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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where did the beads go?

The beads are still here, neatly sorted by color and function in towers of clear, plastic boxes, sitting on my craft room shelves. I am just taking a little break from creating jewelry to work on things that reflect my word for 2009 which seems to be "fiber." Over a year ago I took a class on spinning with a wheel and I enjoyed it very much. In that one class I was able to make my first full hank of yarn: a somewhat irregular, bulky, brown wool skein - not bad, as I was told by my instructor, for a first attempt. Until recently, it was unceremoniously piled in a corner of the spare bedroom closet, but I have since given it a proper place to reside on a wooden peg hook below a decorative shelf in the family room. I admit I was inspired to hang it out in the open after seeing a lovely cascade of colorful yarns displayed on a pegged coat rack at the home of another spinner. Somehow having the fiber where I can see it makes me feel more like an actual "fiber person" which keeps me motivated to practice spinning. Plus, that one, skinny skein looks awfully lonely draped up there by itself against the blank, yellow wall; I need to make it a friend or two.

Recently spun wool yarn
I use the word "practice" because the first, say, 500-1000 yards or so of yarn will probably be inconsistent in appearance, at best. I can see that it will take a lot of wheel time before my yarns will look like something one could purchase at a yarn store. Nothing other than practice, practice, practice (and perhaps being around other seasoned spinners on occasion) will turn those lumpy, too thin, too thick, beginner strands into smooth and polished, knittable creatures. Since the only way to practice is to have a wheel to use at home, I started looking - or dreaming about - wheels in 2008. I searched Craigslist, want ads, spinning lists, eBay, and even Etsy on a daily basis trying to find a used wheel, not new, in an effort to ease the strain on my crafting budget. I didn't have any luck, but I did learn much more about the type of wheel I wanted. Then one day, a friend of mine and I took a spinning class; it was her first and my second spinning experience. It wasn't long after the class that she started shopping for wheels too. Not being the procrastinator that I am, she soon had a wheel delivered to her doorstep. Of course, I had to see it right away.

After looking at the wheel she purchased, and comparing it to my short list of brands, I had narrowed down my "dream wheel" to two or three models, including the type she had chosen. How does one make such an expensive decision? As with any tool, the best advice I was given was to try as many wheels as possible before buying. Spinning wheels are like shoes: it is best to find one that fits your body and spinning style or you'll be uncomfortable. I had already test-driven a few wheels at the spinning class, but I still needed to try out my top choices. The closest shops that sold spinning equipment were at least an hour's drive away. Half-a-dozen phone calls and hours of internet research later, I found a small store that had one of the two brands I wanted to test.

On a pleasant June day last year, I casually asked my husband if he would like to take a drive. "Where to?" he looked suspicious. "Um, to look at a spinning wheel," I answered, waiting for the inevitable questions about why, how much, and where will you put it? I truly didn't expect to make a purchase that day, but once I tried a few wheels and compared their treadling abilities, and even had my husband do a few test-drives, the choice was clear. Much to my surprise, somehow we managed to leave the shop with a large bag filled with fiber and an order for a spinning wheel.

Now, as you all know, life can get quite busy and complicated sometimes, and you've heard the phrase about the best-laid plans...Well, I have to confess that no sooner had the wheel arrived in my house, other things began keeping me from using it. I opened the package, set it up, treadled it a bit to make sure it worked, put it back in the carrying case, put it in the corner, and then promptly got swept up in summer vegetable gardening, working on jewelry for craft shows, etc., etc.; the wheel gathered dust. I felt bad, and quite guilty for buying something so costly and not using it. I am sure my husband thought this was just another one of my crafting adventures that would end up on the eBay auction block. (Mea cupla! I admit this has happened on more than one occasion.) And I really, really did want to spend more time making yarn and improving my spinning skills. So when I reached the end of craft show season and I needed a rest from beading, the wheel and the fiber started calling to me again. With trepidation I set up the wheel and tried to remember how to spin. After a studious review of the book, Start Spinning by Maggie Casey, my rusty brain creaked into motion and I found myself treadling away making actual yarn.

After all this talk of my wheel, I can't forget to introduce you to my trusty spinning companion. He or she (I haven't picked a name yet) is a Kromski Sonata, an upright, double treadle, wooden wheel handmade in Poland at the small Kromski family factory. I chose the natural color Sonata which coordinated best with our decor - something to consider if you intend to keep the wheel in a public space at home.

