFT HANDED. I’m not left handed.
One additional hurdle I seem to have conceived for myself is that the wool I’m spinning with was not meant to be spun with. A spinner friend of mine bought way too much wool at some point. She had some of it converted into batts for quilts, big flat rectangles of unspun wool. I took two of these batts off her hands, thinking I would make quilts with them, but then I was thinking, why learn with good stuff, why not learn with not so good stuff and move to the good stuff later, and also it is a nice color anyway. I think, because it wasn’t meant for spinning, the folks who processed the wool into a batt didn’t card it as well as wool intentioned for spinning. I think this because this wool is full of neps, little fuzzballs that are hard to stretch out into flat enough and so they stay little fuzzballs form slubs, which are the non-uniform parts of the yarn that are like soft bumps. See, neps and slubs, all kinds of fun language. In the end, all I can hope is that they give the yarn a little bit of a tweed look.
So, I’ve started to fill my second bobbin, and once that is done and I have somewhere around the same amount of spun wool on both then I’ll ply them together, and then I’ll have yarn. Well, I’ll have yarn after I “set the twist” which is basically like blocking the yarn, like you would block a sweater (blocking: to get a wool thing wet and stretch it into the shape you want, and then pin it or something until it is dry, and then it retains the shape you want).
Things that bewilder me: getting the spun wool to be collected evenly on the bobbin. There are lots of photos of people’s spinning and it is very nicely collected on the bobbin, whereas mine is all humped. Second: people in spinning articles I’ve been reading keep talking about twists per inch, and how you want all the yarn you are using for one project to have the same twists per inch, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out how you count twists per inch.
After that first plying adventure on Friday, I wanted to try again, better, so I got a better beginner’s spindle. I marked it up a little so I won’t spin in the wrong direction again. (At least not until I get a fancier spindle that I can’t rubber stamp.)
It is “s” for spin direction and “p” for the ply direction. Vocab lesson: Spinning is when you turn the roving into a “single,” or one piece of yarn. Yarn is made up of at least two singles, or three, possibly four. Plying is when you spin singles together. That is done in the opposite direction of the spinning, which makes the whole thing stay together.
In this photo, the top sample is the first yarn I spun, and the bottom sample is the second try. I made an effort to make the singles for this second sample much looser, and I think even in this picture you can tell that it looks more like yarn and less like some kind of trim for the sides of a pillow.
I still have yet to wash either of these, which I’ve heard is what makes them actually look like yarn, similar to blocking a sweater. How annoying, to have to block the same fiber twice. But now I’m trying to think up a simple project, besides just a gauge swatch to make with this stuff, and I’m also thinking how nice it would be to spin some chocolate brown wool. I think it is good to use this variegated stuff to learn on, because I feel like all my mistakes show, and so I work harder not to make them, but by that same token, it would be nice to use something monochromatic that would be more forgiving.
As an addendum, I do have a cute little knitted t-shirt with saddle shoulders that I’ve finished everything except sewing up the sides, and I’m just too nervous to do it. The last time I sewed up sides I did it way too tight and the whole thing didn’t work out. I knitted this garment in an alpaca silk blend, so it is less stretchy, so I think the problem of the too-tight underarms will be abated somewhat but I’m still scared. Hopefully I will get over this fear by the next post and take some pictures.
Well, I have to say that one of the foremost impediments to my posting is that most of the time I work on gifts. I guess that, in combination with the fact that I have supportive friends who read my blog. Therefore I can’t post pictures of projects until they have been received. Case in point this cute little mailbox.
This was a commissioned piece. A friend of mine who loves the mail and all things related to the mail found this pattern on Etsy and sent it to me right away with heart rendering pleas to make it. The whole project is comprised of a mailbox, one parcel, and three letters. I love making toys, so it wasn’t too difficult to sell me on the idea. We went to Michael’s and looked at every shade and weight of grey, ultimately settling on a combination of a thin silver sparkle yarn from Vanna White’s collection and a nice wooly grey heather. My friend loves orange, so we made the mail flag bright safety orange instead of the traditional red. Also, we chose a sparkle white for the letters, just to make them a little more magical. After all, the fun of a toy is that you don’t have to shoot for total verisimilitude.
I was going to do something much more complicated for the stamps, but then in my fabric stash I found a fabric that was printed with stamps with cancelations stamps and everything. Pretty perfect. To give them a little more oomph I embroidered little parts of the picture on the stamp, just one color per stamp to keep it simple. For the name labels I first wrote what I wanted on the felt with a pen and then embroidered over that. The pen ink bled a little bit, but I don’t think it was a disaster. My only true regret is that due to the limitations of the skill of my embroidery and the size of the text I was able to embroider, I wasn’t capable of making return address labels. But I guess perhaps letters that come from magical destinations cannot be returned. If you are interested in my friend’s musings and more photos she took of the mailbox, here is a link to her blog. If I had a blogroll, she would be on it.
If anyone recalls those yarn singles that I spun... I typed this and then realized that I had never posted those photos. So to begin with, here are some photos of the original roving, think like a long dyed cotton ball of wool, and also of the yarn as I spun it and wound it around my spindle shaft.
To begin again, well, those singles from a while back are now well on their way to being yarn. At the knitting club meeting last night I got assistance and learned that a.) my singles are spun too tight, and in the wrong direction (for some mystical reason I was told that this would make it better for crochet), but that b.) it was still very nice first yarn. I still have to wash it, but here are some photos of a 2-ply yarn, made by yours truly. Pretty exciting stuff.
Finally, though this is not a blog for cats, because my cats do a lot of interacting with craft projects, I’m deciding that it is okay to post cat pictures if they are fiber related. My younger cat has developed a great affinity for a little leftover ball of sock yarn, and has been doing various art installations around the apartment every time he finds it again, despite the fact that I keep rewinding it and putting it in higher and more difficult to reach places. I can tell when I’m rewinding it that it is clearly an amazingly fun toy, so I’m not really too upset about it. Here is a photo of the artist, explaining his work. He looks a little defensive, so watch out critics of the art world.