Armley Mills – Part 2

I wanted not only to follow the wool processes but to do as much of the activity as possible at Armley Mills. Although I can spin I had noticed a great wheel at the museum and wondered about using it to spin up my wool.

Unfortunately the wheel wasn’t in a condition to be used but I was saved by Carl of the Spinners of Aire, a spinning group which meets weekly at Armley Mills on Wednesdays.

Carl Denton had built his own great wheel and readily agreed to teach me how to use it.

You spin from the point, walking backwards whilst drawing out the wool and spinning, then walking forwards to wind on.

Keeping the wheel spinning whilst I walked and drafted was quite hard.

Carl had to help me redraft sections until I got the hang of it and could walk, draft and spin the wheel all at once, not forgetting to breathe.

You can see above why it’s called spinning off the point.

Cracked it! Look how delighted I am. All of my yarn for the weaving was spun on this wheel.

Photography by Charlie Battersby.

A little spinning

When I’m short of time or I’m tired and I want something soothing to do I pick up my spindle. I don’t need to watch what my hands are doing, I can watch TV and the rhythm of the work is very restful whilst still being productive.

This is just off my spindle.

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It’s a lovely Merino blend weighing only 64g. I’ve managed to spin 233m at 16 wraps per inch which is about a 3 ply. Definitely one of the finest yarns I’ve spun.

Currently on my spindle is some very soft Blue Faced Leicester in oatmeal, black and lilac. This time I’m practising spinning a thicker yarn.

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Just for a change I’m spinning this in various lengths of single colours so it should look very interesting when plied. Now I must confess that I may have succumbed to the charms of a further two spindles recently so I’ll take some shots soon and share them with you.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like that

For the last few months I’ve been trying out spinning wheels wherever I went. Not only did I want a smaller wheel than my Ashford Traditional, I wanted to fall in love with how it looked and how it felt. I’ve tried Majacraft, other Ashfords, Louet, Kromski and a home made one. I didn’t fall in love with any of them.

Surfing around the internet I fell in love with the good looks of one which turned out to have poor reviews so I had to keep looking. Then I spotted something a bit different. Love overrode reason and I bought it without trying one. It was out of stock so I had to wait some weeks before I finally got to see it.

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One of the biggest surprises is that it’s white! All the others I looked at were various wood shades but I just liked the clean modern look of the Woolmakers Bliss. It was quite easy to put together, takes far less space than my traddie, I still love it’s clean lines and I’m enjoying playing with the ratios.

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This version has a single pedal which I actually prefer as it allows me to have my left foot, right foot or both feet  treadling which in turn, allows me to wriggle whilst I spin. The double treadles keeps me too still and I start to seize up. So far I’d give this wheel an 8 out of 10, we’re still working on the love bit!

Spinning

I seem to have done quite a lot of spinning in the last 6 months and I think that’s mainly because I’ve done most of it on a drop spindle which is extremely portable. You can just pick it up and put it down at will with no need to drag the wheel out of a corner. Don’t get me wrong, I like spinning on the wheel it’s just that I like the drop spindle even more and it takes up so little space in an overnight bag and I can spin my yarn whilst demonstrating at shows.

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From left to right – hand dyed Swaledale plied with BFL,  hand dyed Jacob/Bamboo and dyed BFL. The first is destined for a friend but the seond two are for me to use. I really really love the Jacob/Bamboo and I’m hoping that I’ve managed to spin it fine enough that I’ll have sufficient for a laceweight shawl or scarf. I adore the colours of the BFL which are natural brown blended with blue, purple and a little turquoise but I have no idea what I’ll do with it. Fingerless mittens perhaps?

My first shawl

I’ve had this yarn in my stash for a while, it’s one of  my first handspun yarns that I thought was usable and is a green and turquoise Merino and silk blend. Being an early yarn it definitely has areas which are thick or thin and even some which are over twisted but it was still usable and I had a goodly amount.

Initially I tried it on 4mm needles but the knitting was dense and didn’t have the drape I was looking for so I restarted on 6mm needles which were much better, especially when I encountered a thick bit. The pattern is not a particularly difficult one, in fact I’d say it was quite easy but what attracted me to it was the yarn used in the photos and the fact that it would be long. I love long scarves and found this one as a free pattern on Ravelry.

It wasn’t many rows before I was running out of space on my needles but fortunately a friend loaned me a 6mm circular needle. My first ever circular needle to knit my first shawl using one of my handspun yarns for the first time. Whilst knitting it I have to say I wasn’t very keen and was planning on gifting it away and oh how that position has been reversed, it’s mine all mine. Better let you have a look at what I’m on about.

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That’s it after washing, being blocked.

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I couldn’t wait for it to dry in case the sun disappeared so it’ll have to go back on block later to dry. You can see it’s not a difficlut pattern and yet there was a section of about 10 rows where I had repeated brain malfunctions and had to keep unpicking the work. Not being brave enough to take it off the needles and rip it back I did this the slow laborious way, one stitch at a time! After a whole weekend of messing about I finally got beyond that section and then rapidly finished the shawl.

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It felt important to me to use this yarn and to finish the shawl even if I didn’t like it. In case you were wondering, I love it and have already worn it. It did turn out to be very important to use it and has actually taught me quite a lot about the spinning of the yarn. I needed no help to understand that it wasn’t perfectly even but it was enlightening to understand how that felt in use. Uneven yarn isn’t a problem, there are plenty of yarns on the market which are exactly that but I’d not used one before. Having every inch of yarn back through my fingers helped me to understand how to spin my next yarn to achieve whatever effect I want.

