It’s that time of year!

It’s been quite a while since I had to gear up and get ready for school to start in the fall.  It used to be that without that reminder the Fall season kind of snuck up on me some years.  But not any more!  For the past four years my fall starts in a very different way.

Now I know it’s fall when I start prepping for my classes at SVFF.  The Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival has got to be one of my all time favorite festivals, and here’s is why.

Classes

Shenandoah Valley Fiber FestivalI love to teach knitting and spinning and the Shenandoah festival allows me to do both! This year I am teaching TONS of spinning classes, as well as sock and shawl knitting! What joy I get out of watching students begin their love affair with fiber!  Last year I taught a beginning knitting class and I have such good memories of laughter and that sudden joyful look when the fingers catch up with the brain and they hoot “I got it!”  The beginning spinning class is one of my favorites – I love to be an enabler and watching the origin moment of a new fiberholic is such a high for me!  Again, that moment when a spinner’s hands, feet, and brain all connect in the right synergy and that big grin that spreads across their face! It’s almost always an amazed grin, too, because ten minutes before that you could see how totally convinced they were that they would NEVER get it!!

Friends

One of my personal bonuses for this festival is that I get to stay with a great friend!  She started out as my boss, then later she was a client, and through it all she has been a great friend, mentor, or cheerleader!  Berryville is almost 4 hours away from Spinfoolish Central and so I rarely get to see Ellen in person, or her husband and lovely children! Getting to spend time with them is always such a treat and I look forward to it immensely!  I can’t think of much that would take me AWAY from a fiber festival, but getting to hang out with Ellen makes it TOTALLY worth it!

Spindles

ShenandoahIf you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you must know that I am totally addicted to Spanish Peacock spindles. They don’t go to any other shows now, so the only time I get to see them (Other than FB or Instagram) is at this festival!  The first year I bought one.  The second year I bought 2.  I think last year I bought five – although to be fair a few of them were for friends or students that couldn’t make it to the fair and wanted met to vet the spindles for them. HA! Like they need vetting!  Mike’s spindles are beautiful, they spin like a dream, they are beautiful, the craftsmanship is astounding – especially for the price, and have I mentioned they are beautiful?  I have my eye on three this year, and a few extra for friends or students!  I can’t WAIT! Let the shopping begin!

Shopping

Speaking of shopping – it’s not just spindles!  Here are my favorites, in no particular order: Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Hipstrings, Strauch Fiber EquipmentAnna Branner, Dragonfly Fibers, Hearts of the Meadow, Misty MountainRajkovich Designs, Tatting by Wendy, Taylored Fibers,  and Wild Hare Studio.  Phew!  Serious money will be spent, people!  I often find unique fibers here for my annual Tour de Fleece Fiber Pack.  I also find fiber every year at Hipstings that I just simply can’t leave without!  It wouldn’t be a fiber festival without a hug from Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow! Fiber people are just the BEST!!

In addition to all that, it’s in a great location. There are trees for shade, sheep and dog trails, animals to admire, food to guzzle, and so many friendly faces! If you are in the area, please consider stopping by!  If you aren’t in the area, and you want a great spindle call me quick! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to go shopping for you!!!

 

 

Spinning Terms: Woolen Versus Worsted

This is part of a sometime series of posts that defines some terms and ideas related to spinning.

The first thing you have to understand is that “woolen” and “worsted” in the context of spinning does not mean what it does in the context of knitting, so just toss all your preconceptions out the window.  Worsted yarn and the worsted style of spinning are not the same thing.  “Worsted weight” yarn does not refer to the style of spinning but to the size/width/weight of the yarn. Yes, I know that it’s awfully confusing that they chose to use the same word, I’m sorry!! Don’t think about this as “worsted yarn” think of it as a style of spinning that happens to have the same name.

Worsted Spinning

Worsted spinning uses fiber prepared very particularly, so all the fiber is the same length, all the cut ends are facing the same direction and all the fibers are totally parallel.  Usually this is done by hand with combs or flicks, to spread out the fibers in the locks, but still keep them VERY, VERY organized.  Worsted is spun using the short draw or the “inchworm” method of spinning. In my strange little head I think of this as the “military” version of spinning.  Meaning that everyone is in their place, standing straight and tall, no questions asked, no deviations allowed.  Worsted spinning is tight, usually fine, smooth and not very soft.  The goal in worsted style spinning is to allow very little air between the fibers so it has a smooth dense appearance.  It will be strong but have a much harder “hand” than woolen spun yarns.  These types of yarns are not going to felt as much, or pill as much, but you really don’t want it next to your skin. This type of yarn works well in weaving.

