Production Spindle Spinning?

The past two years I’ve participated in Spinzilla as team member and as a rogue. The better part of a month was spent prepping the fiber to ensure that my time spinning was not stressful, productive and the yarn of good quality. I worked on producing yarn for several projects at once. First year on a team was great fun but I ran out of prepared fiber and dug into my stash.  I was dedicated to not letting my team members down with low production. Last year I signed up as a “rogue”. Actually, I enjoyed the rogue status as I could compete just with myself, not get too crazy with cranking out yardage and enjoyed the intense, intimate joy of spinning for a whole week.

So this year, I am going to go rogue again, but with a new twist. Some of the time my wheels will be silent, and my spindles will take over. This means I can spin while traveling, in waiting rooms or online.
Participate in Spinzilla with a Spindle!? Yes!  And you can too!  In some instances, the handspindle is more efficient and faster than the wheel. For instance, in good hands, the tahkli can reach 10,000 rpm. This far outstrips the treadled wheel. The tahkli isn’t the only “roadrunner”. There are lots of “speed demon spindles” available

It is common knowledge that larger yarns take less twist and are quicker to produce. If you want the yardage, spin large. However, the old adage, “not all wheels spin all yarns” applies to spindles as well. Your handspindle performs in a range of yarn sizes. So let’s look at that tahkli again. For the size yarn that the tahkli produces (garment-weight fine singles), it is 3-5 times faster than a treadled wheel. Although you may be spinning fine yarns, your production rate can be 3 yards/minute or better.

Spindle spinning is not for the faint of heart. It involves coordination, practice to become familiar with the tool. None of the movements are particularly difficult. You just have to allow yourself some time to get the “feel” of it, learn by doing. Try spinning several fibers, preparations and yarn sizes to get an idea of your spindles behavior and find its particular “sweet spots”.
Here are 3 hints:

Hint 1
Pick the right spindle, the one with which you are familiar and comfortable. You already know its balance, learned to put in twist and found a simple, efficient way to get the yarn off of it, so you can be ready to fill it again.

Hint 2
Doffing the Spindle can be time-consuming. If you don’t already have a spindle stand/lazy kate to unwind it quickly, consider what it would take to get yarn off your spindle quickly and efficiently. 
You could choose a Turkish spindle which winds your yarn onto the spindle into the shape of a ball. The central shaft of the spindle slides out of the ball and cross arms which in turn pull free of the ball. The spindle is reassembled in moments and you are back to spinning in no time.
If your spindle has no hook above the stored yarn and has a tapered shaft coming to a point, then the package can be slipped off the spindle when it becomes too large and unwieldy, easily freeing the spindle for more fun.
I was looking at an old spindle holder from Hungary which contained 13 spindles, many of them plainly duplicates. Think of the mighty wisdom: a clutch of spindles the same dimension and weight! When you get on a roll spinning, the spindle fills quickly. How fine it is to have another equal to grab and continue spinning! And how handy to have a rack to keep them safe and ready! I see a project for the future!

Hint 3
 Put in twist efficiently. If you are using a suspended spindle, use your palm to put twist into your spindle, with one palm on spindle laid against your thigh. For supported spindles, use your two palms together to charge the spindle with twist more efficiently than flicking it with thumb and first/second fingers. For a real eye popping view of this technique see “Andean Spinning”, Interweave, with Nilda Callanuapa Alvarez. When using a support spindle, rest the spindle in a bowl that is mirror smooth. It reduces the effort to bring the spindle to speed and increases its cast or length of time your spindle continues to rotate.
There are a lot of excellent spindle spinners out there. I’ve seen your work in classes and county fairs.
Put together a team of spindlers or join the rogue spindle spinners on Spinzilla! Whether or not you are already an accomplished spindle spinner, here is a chance to become familiar with the language of “twirl”, making yarn on a sound, friendly device which so easily comes to hand. There is little reason not to see Spinzilla as the BEST stay-cation retreat ever!

Full Circle

Fall, 2013, brought us challenges, two deaths in the family and another dear family member hospitalized and very much at risk.

