June 30, 2009

Tell It

I've invited yet another interested clerk at yet another health food store to come visit the local hand spinning guild if she can.

Didn't get this one to try out a drop spindle though. Didn't have it out in the car, and there was a line anyway.

June 29, 2009

Upfront Blogging

I have added to the disclaimer in the margin of my blog. I added this:
Author does not get, from the businesses mentioned in this blog, any compensation or gifts. In the event that the author accepts an unsolicited gift from a business, full disclosure will be made on this blog.

Author does not participate in affiliate marketing. By providing a link to a business, author is not acting as a sales agent and does not collect commissions.
When I read a blog, I want to know whether the author has been influenced or is acting independently.  That fact impacts how I take their information. I want to act ethically myself, for that day when the FTC reads my little blog.

You can read about the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's plans to adopt new guidelines that "would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest" in this article on CBC News, "U.S. Plans to Monitor Blogs for Biased Claims, Payments" from June 22, 2009.

Back to spinning, now.  Drafting and twisting fibre is so nice and straightforward. Sheep have little guile.

June 27, 2009

Riding Off Madly in All Directions

Poking around the An Tir Culture Wiki, I found an entry called "eureka syndrome"
A.k.a.: "I wanna do everything NOW!!!" The experience of being overwhelmed with a sudden interest in dozens of different aspects of SCA life and not knowing which to try first, or even where to begin.

Arguably, this term could also apply to the moment that someone realizes that they have fallen in love with the SCA and wants to take up hobbies that fall within its scope. Characterized by the archetypal question "Why didn't anybody tell me I could be having this much fun XX years ago?"

My fond father, listening to me talk about spinning and all the stuff I'm trying/seeing/buying/learning, asked if I wished I'd taken spinning up as a kid.

I have to say, no, if for no other reason that, as an adult, I can get around and go places alone to extend my learning whereas as a girl I would have been limited to my immediate environment.

(For the pitfalls of this, see point one, the fact that I did not learn to spin as a girl. I knew no one around who did. I don't even remember knowing anyone who kept sheep, just dairy goats. No, there was one girl at university who said her parents had sheep but sold the wool for very little. Anyway.)

As you can tell from my blog, I am riding off madly in all directions with hand spinning. Multiple projects in progress is foreign territory for me. I'm doing my best to advance on all fronts.

June 26, 2009

Linen Grocery Sack

Here is a grocery sack I handsewed out of linen fabric from a thrift shop dress. (You can call it a spindler's bag, just to justify its inclusion in this blog.)

I told my mom about it and she thought I said I'd bought a dress that looked like a grocery sack on me. Well, that too.

Can I just say that whoever thought of putting thrift shop merchandise and cats up for adoption under the same roof is brilliant?

June 25, 2009

Cestari Wool Mill Tour: Sock Machines

These sock machines produce a sock in a minute or so at Cestari.

A sock comes out looking like this

Then the toe is sewn shut

This type of sock is the kind Colonial Williamsburg buys from Cestari for its staff to wear.

June 24, 2009

Cestari Wool Mill Tour: Handling and Dyeing the Spun Yarn

The tour of Cestari's wool mill continues, as the spun yarn is taken off its bobbins.


Transferring spun yarn from bobbins onto cones.

Skeining machine.

Dyeing area.

Dyed skeins for sale in Cestari's shop.

June 23, 2009

Cestari Wool Mill Tour: Spinning the Roving

Cestari roving is spun on machines into yarn.

A bank of spinning machines.

A single is spun from two pencil rovings.

The singles are plyed into yarn.

June 22, 2009

Cestari Wool Mill Tour: from Wool Bale to Pencil Roving

This series of photos takes you through Cestari's wool mill process of turning baled wool into pencil roving.

Cestari, located on Chester Farms, is a family-run business outside Staunton, VA.

Here we start out at the scale and a rack of spare parts for the carding machines. Cestari's machines are from the 1940s and parts are no longer made for them, so the company buys existing used parts for spares. Whatever parts they need and cannot buy, they get machined.

Here is a bale of wool. This particular bale is from their own Columbia sheep (which you can see in this post). Cestari also mills sock yarn blends that are made with other wools. Some of the wool they buy is raised in the area. They send wool out of state for cleaning and get it back in bales.

Wool goes into this picker and from there it is blown into a room. The wool goes through this process twice to separate the fibres well.

The fibres are fed into the back of the coarse drum carding machine.

