What Does it Take to Make a Sweater: Spinning Edition

Last weekend I did something I have been waiting to do for months now: I learned to spin! If you are one of my friends who ride their bicycle to work on a daily basis (no matter the nasty cold weather out) and rarely play with wool, NO I DID NOT SPEND ALL WEEKEND LEARNING TO RIDE A STATIONARY BIKE!!!

Now that we got that out of the way, yes, I learned to use both a spindle and a spinning wheel to make fiber into yarn. Let me repeat: I can make yarn from scratch!!! How badass is that?

I headed down to The Art League in Alexadria for a two day class they ominously called “Crash Course in Spinning,” (http://www.theartleague.org/). I did manage to figure out the public transportation to get to Virginia, and I managed not to make rude comments to passersby about how I never can figure out why people live in NOVA (I obviously harbor resentment toward this place).

My teacher was a lovely lady known as SpinStick on Ravelry. She knows everything there is to know about spinning and has spun everything there is that could possibly be spun (including hair from all her pets, rayon spider webbing from Halloween and grass clippings, which she said did not work particularly well). I heart people like her, because most people are like “knitting is weird. Why would you want to do that?” She is like “why the hell would knit when you could spend your time on way cooler activities like spinning…duh!!”

As I was the only person in the class (intense, right?) she immediately got me started on the spindle. Spindles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they basically all work in the same way. They have a weight on them that helps them spin. You hook a piece of fiber to them and then start spinning them in a clockwise fashion. The spinning causes the fiber to twist as you feed the thickness you want through your fingers to make yarn. This makes no sense unless you see it (minute 6 is where she actually starts spinning, but the beginning part is a really good explanation of what I had to learn to be able to do this):

Here’s her Part II if you need more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAVYmG9zeK8&feature=related

Then I learned to spin with the wheel. Spinning wheels come in a variety of styles.

This is the Ashford wheel that I liked the best

I spun on two different spinning wheels, actually just like the two that they use in this video:

Here’s how you actually spin it:

And another cute lady spinning…good background:

Once you have spun on either your spindle or wheel, you have what is called “energized” yarn, meaning that it has a whole bunch of twist. You have to put it in some hot water to let it set the twist and relax a little bit.

You let it hang to dry like this:

Then once it is dried, I had this:

Cool, right? Then I learned how to ply the yarn. Wikipedia tells me that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plying):

In the textile arts, plying is a process used to create a strong, balanced yarn. It is done by taking two or more strands of yarn that each have a twist to them and putting them together. The strands are twisted together, in the opposite direction than that in which they were spun. When just the right amount of twist is added, this creates a balanced yarn, which is a yarn with no tendency to twist upon itself. Almost all store bought yarns are balanced, plied yarns.

The turquoise and the light gray one next to it are plied yarns.  The ugly one on the left was the one I did on the spindle.  The others were done on the wheel.

Not enough of one yarn to really make anything, but still, I MADE YARN. See why I feel like such a badass?