Woolen Spinning

Woolen spun yarn uses fiber that is carded, either by machine or by hand, and the fibers are pretty much going every direction.  They are basically parallel, but not fanatically.  This feels to me like the “occupy wall street” version of spinning.  Everyone is there for the same reason, but still doing their own thing, not regimented in any way.  Woolen fiber is spun using the long draw method, and produces a “loftier” (or puffier) yarn that is softer and will keep you warmer because of all the trapped air.  This is like that yarn you snuggle up to in your LYS and go “ahhhhh” because it feels so good and is light and fluffy and wonderful. But it will pill like crazy, and won’t take a lot of wear and tear.

My Spinning

I like to think of these two styles of spinning as the two extremes.  99.9% of the time, 99.9% of spinners, are spinning neither woolen nor worsted.

What? 

Spinning is something most of us do for fun, enjoyment, and relaxation.  Our lives don’t depend on it, and we aren’t being watched by the “Yarn Police.”   As a result we do not prepare our fiber fanatically, and when we spin we use both the long and short draw.  Some people spin “more-wooleny” others spin “more-worstedly.”  Where your spinning falls along the continuum shouldn’t be important to anyone other than you.  If you are spinning something out of a long coarse fiber to use on a loom, you will probably spin closer to a worsted style.  If you are spinning something out of an alpaca, wool, silk mix to knit a pretty hat for a favorite friend you will more than likely spin more woolenly.  The bottom line question to help you decide how to spin is:  What do I want the yarn to end up looking like?  That will determine how the fiber is prepared, and how you spin it.

Another question you might ask yourself, if you don’t have an end result for the yarn you produce, is: How does the fiber feel like it should be spun?  After you have a bit of experience most fiber will tell YOU how it wants to be spun, you just have to play along.

Woolen Versus Worsted

I recently spun some lovely Coopworth.  This yarn was used to knit a sweater for my younger brother.  He lives in Maine and spends a great deal of his time outside in the winter.  He appreciates a good wool sweater, and will wear it a lot.  He doesn’t care how I spin it.  What he cares about is that it is warm, doesn’t pill too much  or get stretched out of shape, and that it lasts a good long time. Trust me I won’t be spinning him another sweater anytime soon.  Still trying to figure out how I talked myself into this one!!    I am spinning it more-worstedly because loft isn’t really all that important.  It will be woolenly enough to be warm, but worstedly enough to keep it’s shape and last a long time.

I recently spun some multi-purple fiber into a thick and thin yarn to use as an accent yarn in a project.  This was spun more woolenly because the use I had for the yarn was to look pretty, feel soft, and it won’t get much wear.  It’s only a small accent so the fit of the garment is not depending on the construction of the yarn.  I was going for a look and a feel, and so woolenly made more sense.

Sometimes when I sit down to spin I don’t have a particular project in mind.  I am just spinning.  Even when I do that I make a choice about which way my spinning will lean. I don’t really think “woolen versus worsted” per say but I ask myself: Will this be a good yarn for a shawl, or socks?  Will it be soft and pretty or a “work horse” yarn?  I think about this, almost unconsciously at this point, and my decisions works hand in hand with what the fiber is whispering in my ear, to inform my hands to do what they need to do to get the result we are looking for.

If you are a new spinner the best and worst advice you can get is “practice more!”  It’s the worst advice because you don’t want to have to practice more, you want your spinning to be effortlessly perfect, NOW.  It’s the best advice because it means you have a build in excuse to spin MORE! But really, the best and only way to consistently spin better and better is to practice.

HOORAY!!! I think I will go spin now.

Spinfoolish Designs Shop is open!

So for a while now I have been buying raw fleeces of many kinds and having them prepared for spinners. Some of them are from just one kind of critter, and others are lovely blends of two or more critters.  And the good news is that I finally have enough, and of the quality I feel is good enough to sell them to people. The Spinfoolish Designs Shop is open!

I get lots of help skirting the fleeces, as you can see!

I get lots of help skirting the fleeces, as you can see!

It takes a certain amount of skill to blend fibers appropriately, and while I am no expert, I am pleased with most of my experiments.  These are all fibers that I have sourced from friends or local farms and I have spun with each of these rovings,   so I know they are excellent.

I have been doing some forays into dying as well, but those are just small batches (4 or 8 oz) at a time so while they are lovely, I am not ready to sell those on the website yet.  You can certainly find them when I sell at shows (next one will be The Knotty Ladies Yarn & Fiber Gathering) or if you want to contact me directly, but in the shop right now you can only find the natural colors.  Frankly, I like the natural colors better anyway!  They are so varied and so rich!

Please take a look at the Shop Page, and let me know what you think.  I am so pleased to be able to finally share what I love so much!