A thin batt comes off the coarse drum card rollers.

The batt is automatically lifted and transferred to the fine drum carding machine.

The batt is separated into thin strips.

The strips come out the other side as pencil roving, which is rolled and ready for spinning.

One of the carding machines has a bar that crushes the fibres with great force to pulverize any bits of vegetable matter in the wool. This mechanical process is used instead of a chemical process called carbonization, in which larger milling companies use chemicals to dissolve vegetable matter.

The safety fence catches small wisps of wool that are flung into the air by the rollers. Our guide Joanne told us that the floating wisps are much safer for the workers than wisps in a cotton mill would be: cotton fibres in the air are a fire hazard.

June 20, 2009


You'll be pleased to know I have acquired a fibre stash. It's enough to make my darling husband nervous.

Fortunately, I am not at the SABLE stage. (SABLE is, according to those that know, Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy.) That would make me nervous. Both of us are committed to only owning beautiful and useful stuff in reasonable quantities.

I have enough fibre to keep me going for a long while, so I am going to try and not accumulate any more. Right after the parcel of superwash roving in five colours arrives. And after I pick up the roving those women at the Saturday LYS knit in said they'd leave at the counter for me.

See, the thing is, people buy roving because it's pretty and after a while they decide to destash, especially when they see me using my drop spindle.

You say my resolve sounds pretty wishy-washy to you? Yeah, you're probably right.

Eight months ago I had no stash and didn't spin. When I went to the Fall Fiber Festival in October, I only bought a book because I didn't know enough to choose supplies wisely and didn't want to make foolish uninformed mistakes. Now I know a lot more, thanks in a very large part to the guild I belong to.

So I excuse myself for accumulating fibre a little indiscriminately here in my beginner spinner stage.

One of my goals with spinning is to acquire the skills of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31, and this verse comes to mind:
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
Proverbs 31:13 NIV
From this verse and from discussions I've had with the many hand spinners I've met, it seems to me that selection is a significant part of the process and the ability to select fibre suitable to a project is an admirable skill.

I'm trying out a variety of fibres. I work on getting the right fibre for the projects I want to do. I also work backward from the fibre kind people offer to give me to decide what yarn it should be and what finished object would be suitable.  

Not that I am at the point of making a finished object yet.  Part of the fault of that is I enjoy spinning so much I don't want to put it down and do something with yarn.

Resolution for today: summon resolve and do not ask Loren how much she wants for her 45 inch Nilus Leclerc floor loom. Card weaving (tablet weaving) is enough for now.

June 19, 2009

Card Weaving

Look what I did!

The pattern is found in Candace Crockett's Card Weaving, and my setup is a buckshee imitation of the weaving board in this Youtube video "Tablet weaving , Birka, brocade with silk and silver" posted by "brikvaever."

Warp threads are secured at one far end, cards in the middle create the shed for weaving, and the weaver works from the near end. What you see in the photo are warp threads and cards at rest, loosely arranged in order to get the essentials in the shot.

When I first saw the video, I was stumped as to how the weaver keeps the weaving taut at her end. Turns out, you can just hold it taut with whichever hand is not busy turning the cards, beating the weaving, and moving the shuttle.

Instead of a beautiful waney-edged board and peg like hers, I use my tabletop and a c clamp. Clipped around the c clamp is a carabiner that I got for free as a promotion. This, the shuttle my thoughtful mom gave me, and the table which my dad made and gave me, are what make the setup buckshee. Knotted onto the carabiner are the far warp ends. The warp does not need to be spread out, since there is so little of it and the cards keep the threads in order (as long as you keep the cards in order).

Cards are from the Spanish Peacock, and marked by me so that I can keep the pattern sequence straight.

I think I need a little abacus too, that I can flick back and forth between "away" and "toward" so I can keep to the pattern. This pattern turns the cards a quarter turn four times successively in the direction away from you, then four times toward you, creating a wavy path with the light and dark warp threads. I chose low contrast strands of classic crochet thread making the effect rather subtle, but I think you can see the pattern in my close-up photo.

The other troubleshooting issue I had was making sure stray warp threads did not float here and there. Sometimes the shed looked completely clear but it was not. Pushing the cards away helped.

Warping was rather hairy. I messed up the tension and then had to untangle a lot of snarled warp. The warp has some sneaky twist to it. I was able to salvage a little less than half of what I'd originally cut for warp and put the remaining wreckage away in a box for someday.

