Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Just spinning around

Hello there! Thanks so much for stopping by. How was your weekend? I had a wonderful time at the Westcliffe Hotel in Blackpool, where I was attending a weekend spinning course. The course tutor was Vikki Harding from WildFireFibres. Vikki is a fantastic award-winning spinner, as well as dyer of fabulous yarns, and a talented designer too, so we were in excellent hands! There were five of us all wanting to improve our spinning - some complete beginners, and others able to spin a reasonably consistent single. The course catered for all our needs. Vikki brought along with her everything we could possibly need - fibre, books, equipment and plenty of samples too. On Friday evening we watched Vikki spinning some beautiful yarn - she made it look so easy!

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Work began in earnest on Saturday morning. We took over the dining room with our wheels and spindles, and it quickly became clear why Vikki was wearing a long apron, as we got ourselves covered in bits of fibre! I started spinning some Blue Faced Leicester fibre. It's very good for beginners as it has a long staple and is slightly fuzzy, so it isn't too slippery when you're drafting it. I learned a lot about my wheel and how to set it up - it's amazing how just tightening or loosening the tension makes a huge difference to the control that you have!

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By the end of the morning, I'd spun one whole bobbin and Vikki then showed me how to Navajo ply it. This sort of plying is good if you have long colour changes in your fibre. It creates a 3 ply bouncy yarn, good for socks!

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We had a break in the afternoon and went to a local yarn shop where I bought some buttons for my Peasy cardigan. Then it was back to the spinning! I tried to spin some thinner yarn, and filled another bobbin before spending the rest of the evening knitting. Sunday was a full day of spinning! I had a go at plying some of my yarn with some tiny beads threaded onto quilting cotton. You could also use a laceweight yarn for this. It was really hard to control the release of the beads whilst plying and not get into a tangle, so I was very grateful for Edwina's help. She did the same thing for Vikki later in the day, as you can see below!

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Vikki was plying her yarn with some really pretty beads. They added a lovely sparkle to her yarn. Here's how mine ended up. Not quite Tilli Thomas yet, but it gives me something to aim for!

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I spun up the rest of my singles into a 2ply yarn - it's come out at about double knit thickness. I think that I'll probably dye it with some Kool-Aid and then knit it up. It's lovely and sproingy!

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Vikki then showed me how to combine various fibres to card my own batts. I used a whole mixture of things including merino, silk, crab fibre, (yes, you did read correctly - it's a waste product made from crab shells and feels just like silk!) some acrylic and some sparkly bits to produce a small batt.

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You can see some of the fibres being laid onto one of the carders. I did this four times to make enough to spin with. I loved the sparkly bits! I'm such a kid! Here's what my batt looked like. It's quite fragile so you have to handle it gently.

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I then learned a new spinning technique - core spinning. You hold a single out straight, and then draft fibre onto it at an angle. The fibre wraps itself around the central core of the single, and gives a really interesting texture. Mine is a little overspun because I used a handspun single and then plied it the wrong way, so I was adding even more twist to the yarn! Oops! But I soaked it and weighted it overnight and have ended up with some knittable yarn.

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It was a really inspiring weekend - just look at some of the yarn that Vikki's spun. It gives me so much to aim for!

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And of course, I didn't leave empty handed. Well, if I'm going to improve my spinning, I'm going to need some fibre, aren't I?! I may be on a yarn diet, but fibre's different, isn't it?! I bought three skeins of merino and silk fibre. I think that I'll have a go at dyeing these first.

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I also bought three skeins of merino and silk dyed in a pretty pink and yellow colour scheme. It would be amazing to be able to spin up enough yarn to knit something other than a scarf! I shall hold on to these until I'm spinning more consistently I think!

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Paula, the proprietor of the Westcliffe Hotel, looked after us so well all weekend. We had delicious homecooked food and nothing was too much trouble for her. She has a whole range of knitting holidays on offer throughout the year, so have a look to see if anything takes your fancy.

I couldn't wait to get spinning this morning to practise some of what I'd learnt this weekend. I delved into the box of fibre, looking for some BFL to use. I found some roving from the Skein Queen in the colourway Carmelita Spats.

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I've spun it as a single straight from the roving, and am planning to Navajo ply it to show off the long colour runs.

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I'll show you the finished yarn next time. But now my spinning wheel is calling out to me, not to mention my bag of knitting that feels a little neglected!! See you soon! xxx


Clicky Needles said...

Oh JK looks like you had a fab-u-lous time. I'm quite jealous! Enjoy the rest of half term - or are you so excited you can't sleep?????

Anonymous said...

What a lovely weekend! And your spinning is looking great :)

Ozzy Blackbeard said...

Oh my goodness! I'm jealous too! It looks like you had a great time, all your spinning looks fab, and I love the sparkly yarn.

snoopydog said...

Wow! Looks like you had a fabulous weekend! Look forward to seeing your yarn knitted up! Rosx

melissa said...

gorgeous gorgeous!!
looks like a fabulous time!!

Maria said...

Just to prove the old adage about never being to young/old to learn something new. It looks like you had a fantastic weekend

Socktopus said...

Lovely spinning! Love all the colours.

Madmum said...

Wow, it looks as though you had an amazing time. Your spinning looks fantastic - love the beads.

Northern Monkey said...

Your spinning looks great and that sounds like a wonderful weekend.

Enjoy the rest of your week off.

Laura x

Deborah said...

How fun to be with other spinners and all that lovely handspun goodness--very nice, indeed!

Jenny said...

Wow, I am full of admiration for your skill and the yarn you've produced. I've always liked the idea of being able to spin, went for a couple of days lessons and living in the Scottish Borders I'd have access to plenty of raw material. Now you've got me thinking I really should get going, but I'm 62 and I already have a massive stash to use up.