The Sonata's blend of slightly modern design and a simple, traditional, spoked wheel really appealed to my tastes. Its lines seem unfussy yet not overly plain or stark. But the best feature of this model is the relieved leg strain afforded by the action of the two foot pedals, or "double treadle;" neither leg gets worked too much. The Sonata is a folding wheel, and it comes in a sporty green and beige, padded bag, which makes it perfect for taking to a friend's house for a spinning afternoon, or to a meeting of the local spinning group. I've just been to my first group gathering and boy, was I nervous because I imagined its members would chastise me for letting the wheel sit idle so long. However, they were gracious and the meeting was very low-key.

So what have I made so far? Last night I finished spinning the dark brown, wool fiber I received when I bought the wheel. As I held my work aloft like a scepter, I proudly proclaimed to my husband that I now had a full bobbin of yarn that I made all by myself. It may not be pretty or WOW material, but it is real yarn - or should I say half of real yarn, since I will need to make a second bobbin-full so I can ply or twist them together to make a sturdy and usable product. Thus, on to my next project of spinning some light brown wool fiber in anticipation of making a two-tone, two-ply, brown yarn. Not terribly exciting color-wise, but I didn't want to delve into my really good wool and silk blend, dyed in a fabulous mix of purple and teal shades, until I had more practice time on the wheel. Did I mention that once one has a wheel, suddenly hunks of fiber in a variety of colors and textures start appearing in one's crafting cache? Hmmm, I can't imagine how that happens.

You may ask the next logical question, "What are you going to make with all this yarn?" Well, I asked myself that too. My latest stop at a knitting shop for supplies may partly answer that query. I can imagine all sorts of warm and fuzzy projects being completed from lovingly hand-spun yarn. However, there is one little stumbling block: I haven't knitted for about 100 years, and I just recently learned to crochet, just the very basic steps. So I guess those beads will have to wait a bit longer while I add a few more fiber-related skills to my repertoire.

Knit one, purl one, knit one...I'll let you know how it goes.

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Blogger Jai Johnson said...

Oh my gosh you made that yourself? Amazing! Beautiful! Great job! So what will you make with it...well...I've seen some fabulous "fiber jewelry" out there, and since you already have a background with might think about integrating it somehow into your jewelry designs. :)


January 20, 2009 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger ~*~Pearl~*~ said...

Wow liv that is awesome! its very beautiful!!

January 20, 2009 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

I'm glad you're still involved with fiber. Good work so far. know you'll make lovely things soon.

January 20, 2009 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger The Filigree Garden said...

Thanks for the comments. You should see some of the fantastic yarns GOOD, experienced spinners make. I hope to get there some day.

Jai, yes, fiber jewelry is definitely on my list to try, along with needle felting. :-)

January 20, 2009 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger Fused Glass said...

Beautiful Liv!

January 20, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

Totally awesome Liv.. something I've always wanted to try but never taken the time.. you are doing wonderful work!

January 20, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger gloria said...

Wow, Liv, you are amazing! Can't wait to see what you do with it! and then there is felting...

January 20, 2009 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger joonbeam said...

What a great post, fil. I am looking forward to seeing your yarns, progress and future writings.

January 20, 2009 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger Judy Nolan said...

I really enjoyed reading about your spinning and spinning wheel adventure, Liv. I can't wait to see the next results of this journey!

January 21, 2009 at 1:43 AM  
Blogger Sixsisters said...

Bravo Liv and good luck with all of the spinning you
will be doing. Great post.

January 21, 2009 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Chauncey said...

Liv, such a good post. This spinning looks like so much fun. Best wishes with your new creative endeavor. Can't wait to see more.

January 21, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger ZudaGay said...

Great post, Liv! I've always want to try spinning. We used to raise sheep and everytime we sheared I would keep some wool with the thought of carding, spinning and weaving....didn't happen. Good luck with your spinning and fiber work. There isn't much more as making something from scratch. I can't wait to see more Liv made yarns!!!

January 21, 2009 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger jstinson said...

Liv, your blog was wonderful as usual! Your yarn is wonderful also. Keep us posted on your progress and products! And most of all...have fun!

January 21, 2009 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger thewildhare said...

Liv, what fun! I LOVE your word for 2009, and think that it will be an excellent word to come back to and meditate on all year long! :):)

I can't ply with two bobbins yet, I get confused about the direction they need to turn off the kate. I have been taking one bobbin full, wrapping it into a center pull ball on a nostepinne, and then plying it onto itself.

Can't wait to see how it goes!

January 22, 2009 at 4:45 PM  

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