Yeah, I had no idea how much warp I needed. What I wound up with was ample.

I was inspired by a weaver in our guild, who demonstrated card weaving in a Greek key pattern with warp secured on her inkle loom, and by Karen at the Frontier Culture museum who demonstrated the tape loom. The tape loom uses a wooden heddle to create a shed; warp is secured at one end and held in the hand at the other.

Just think, I can now make my own shoelaces.

June 18, 2009

Bought Sock Yarn

I bought this sock yarn and mailed it off to my sprightly grannie, who actually knows how to knit socks. She was telling me the other day that she likes turning heels and thinks using multiple double pointed needles is fascinating.

Nice colour yarn, I thought (malachite by Madeline Tosh). The price, well the price would be ruinous if I made a habit of it. At least not knowing how to knit socks keeps me from that.

I really hope Grannie doesn't look at the declared value on the parcel's customs form or her thrifty soul will protest and gently reproach me. (She was in her twenties during the Great Depression, and I'm pretty sure she had thriftiness deeply ingrained even before that.)

Well, my thrifty soul is protesting and reproaching me too, but my quality-loving streak* asserted itself and really I didn't see any other sock yarn in this colour.

My outdoor-loving cousin favours green, and I'm hoping our grannie will make this wool into socks for her.

Ah, self justification.

P.S. A while back my Grannie told me that she would do plain knitting while reading. I said, no way! Well, I am now able to knit garter stitch dishcloths while reading. All the better to chew through Ravelry discussion boards with, my dear. Threads about stash mountains are awfully fun.

*I got said streak from my other grandmother, who venerated quality

June 17, 2009

Spindles and Distaffs in Jean Antoine Laurent's Painting The Three Sisters

Found some spindles and distaffs depicted in Jean Antoine Laurent's The Three Sisters: Finette, Babillarde, and Nonchalante in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collection.

On the table is a glass distaff and possibly a spindle behind it.

Another distaff, this one with fibre arranged on it as for flax. On the floor is a glass spindle with shiny golden thread wound on it, possibly flax.

I have no idea if glass spindles and distaffs have ever been used much for spinning.

The plaque that explains the painting makes me think that the choice of glass material was for effect rather than any accurate historical depiction of the spinning process.

The scene, according to the VMFA, was painted in 1824 after a 17th century story that was set during the Crusades. The painting shows three daughters, and each girl's glass distaff was supposed to break if she was dishonoured while their father was away at war.

June 16, 2009

Secondhand Lazy Kate

I got a secondhand lazy kate in hopes of making three ply yarn.

You'll notice that the lack of third bobbin and pin means this kate is not ready to go, but I intend to fix that.

The former owner left some singles on the bobbins.

June 15, 2009

Sock Machine

Recently I found myself driving down a gravel road to visit Stony Mountain Fibers.

And what did I see?

A reconditioned antique sock machine, not for sale, that looked glossy and cool, something like a manual typewriter.

Bison down, soft and brown, as costly per ounce as many fibres are per pound.

June 13, 2009


Happy world-wide knit in public day!

I have knitted in public (KIP) very little, but I have certainly spun in public (SIP) a fair bit.

I can say that spinning in public at Vancouver International was a more friendly experience than at Chicago O’Hare, where everyone avoided looking directly at me and my drop spindle.

June 12, 2009

Spanish Peacock nalbinding needles

These are bone needles made by Mike King of the Spanish Peacock.

I like the texture even better than wood, and way better than plastic. And I don't mean that in a "oh, evil plastic, think of the poor birds dying of malnutrition on Midway Island with their stomachs full of little plastic fragments they scooped up on the waves instead of food" sort of way.

No, the surface of these needles is really that good, independent of other considerations. I pulled out the small needle (and a sewing needle too) to show someone next to me at Maryland Sheep and Wool as we waited for Judith MacKenzie MacCuin's talk, and people around us were like, ooh, let us see!

June 11, 2009

My Dad's Nalbinding Needles

Here are photos of the many nalbinding needles my beneficent father made for me.

These needles are made from maple grown on Vancouver Island.

These next needles are made from arbutus (madrona) grown on Vancouver Island. They’re not as flashy as the maple. I like arbutus trees a lot, though. They’re a symbol of the area and very funky to look at with their red peeling bark, so I like the needles. Also, I like the needles’ short length.

These long nalbinding needles are made from arbutus too.

The brilliant thing about nalbinding is that you don’t have to collect a massive slew of needles in different sizes and you can use homemade needles. Irregularity is fine, because needle size does not determine gauge.