Family member is recovering now, with excellent prospects of returning to a productive, creative life. 

The challenges have resulted in our former weaving studio turning into our domicile and vise-versa. Nine floor looms and countless baskets of yarn, sticks, reeds and whatnot went upstairs along with thirteen spinning wheels. And countless boxes of stuff, beds, comfy chairs, kitchen appliances, tables, computer and not a few books came downstairs. Essentially, we moved. No van, no long drive, but indeed, it was a move.

This was not a job for a handful of people. A great circle of friends gathered round our daughter (a.k.a. “tha boss”). Many hours were willingly given with smiles and laughs and a few evenings spent in song.
As we are rounding the corner of another month, many thoughts fill my mind. In an agricultural society, February was a hard month with frozen ground, grains, neps and tubers the regular fare at mealtime—a lean time. Mid-month we will celebrate our beloveds with red candy boxes, flowers and sometimes silly sentiments of renewed betrothal, hand holding and love. If you would, consider how our hearts touch one another.  Celebrate true friendship, the meaning of community and hold close your precious loves.

A Time to Share

The past few days have been devoted to tying up ends on the opus. 

The pages of the book, spread flat on large, double pages, arrived in a box, quickly ripped open like a childs’ birthday present.

Two years working on the book has taken its own rhythm, a series of measured steps, outline turning into paragraphs, paragraphs sprouting illustrations and photos. Each element of the job was divided, completed and carefully folded away, precious letters. Because the project was large, spread over so many months, it was really difficult to see it as a whole. A week ago, for the first time, I held the book in my hands. What a rush!

Frankly, I sat down immediately and paged through, like reading a restaurants’ menu tacked to the front window, looking at each page getting a sense for what was offered and was there something to bring me in. 

Well neigh enough! Forty-ish years ago, I would have jumped on this information, ready to hear more! But…whether or not there is worthwhile information inside the covers is something readers will decide for themselves. Actually, my purpose in writing this and the book is to disburse what I have learned, largely through doing. If the content saves you time, tears and trauma, then all is for the better.

Relieved and blessed that this opus is finished and wrapped in a beautiful package, my thanks go to the remarkable team at Interweave.

Ruminations on the Rip Van Winkle Effect

When you spend long hours in the making of things, your sense of time is different. It is never the same as those who don’t make things, or don’t dedicate much time when they do.

With this in mind, I realized that this blog has had no update for some time. I haven’t been away, just involved in just such a mammoth project. A book that I dreamed about writing for years is in the works. 

Deadlines for a multitude of details have nearly all passed. But until they are all behind me, I cannot say, it is done. It is for sure. Just know that this has captured my time and attention for the last year. That soon, announcements will be forthcoming.  And that this Rip Van Winkle will awaken. 

Until the next….

Chop Water, Carry Wood

As the weather turns to fall, we start to think of warm cups of tea by the stove, and maybe a cat curled up nearby. At least that is what we are supposed to think. Today it was 103 in Jackson, the warmest day of the year.

As we were hefting our winter firewood, it was raining on my shirt. More precisely, it was raining directly under my sweaty brow, and saturated head. “Wood heats you many times” is the old saw. The irony did not escape me.

We shifted the jumble of cherry chunks into the semblance of a proper wood pile and uncovered a mouse. Mouse dashed out from under one log and dove under another. Zip! Whoosh!

There was something strange about her. Mouse had extra stuff hanging off her tummy.

I stopped throwing wood and tried to reconstruct what I had just seen. Grey fuzzy mouse, (knew it was a mouse by the big ears and eyes) with fuzzy grey tendrils attached to her belly. For a horrible moment I was afraid we had injured mouse with our rough and tumble wood chucking. But mouse wasn’t bleeding.

She made another dash to a weedy pile of bark. It was then I realized what I was seeing. Mother mouse had baby mice and she must have given them the word to hang on tight. “This might be a bit bumpy.” She accomplished her change of address with little fuss, no losses and no notice from the resident cat population.

May we all see change coming, and manage it with such economy.