Grace shares a few of her favourite spinning things. Do you have any “can’t live without” things that you use?
I have a lot of fibre ‘toys’ at home, and I have a loooong wish-list as well. As a member of the Greater Vancouver Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to many handy gadgets by fellow enthusiasts. The internet has been a real eye-opener – you can find all sorts of custom-made items for your spinning wheel, uniquely prepared fibre, and handcrafted spindles to add to your “toolbox”. Fibre festivals are terrific places to discover new goodies in person. Today, just before the eve of Fibres West, I would like to share with you a few my favorite finds: some useful tools you can create yourself or purchase from a retailer, and some handy work-arounds that just plain make your spinning life easier.
I have to start with my wheel — she has been my best spinning tool to date. I started learning how to spin on a drop spindle, and I have acquired quite a collection of whorls since then. I purchased a Schacht Matchless last year to teach with at the SGY studio, but when I am at home, you’ll find me perched behind my Ladybug. When I was on the market for a wheel, I wanted something light, cute, and with enough options that I could grow into it. I am happy to report that after many years of spinning, I still haven’t outgrown my Ladybug. I can take her around town to various spin-ins, create the kinds of yarn I like to knit with, and swap my bobbins with the Matchless at work… what more could I ask for!?
My mother and her good friend Linda made me two incredible aprons for my birthday one year. Under my specifications, they sewed me one black and one white apron. I wanted one of each colour so I could see what I was spinning no matter what shade of fibre I was working with. There is no patterning over the lap area but they have ridiculously cute detailing around the pockets and straps. They are made from the same material as washable diapers; they wipe clean and fibre doesn’t stick to me.
My WPI card:
I discovered early that I needed some sort of device to measure the width of my yarn. Not only is it important to know the wraps-per-inch (wpi) of your final product, but if you measure your singles as you create them, it helps you monitor consistency in your spinning. I have two such tools at home; a gauge with an inch-long gap that I wrap my yarn around (how many times you can wrap your yarn into this space is your ‘wraps per inch’ — get it!?) and a clear plastic rectangle with measurements drawn on it; I lay my yarn overtop of the black lines until I match the width of my yarn to the corresponding ‘wpi size’.
My Oil Bottle:
It can be tricky to get your wheel oil exactly where you want it to go — but Schacht’s oil bottle has a wonderfully long ‘nose’ that lets me reach all those tight little places. It’s connected to a handy string I can hang off my wheel so I have no excuses not to remember to oil my wheel!
An Orifice Hook String:
Orifice hooks are easy to loose – you can lend them, drop them, accidently pack them away… scrambling to look for one isn’t ideal when your hands are full of fibre. Some wheels have built-in places to hold your hook, but if yours does not, perhaps consider tying your hook to your wheel! Just make sure the string is long enough so you can comfortably maneuver it into position at the orifice, but not so long that it gets in the way of your treadles.
My Velcro Nubbin:
This is an ingenious little trick I learned at a spinning retreat… you can put a little sticky velcro patch on the front of your spinning wheel by the orifice. That way, if you have to stop spinning (gasp!) for any reason, you can place the end of your fibre on this adhesive area and you won’t loose the end of your fibre! I believe some wheels come with these already attached, but if you are planning on adding one yourself, just be sure to use the ‘velcro side’ that has the tiny hooks, not the loops, for better grip.
My drying device may be animal-themed, but this doesn’t mean it’s the only option that will work. Having any sort of collapsible drying equipment is fantastic for hanging your damp skeins. I live in a very small apartment, so space is an issue. I have hung twelve different skeins on this one little hanger without taking up the entire bathroom.
I am a Type A personality… I require lists, order and perfection, even if it drives me a little crazy. It’s no surprise that as soon as I started spinning, I started keeping track of my progress. I started writing down which fibres I was spinning, where I bought them from, the properties of my finished yarn, and how I liked working with the fibre. This information has been invaluable to me… I can look back at any skein of handspun ‘marinating’ in my stash and know exactly where it came from.
Taking photos of my work became a part of my spinning process soon after I started writing in my logbook. I love having a record of what the fibre looks like before I spin it, as well as adding eye candy to my blog and creating a visual catalogue of my handspun on Ravelry. My husband helped me pick out just the right camera for me – a Canon D3200. It’s an entry level DSLR, but I have a few key lenses that give me professional looking photos that really showcase my work.
The Big White Sheepskin:
Not only does my sheepskin offer a soft place for my butt when I’m spinning, but it makes a wonderful backdrop for all those handspun photos I take!
Need I say more?!
A Sampler Niddy Noddy:
I love having a small niddy noddy for sampling fibre. It makes a really cute little skein! It’s perfect for preparing samples for my classes or testing out my own spinning experiments.
Plenty of Mail Tags:
I use cheap, brown mail tags from the stationery store to mark my handspun. I can write the fibre type, yardage, wraps per inch and weight on the tag and tie it to my skeins. It’s terrific to keep all the information so close at hand – I am never left wondering what that mystery fibre is!
Knittyspin is one of my favorite online resources. I love the different columns featuring talented fibre artists such as Jillian Moreno and Amy Singer, the comprehensive fibre reviews written by anonymous spinners, and the knitting patterns created especially for handspun yarn. When I first started knitting, Knitty.com was my first online resource. When I started spinning, Knittyspin was right here to guide me along.
Ravelry now has features that appeal to many different fibre arts – not just knitting! I log all the yarn I have spun under the “handspun” section of my profile. I belong to numerous groups, such as the Schacht Spinners, Terminal City Yarn Wranglers, and of course, Sweet SweetGeorgia. The forums attached to these groups are full of knowledge and inspiration about spinning techniques, fibre festivals, wheel queries, pattern support and, well, anything else you can possibly think of.
What are your favorite spinning ‘toys’? Do you have any tips you’d like to share with your fellow spinners? What are the tools that you just couldn’t work without? Please share your thoughts with us!