Spinning Step by Step: A drop spindle tutorial

Do you dream of learning to spin your own yarn? Of knitting socks or a shawl from lovely fibers you’ve designed and created yourself? Well, do I have a gift for you: An illustrated drop spindle tutorial!

Here’s a little taste of what’s to come… Enjoy!

Spinning Step by Step: How to use a drop spindle

Calming. Centering. Relaxing. These are just a few of the words spinners use to describe how they feel as fiber passes through their fingers, miraculously turning into yarn through the alchemy of hand spinning. Soon, you’ll enjoy the same creative sensations…AND you’ll be knitting with yarn you made yourself!

Getting Ready
Always remember: there’s a reason it’s called a “drop spindle.” That’s right: You will drop your spindle while you’re learning, and even afterward. So make sure you have a nice cup of tea (or glass of wine!) by your side, and try to be patient with yourself. Spinning is an ancient art form—you can learn the basics in a short time, yet spend years mastering the craft and creating new types of yarn.

What else do you need?

  • Your drop spindle
  • Some fiber (wool is usually easiest to learn with)
  • A comfortable, supportive chair (not a cushy one…a wooden kitchen chair will work nicely)

Click here for the full PDF version of the Drop Spindle Tutorial

NOTE: The gorgeous spindle in the tutorial was made by Jonathan Bosworth.


A Few Things About Me…

We moved this past Sunday, to a cute little cottage in a small town near the “Quad-State Region” of Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia/Pennsylvania. It was not an easy move, but with the greatly-appreciated help of some ultra-kind friends, we’ve got our stuff in our new home and are settling in to country life (Chris has to commute to D.C. for work, though).

So now I’m recovering from exhaustion and getting my creative mojo back! Meanwhile, here’s something to pass a cloudy, chilly day (aside from unpacking boxes), which I got from Lynne

Puttin’ my feet up


Are you a yarn snob? Kind of…but not too much. I just love QUALITY, and sometimes that includes a bit of man-made something or other. Like most knitters these days, I’ll pass on the novelty yarns.

Do you spin? Crochet? Yes, I do spin. I have a Kromski Sonata, which I LOVE! Now that we’ve moved out of the city, I want to spend more time on spinning so I can sell my handspun. Crochet? I’m not a very sophisticated crocheter, but I’m handy enough with a hook :-)

How long have you been knitting? Seven years.

What other crafts do you like to do? Sketching, painting, sewing, making stitch markers and jewelry, and I want to learn how to make paper and bind books

What are your favorite yarns to knit with? Alpaca, Pear Tree Merino (soft as cashmere!), Socks That Rock (the original kind…I love the springy feel), basically anything soft and pretty

What are your favorite needles to knit with? KnitPicks traditional 32″ circulars for socks, Addi Turbos for anything else…

What’s your favorite knitting gadget? My Royal ball winder and Swedish umbrella swift

What fibers do you absolutely NOT like? Cheap acrylic that squeaks and feels like it’s leaving microscopic cuts in my fingers; those good old fuzzy novelty yarns; and linen (I tried Euroflax Sport, but it was not a fun experience…maybe I did something wrong?)

What are your favorite items to knit? Fingerless gloves; socks; interesting scarves; and I’m looking forward to making tops and sweaters when I can afford to buy that much yarn at one time!

What are you knitting right now? Two pairs of socks I’m designing, one hat I’m designing, a tea cozy, Leigh Radford’s Tube Scarf, a hand-spun shawl, and I’m almost done with a pair of “Fetching” gloves made of Pear Tree Merino

What do you think about ponchos? I don’t know if I’d wear one outside the house, but I think they’d be comfy for lounging around knitting in front of the telly!

Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Definitely circular

Are you a sock knitter? Oh, yes! I really enjoy knitting cuff down, but I’m pushing myself to add other sock-knitting techniques to my arsenal ;-)

How did you learn to knit? Wish I had a cozy story about my grandma teaching me, but honestly, I’m entirely self-taught (I originally learned with a Leisure Arts booklet, a pair of US#10 aluminum straight needles, and a skein of Pepto-Bismol pink Red Heart acrylic yarn from JoAnn Fabrics

What is–and how old is–your oldest UFO (unfinished Object)? It’s that damn Tube Scarf from AlterKnits…I mean, really! Six feet of stockinette in the round with lace-weight yarn? Yawn. But I’m determined to finish it. I keep wondering if I should put all other projects aside and just push through it, since I love the finished scarf (and so do other knitters who’ve finished theirs!)

Well…unpacking, laundry, and other fun awaits me.

Happy Knitting!

Crochet: Inspiring Option or Distracting Dream?

Oh, the siren call of the Ripple Blanket…

OK, let me first state for the record that I am not One of Those Knitters. You know who I’m talking about…the nearly-militant anti-crochet zealots. Not large in number, but they’re out there.

Nope, that’s not me. In fact, the “problem” I’m dealing with lately feels like a sort of fiber-arts-related ADD–You’ll note, I’m sure, the complete absence of “H,” or hyperactivity ;-)

I adore knitting. And spinning. I’ve always liked to sew, and can spend hours in fabric stores. But lately, I’ve been finding myself attracted to crochet…Odd, since I’ve never been “a crocheter” in my life. Or maybe that’s the point.