Here's an arbutus tree on the beach

June 10, 2009

False Starts in Nalbinding, Two

This is my second attempt at nalbinding. Again, I used commercial rug weft.

I used Karen Sullivan’s (Alix Tiberga) directions, which she posts here. I used the Danish stitch.

According to Larry Schmitt's Lessons in Nalbinding: Great Hats, the pattern for Danish stitch is O/UO.

Danish stitch looked easy to learn on and also like it would solve two of problems I ran into with the Mammen stitch, as described in yesterday's post.

Danish stitch turned more easily.

The directions called for gauge tension to be made on the fabric, not the thumb, so I got more consistent results with the chunky yarn.

I hummed along, forming a foundation chain, linking it, and continuing on for a while. Then I stopped to consider exactly what I was going to make. I don’t really want a tote bag of rug weft and I don’t think anyone else does either.

I turned and reversed my stitch, to check out the result with the idea of possibly starting a new bit of nalbinding and creating a rug by going back and forth. The result was pretty good. See closeup:

At that point, the podcast I was listening to ran out, so I ended this attempt.

June 09, 2009

False Starts in Nalbinding, One

These are my first attempts at nalbinding. I used commercial rug weft and followed a video Krista Vanjato posts online here.

I think from looking at my copy of Anne Marie Haymes’ (Sigrid Briansdotter) Nalbinding Made Easy that the stitch is the Mammen stitch. The pattern for Mammen stitch is UOO/UUOO F2.

This attempt has some problems I’m looking to troubleshoot or avoid.

My gauge is irregular. Not only am I inexperienced with gauge here, the gauge is done on the thumb, and my thumb is too small to suit the chunky yarn. This made me really worried about getting into endless hit or miss experiments in order to spin a yarn that has a gauge to suit my thumb.

My splice, seen in the middle of the long straight strip, is shaggy and obvious.

My turns and spirals are difficult to achieve and ugly. They also don't lie flat.

June 08, 2009

About Nalbinding

So, nalbinding!

This is what I've dug up, in my search for something to do with the yarn I spin.

Nalbinding has been traditionally used to make mittens, socks, and hats, but other items can and have been made, such as pennants and rugs.

Two to three yard lengths of yarn are used with a needle in looping patterns to create chains which can be connected in spirals or tubes to create fabric. Loops are done on the thumb or other gauge or tensioned by eye. Nalbinding creates a fabric that does not unravel when cut. The fabric can be quite thick and warm, and felts well.

Nalbinding is a technique that predates knitting. Nalbinding may also predate the use of drop spindles which produce long continuous yarns, because the short lengths of yarn needed for nalbinding could be spun with the hand on the thigh or with a twisty-stick (stick with hook at the end, rolled on the thigh).

There are a number of different stitches, named for the places where nalbinding fragments were discovered. Patterns are described as a series of unders and overs with connector stitches. For example, the Mammen stitch is UOO/UUOO F2. Stitches are worked right to left, that is, you start with F2 which is catching two loops from the chain you have already made and then you go over, over, under, under, reach the centre of the loop, over, over, under.

Nalbinding is better learned by watching than from a book, imho.

some videos in Finnish: http://www.vajanto.net/gradu/

videos in English:
York stitch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gBknsoqi8U&feature=channel_page
York stitch with F1 and F2 connector http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McX84c67ny0&feature=channel_page

some videos in German(?): http://www.myvideo.de/watch/4902271/Nadelbinden_Der_Cross_Dalby_Stich and http://www.myvideo.de/watch/829122/Der_Asle_Weaver_Stich

video in Swedish (?): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10xNxH_Itxs&feature=channel_page

My next steps are to find out if I can make something useful with nalbinding and to find out what sort of yarn to spin for nalbinding.

June 06, 2009

Fantastical (and sheep-free) Spinning Fibres

gossamer (spider silk)
The people of England gave Eleanor of Aquitaine a gossamer shawl as a wedding present when she married Henry II.
byssus (mussel strands)
Historians describe Henry II riding off to battle in a glorious tunic of golden sea silk; it was so striking that the battlefield is still called the Field of Gold.
Judith MacKenzie McCuin, The Intentional Spinner: A Holistic Approach to Making Yarn, Loveland, CO: Interweave, 2009, p. 44, 45.

That would be cool. And probably a lot of work.

What a well-dressed couple they must have been.