I love the look on people's faces when they find out I spin actual wool on an actual spinning wheel. Reactions tend to vary from 'OMG really? I didn't know people still did that. Is it hard?' to 'Isn't that for witches?'
Luckily, I find most of the incredulous reactions pretty funny. It's really not that long ago that almost every house would have had spindles or a wheel in it. We have become so distanced from traditional production methods - much like most of us buy anonymous chunks of meat from the supermarket rather than rearing the animals ourselves or having to pluck chickens we have bought.
Spinning has become possibly my favourite craft. It's a sensory feast - the tactile feedback from the fibre, feeling the twist run, turning loose fibres into a strong yarn. Watching the colours blend or stripe and how they sit next to each other on the bobbins. The rythmic movement of feet and hands and the gentle sound of the wheel spinning around. It's almost hypnotic, defintely the closest I get to meditation. Happily my Bliss is so quiet she lives in the living room, like a functional sculpture. My old Dryad wheel I bought on eBay was much too noisy to use & watch TV!
Every year, as the Tour de France unfolds there is a parallel event for spinners. The Tour de fleece encourages you to spin every day throughout 'le tour' (rest days excepted). I haven't ever watched the TdF before last year & spinning while watching the daily round up got me quite hooked! I didn't manage quite as much spinning as I did last year - I had new workshops to prepare which takes me ages - but you can see I did quite a bit.
I knew I wanted to challenge myself to spin singles yarn. Normally when you spin you put in more twist than you need as you spin the fibre in the opposite direction when you ply 2 or more strands together. For a yarn that you are not going to ply, you need to put enough twist to hold the fibres together (the twist acts as a kind of glue) but nott enough to make an unbalanced, twisty yarn that will bias when you knit it. It's quite the balancing act! I was really pleased with the singles I spun - they are the first ones i've been happy with. The fibre was from Porpoise Fur - I love Rachel's colours & she's lovely to buy from. The colourway is Roses, and the fibre is Falkland.
As you can see there are a few skinny bits that got away from me, but they can be skipped over in knitting. I have over 800m from just over 200g - and the yarn should gently stripe.
The other 2 fibres I spun ended up being chain plyed as it gave the colour treatment I wanted. The first is another Porpoise Fur fibre in the 'Death to MRSA' colourway in Cheviot (bottom in the picture below). The colour is mostly blue/black with a little purple & a couple of intense spots of lime green. I wanted to keep the green as pure as I could rather than muddying it with the darker colours, so that led to chain plying. I split the fibre lengthwise into 8 approx equal widths so that I would get regular smaller hits of lime green. To chain ply you only need to spin one length of yarn which you then ply back on itself in what is basically a crochet chain, making a 3 ply yarn. I think it's one of the easiest ways to ply - although lots of people would disagree. This will make a great pair of socks.
The last spinning I did for the Tdf was the Dark Rainbow from Hilltop Cloud that I bought at Unravel. I tried a couple of things with this fibre, but it tended to fall apart in a 2 ply unless I added a huge amount of twist - and it really calls out for chain plying anyway so that's what I did. I plan to use this in a fairisle hat - the stripes are quite long so they should give a great effect in a hat. It's really squishy and has a tweedy effect within the colours that was really enhanced by chain plying.
The other mini skeins in the pictures are some experiments with some gorgeous alpaca fleece I was given. These are spun direct from fleece without any sorting or pre-treatment. I'm also going to try making rolags on my blending board before I make a decision on how to spin it, but the chunkier 2 ply (the natural black) is unbelievably soft.
So in all I spun nearly 1200m over the duration of the race. I'm pretty impressed with that actually! Definitely very happymaking :)