Who, after all, doesn’t like a challenge. And with so many mouth-watering crochet books coming out, how can anyone resist? Books like this one, my new favorite (it has an adorable “breakfast set” pattern, complete with a retro tea cozy chocolate/robin’s egg blue):

And this lovely collection of delights:

And this–complete with intriguing designer interviews:

See what I mean? Oh, what’s a person to do with only 24 hours in a day?

To be honest, I count myself as fortunate, having a bit more “unscheduled” time than most people I know. So the solution to my little quandry is the ever-so-simple-and-yet-so-difficult task of moving beyond the dreaming and planning stage to the learning, practicing, and executing stage. I might find I love crocheting, or—horrors!—I might find I’m not very good at it.

Oh, well. I guess that’s why it’s so much fun to just page through books like these and dream of all the things you could make. Don’t you agree?

Until next time…Think warm thoughts, and happy knitting (or crocheting)!

Back to Tahoe

This weekend I got back in the mood to work on my Tahoe cardigan…
The sweater’s back and right front are complete, and I cast on last night for the left front. After this, it’s just sleeves and finishing–and I’m going to make a few changes at this point. First, the sleeves will be knit from top down, circularly. Seaming is OK, but not my favorite way to spend an evening.

Also, instead of the turned under picot edges knit with Koigu, I may knit or crochet a less bulky alternative. Sundara’s Bittersweet remains my yarn of choice for the edging…the colors just work so well with my mauvey-violet Heirloom Breeze from OzeYarn (a GREAT and affordable site to order from, no matter where you live!).

I haven’t used my spinning wheel or wrote about spinning in a while, so I thought I’d show you my latest. Actually, I spun this hank in February or March (I don’t remember!), and then it sat…and sat…and sat on the spool. But this weekend my yarn was liberated! I wound it onto the two-yard niddy-noddy and set the spin by soaking and hanging to dry.

I am very pleased with this, as I’m still a beginner and am totally self-taught. What you’re looking at is a 300-yard skein of sport-weight yarn spun from Finn top.

Best of all, to a newbie like me, is that I managed to spin a soft yarn that doesn’t twist back on itself or kink up…This was my goal. I tried really hard not to overspin, but to spin enough so it won’t fall to pieces when knitted.

So…what’s this yarn’s destiny? Well, last fall I began a VERY simple shawl for my husband’s grandma–who’s been like a grandma to me, too. She’s so sweet and smart and beautiful. I really do love her. Unfortunately, she has Parkinson’s disease and is in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, so we don’t see her too often :-(

Anyway, I knew I’d run out of yarn in the midst of the shawl, and when I did I had the wonderful luxury of sitting down at my Kromski Sonata (Yay!!! Love it!!!) and spinning up the rest of the Finn so I can complete the project. The first batch of yarn I used was spun when I was even more of a beginner, so it’s a bit slubby. This yarn is much, much nicer. But I know that grandma will love it all the same…perhaps even more…because it’s made from scratch, just for her.

I know some of you are spinners, too. Tell me, what kind of wheels do you use? What fibers do you like to spin? I’d LOVE to see some of your yarn! Nothing’s more exciting than making something from yarn and needles EXCEPT making something from a pile of hair that you spin yourself, then knit or crochet into a lovely piece that comes from the heart.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend! Cheers!

Not About the Socks

Remember these socks?

No? Well, if you’re interested, you can look here. If not, don’t worry…this isn’t about the (warm, cozy, comfy) socks. It’s about that lovely Corriedale roving.

Oh, those colors! They were like Italian water ice and gelato. Raspberry, blueberry, grape…Transluscent, saturated colors. I dyed the top/roving with Karida. It was our first hand-dyed roving experiment last fall. (She founded Neighborhood Fiber Company last year.)

Karida let me keep her Louet S10 at my place–a studio apartment…my husband’s so nice. (Well, with his trombone and trumpet taking up space, there wasn’t much he could say, right? But he’s still the nicest person ever.) So the S10 and I made friends while I practiced with some coarse Finn top they sent to me.

(Like my chaotic fiber workshop/breakfast nook? I’m happy to say that the boxes are finally gone and our mirror is on the wall.)

I’d never spun before, so it took a few tries to get it right, but my drop spindle experience really paid off.

(Check it out: We have a Murphy bed in that cabinet!)

Not that my first attempts at wheel spinning felt easy, mind you–the speed was challenging. It made sense, though: I looked at the wheel and thought, “OK, there’s the hook, there’s the place that acts like the drop spindle shaft (the bobbin), that’s the part that puts the twist in the yarn…” You get the point. It just made sense to my brain.

After spinning the Finn for a while I started getting a consistent, DK weight singles yarn. So I took a deep breath and switched to my beloved roving. I was afraid of “wasting it,” of spinning yarn the color of mud, the thickness of a pencil (I don’t care for bulky yarns), of breaking or overtwisting it into a useless ball of crap. But I didn’t.

