In which I babble about the spinning that’s been keeping me from making progress with knitting.
For the past week and a half, I’ve had a Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel living with me. A friend is looking to sell hers (you can only use one wheel at a time, after all) and I was lured in by the promise of just how FAST it makes yarn, if I can ever get the hang of the thing.
My first attempts were inauspicious. My problems were two parts “the wheel is fiddly and I don’t know how to adjust it” and one part “I haven’t spun in months and my drafting sucks again”. So I hauled out a Turkish spindle I had bought from Jeri Brock Woodworks, but not yet used, figuring that if I could learn that new skill (supported vs the drop spindling I’ve done in the past) it would also serve to remind me how to draft.
Supported spindling went very well. I grabbed just 20 inches of some Louet merino/silk roving (colorway Fields of Rye) and spun a fluffy, light single that should become a nice fingering weight when plied.I could never have produced such airy yarn on a drop spindle… and my lap cat approves, as well, because I can sit in the recliner, let her have my lap, and spin supported from my left boob. No other form of spinning creates a lap for the cat.
My friend promised — or possibly, warned — me that if I got the hang of the spinning wheel, I’d never use a spindle again. I don’t mind taking my time with gorgeous fiber to create a yarn with specific characteristics, but I’m not really inclined to spend 20 hours going through 4oz of undyed fibers I got back when I was first learning the drop spindle. So I got out some New Zealand Coopworth, tweaked the Scotch tension knob until the wheel was more or less behaving itself, spun the fiber, and plied it.
My spinning got much more consistent as I went through the singles, so I expected to have a thick-and-thin yarn. Somehow I didn’t expect that plying would take as long to learn as spinning had. The yarn in the picture looks pretty good, because it’s the last spun. When I wound it off onto a niddy noddy I realized the first quarter of it or so is nigh on unusable because it’s so badly underplied. Nevertheless, I gave it a hot water-and-Orvus bath, rinsed, and hung it to dry. The better part of the skein is something you might use for a fisherman’s sweater… nice twist, reasonably even, but definitely not next-to-the-skin soft. I figure if nothing else I can use it for some experimental dyeing (I’ve never done the “wet-out, put in ziploc bag, squirt dyes in and see what happens” thing) and then make felted coasters or somesuch.
The bathroom where this yarn finishing took place is the same bathroom we use as an airlock system to feed tuna to the cats, one at a time. Usually it smells vaguely fishy. When I went to check how dry the yarn was, I noticed that the room has a decidedly barnyard smell. This puzzles me for a few reasons. Aside from occasional bits of vegetable matter, the roving had seemed fairly heavily processed, and I hadn’t gotten sticky hands from lanolin. Also, as a city kid I’d assumed that “barnyard smell” came from manure, not from the animals themselves. Who knew?
I improved enough over the course of that first 4 oz that I was thinking I might like to buy the wheel after all, though I think I’d still use my spindles for yarns that require a more delicate touch than I can manage on a wheel. So I did our taxes, and, yay refund! I gave Mr. Texturedknitter the good news, and then casually mentioned that I was getting better at this spinning wheel thing, and maybe we could use some of the refund to buy it. He reminded me of the past week of vet bills, and the fact that, while they don’t yet equal the amount of our refund, after tomorrow’s visit for an ultrasound and x-rays, they very well might. (We have an anemic cat who is improving with treatment, but since primary anemia is really rare in cats, the vet is going to hunt for tumors.) Well, damn.
I guess it’s a good thing I still like that new spindle. And since the Ladybug is with me until Sunday, I think I might take this:
… and spin the finest singles I can manage on the wheel, then wind it off to center-pull balls to ply on a spindle later. I might actually get useable yarn!