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My spinning now is finer and much, much more even. It just goes to show that even imperfect yarns can look lovely made up. If you fancy learning to spin then why not come along to my spinning workshop on Thursday 11th September and let me introduce you to this ancient and absorbing craft. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can catch on and start producing your own unique yarns.

p.s. Update on the remodelled skirt very soon, I promise.

 

Developing

It’s a busy time at work for me. I’ve got lost of nuno workshops going on where I do have examples to show people but every time I think of another way of doing things I ending up creating more samples. Yes that’s great but it also takes a little time and as I started them all at once I haven’t finished them yet to show them off. However I thought I’d share a story with you of the drop spindle spinning kit I’ve been developing for Adelaide Walker.

Yvonne knew a man who could make some spindles for us and we thought we’d have a go at making up a kit for beginners. I rashly volunteered to write up instructions with the help of Hubby, after all I only have the two hands who else was going to take the action shots.

Faced with a blank sheet my mind went blank too and I did a quick search for instructions on the internet to see how to approach it. It seemed far more complicated than explaining how to make felt, I wanted to ensure there was sufficient information for people to understand what they were doing but not so much waffle that it was difficult to read.  I drafted out a quick plan of what were the essentials I needed to say and where I might need photo illustrations.

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Hubby has never spun and so was the perfect person to ask to read the instructions and check them through. He was brilliant, he read it through and questioned lots of places, especially as he had no photos to help him at this point. Of course, you probably realised where this was going didn’t you? Yep, after checking them through I asked the poor man to have a go with a drop spindle. My own first drop spindle experience wasn’t a pleasant one, you could say the air turned blue and I got rather grumpy and fed up of picking the dratted thing up off the floor. I was taught to have a go whilst standing and I now think sitting would have been quite handy.

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Hubby was brilliant and irritating in equal measures, let me explain. He has publicly stated that he has no desire or intention ever to spin and yet, for me, he was ready yet again to go the extra mile and give it a whorl (see what I did there, whirl, whorl). The irritating part was that he wasn’t half bad and did actually manage to spin some wool without major loss of temper putting my first attempts to shame. More importantly he proved that the instructions made sense and could be followed by a novice and then he went on to take some photos for the instructions. Yep, he’s wonderful and if his success has inspired any of you to have a go then kits can be bought at Adelaide Walker along with fibres for your next felting project!

 

More spinning

I’ve had my spinning wheel since the spring but I’ve done very little really until the last three weeks, Each time I have a go I try a new fibres which I know probably isn’t helping me to get going quickly but I really enjoy trying different wools. I know from felt making that they’re different to work with but I’m just getting to know  them when they’re spun up. After spinning they’re a lot less flat surfaced than when felted and catch the light differently.

The white is a single ply Masham. I don’t really think I got enough twist in it but it’ll felt into my other work beautifully. The purple is a 2 play yarn, one ply Mohair, the other ply is Merino. I  enjoyed playing with the colours on this.

This is a 2 ply Mohair / wool mix.It’s very textured and could have done with a little more twist in the ply but actually my daughter and I love this one. It’s the texture and the way the light bounces off it that we find so attractive. What I don’t like about spinning is creating yarn for which I have no given use as I’m not a big knitter/crocheter. Methinks I need a few more samples first but then I’d like to spin yarn to make a throw for our living room. Perhaps I’m being over ambitious.

Ooh, forgot to say that I’ve also finally managed to spin some yarn on a drop spindle. Now that’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say.

First bobbin

Well here it is folks, the first bobbin full of yarn form my spinning wheel. It;s lumpy, bumpy, under and in some cases over twisted but it’s all mine. This is Blue Faced Leicester wool which I found relatively easy to spin (not that the results bear me out).

I’m now playing with some Masham which is a longer fibre and has taken me a little time to adjust to. Earlier this morning I had visions of spinning my own wool so I could crochet a blanket but I’m realising that I’m a little way away from that yet. Onwards and upwards.

New project

At Yarnival on Saturday I received my next project. It takes quite a bit of space up I discovered, especially whilst trying to fit it into a car full of fibres, fleece and 3 people. Suffice to say, it was a squeeze. My poor long suffering husband just sighed and kept moving things around until everything fitted.

It came from Kate and I’m very grateful for it as I really fancy having another go at spinning. It’s been in a loft for quite a while and has a screw missing (which of us doesn’t?) and needs a little TLC. Fortunately for me, Freyalyn is very good with spinning wheels and is leading me through it’s restoration and has already fitted a new drive belt. I now have the replacement screw and hope to be up and running very soon.

 

Aha! and Ta-dah!

Every time I’ve run a flower making workshop recently I’ve searched in vain for a sample of a wired flower that sits on its stem. There’s no way I would have thrown it out, could I have left it somewhere. I found it this morning tucked behind the sideboard. The culprit? cats.

Fortunately it’s so well felted that even the cats playing with it hasn’t damaged it. I also found a necklace, two brooches and a ball of paper. How do you stop these little thieves? They don’t listen to admonishments and I’m not very tidy.

The ta-dah part of this blog is my first skein of spinning, on a proper wheel no less!

Spinners amongst you will have spotted it’s flaws but to me it’s a thing of beauty. Blue Faced Leicester, tiny bit of Jacob, with which I struggled and some carded Shetland.

It would have looked better for it’s photo shoot if I hadn’t wound and unwound the skein many times to touch and admire it before washing it to set the twist. Should have set the twist first, but I just couldn’t leave it alone. Not sure if I’ve been bitten by another bug but would really like to try a double treadle wheel before I go ahead and buy one, so I’ll have to make an effort to get along to a guild meeting sometime soon. Meantime I’ve already started eyeing up books about spinning.