Ta da!

Now, this all took place last fall. What a great learning experience! Books like the Twisted Sisters’ Sock Workbook and Deb Menz’s excellent Color in Spinning were invaluable. Because you can’t just grab a bunch of roving and spin! Oh, no, no, no. You have to prepare the roving: separate it into thinner strands, roll them into sweet little nests of fluff, and plan out how you want to use the colors. I tried the one-color-at-a-time method for a while, but wanted more colorplay. So I changed my plan and created a yarn with candy-stick color twists.

Oh, lovely yarn! Why did I abandon you for so long??? It took me weeks to get around to my decision to not ply–it homogenized the colors–and then to set the twist. Finally, washed and dried, my yarn was ready to wind on the niddy-noddy. The final product? Three bouncy, springy skeins (about 500 yards total) of gorgeous singles DK yarn.

Knitted up (I swatched it yesterday…nothing seems to happen quickly around here!), the yarn was drapey, with a subtle glossiness and long color changes.

Now…I just have to decide what to make with it. Entrelac? Maybe a smaller version of the Lady Eleanor Stole (from Wrap Style)? If you’re out there lurking, help me out! Suggestions are welcome…

Thank God It (Was) Friday…

Here’s a little belated eye-candy. I meant to post it last Friday (eye-candy Friday) but just couldn’t get to it…

A few shots of my new Kromski Sonata to help raise my spirits :-)

Last week was a tough one–nothing catastrophic, but I feel like communications are mixed up and things that could go wrong have gone wrong. Which can be very physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. So I’ve been trying to “recover” over the weekend.

Lots of knitting, of course. I finished all of the swatches for Level 1 of the Master Hand Knitter program (MHK). I started last September, but have been working on lots of other projects instead of focusing on finishing the Level 1 requirements. I’m also nearing the end of the socks I’m making as a gift for someone whose name I will not mention. Photos will follow soon.

On Saturday, Karida and I went to A Tangled Skein–our new LYS, in Hyattsville, MD–where I bought some yarn for the MHK Level 1 hat I need to make. What a lovely store! And NICE people working there. Perhaps the nicest LYS experience I’ve had in the D.C. area! If you live nearby, you really should check it out…it’s not hard to get to, and is SO worth the trip.

I’m in Yarnival! (and so is my husband…)

I woke up to the nicest surprise today: Cara wrote to tell me that Knit*Six appears in the November issue of Yarnival! AND my husband, Chris, was named “Hunk of the Month.”

He’s had quite a good month in terms of fame: He played with Brooks Tegler at Blues Alley (a world-famous jazz club in Georgetown), played AND did all the vocals at Brooks’ Glenn Miller Tribute in Wye Mills, MD, and appeared in a photo in Jazz Times. And now this: Yarnival’s Hunk of the Month. I don’t know how much more of this I can handle…pretty soon he’ll be running from screaming mobs of fans ;-)

But he deserves it, for putting up with this:

(The huge stash I just realized I’ve accumulated…I never knew I was hording so much!)

And this:

(The pile of yarn on the stereo behind “my chair.”)

And this:

(The pile of yarn and mountain of needles and other knitting paraphernalia under the table between our chairs.)

Anyway, thanks, Cara, for featuring my blog! And welcome to anyone who comes browsing from http://www.JanuaryOne.com (I’m addicted to her blog…from knitting to social commentary, she rocks!). There’s a link to it at right…

So, we spent a week in Cape May, NJ, which was absolutely wonderful and relaxing. Obviously, since this is only my second post this month…my first one in two weeks…I’m having trouble getting back in the swing of things. For example, I had a pile of editing to do (freelance writing and editing is my bread and butter), but spent the morning rooting around in my mountain of fiber and taking the pictures above. I also took this one…it’s the “eat in” area in our kitchen:

Notice how there’s no place to “eat in”? It’s been usurped, and now I call it my studio. Thank God for windows. I couldn’t have done that in our old apartment, an “English Basement” in Georgetown (think: damp, mold, ant infestations, and noisy upstairs neighbors who stomped around like elephants and used TONS of electricity and gas — we had to pay 25% of the utilities for the house, and it was SO expensive). Jeez…thank God for more than windows, huh?

If you look in the photo above, you’ll notice the umbrella swift and skeins of gorgeous yarn hanging over a drying rack. You might also glimpse and peek of the fabulous raspberry colored sock yarn on the table, next to the bag of batting. Those are all Neighborhood Fiber Company yarns: Victorian Bulky, Duplex (50% mohair/50% merino), Studio Sport and Studio Sock).

This particular batch was headed for a special customer who’s starting her own knitting business in D.C. But there’s plenty more where that came from. And we also sell drop spindle kits and offer spinning wheel rentals in the District. Check out our new and improved Web site!

Well, the Hunk is home from work, so I’ll wrap it up for the day. It’s been a long one, and I’m rambling. And, after all, tomorrow is another day…(What the Hell does that mean? Of COURSE it’s another day. It’s not TODAY is it? No, it’s tomorrow!)

Ah. Bon soir, mes amis.