25 March 2008


There are several tools for winding your finished yarn - the first decision to make is whether to wind into a skein or a ball - and this is determined by what you are going to do with it next.

If you want to dye your yarn you will need a skein. If you are planning to knit or crochet your finished yarn you will want a ball - ideally a centre pull ball as this won't then roll all over the place as you work. If you are planning to weave then you might possibly want both a skein and a ball at different stages of the preparation process.



I just love the name niddy noddy and it is actually quite apt for this tool - when in use it nods up and down as you wind your yarn onto it. It is shaped like a capital "I" except that one of the cross bars is at right angles to the other. Niddy Noddies come in many sizes including a tiny one by Ashford that slots together for use and comes apart for easy carriage - great for portability. There are different sized fixed ones and also adjustable ones for different sizes of skeins - although these can slip when winding once they've had a bit of use.


There are several designs of swift - they're basically tools that spin around a central shaft and wind a skein. My favoured style of swift is an "umbrella swift" as these are adjustable for different sizes of skeins - and anyway I just love the way they look! With an umbrella swift it is quite easy to measure a length of yarn and then adjust the swift to create that size of skein. They're quite big though and not terribly portable.



These come in many designs - the most commonly available are the plastic ones - cheap to buy and do a perfectly adequate job. Occasionally bits fly off mine and I have to put it back together again but all in all it does what I want it to do. It is also possible to buy a variety of hand made wooden ones - which I would imagine are better quality - but come with a substantially higher price tag.


This is in essence a fat stick turned and marked on which a ball can be wound by hand - I've not used one - indeed I've not actually seen one in the flesh - only in photos. They are very portable, have no mechanical parts to wear or go wrong and can be very beautiful. However I imagine it takes a little longer to wind a ball on one of these by hand than it does on a mechanical ball winder where you just turn a handle - although carefully winding a ball by hand may be quite rewarding in itself.

I would like to add a few photos - but am having a few problems with my computer at the mo' so will add them later - along with some useful links.

23 March 2008


Having spun the bamboo fibre that I'd made into rolags I'm now mulling over what to do with it - I fancy making another scarf. I'm now spinning some cotton which I'm planning to ply with some silk yarn that I bought at Handweavers Studio. Somewhere I've got some Soy Silk so that will be next on the wheel.

I have it in my mind that I'd like to crochet a similar scarf to the last one but this time use undyed fibres of different types to create the "stripes" - then when it's all crocheted up I want to dip it in an indigo dye vat and see what happens - I have a suspicion that I may get a slight variation in each yarn so that it will end up shades of Indigo blue - it'll be fun to try - will keep you posted as it developes.

Below is a pic of the Bamboo yarn - not a very good one I'm afraid it doesn't really show the soft sheen to the yarn.


Oh no I've recently discovered Etsy - this has definitely become my latest obsession. Over the last week I've spent hours browsing the Etsy shops (research!).

I've saved several pages of favourites - both sellers and items - I've made my first Etsy purchase - surprise, surprise two little bundles of space dyed tussah silk. I'm eyeing my next purchase - probably a scrummy polymer clay drop spindle and am currently trying to persuade my hubby to take a look at all my favourites (never miss a chance to drop a huge hint!).

I've also earmarked several pressies for family and friends and am now working out what my own future Etsy shop should look like, contain, etc, etc.

I've found someone on Etsy who will design banners for Etsy shops and only this morning have found the links to "Moo" where you can have designs printed for business cards, tags, postcards and all sorts of other bits and pieces - all to match your Etsy image.

If you want to browse Etsy for yourself use this link.

21 March 2008


There are many different styles of drop spindles and a warning should be issued here - once you've mastered drop spindling there will be a temptation to COLLECT lots of them! I said, when I started, that I wasn't going to do that - but I'm up to 4 and I've had my eye on a few seen in Spin.Off and on the internet - just yesterday I saw a couple of gorgeous ones on Etsy (Oh no I can feel another obsession coming on)!

A starting point if you've never spun and would like to have a go is to buy or make a CD spindle - these are very light so for a more experienced spinner are not so easy to use. However if it's too light some blu-tac or other maleable material could be pressed around the edge to give more weight here - having more weight at the edge makes a spindle spin for longer due to cetrifugal force (apparently). I will try to find a site with instructions or where these are sold.

My most recent addition is a (possibly) Saxon spindle whorl - which doesn't yet have a shaft - it's carved stone - very pretty and supprisingly heavy for it's wee size - it weighs 15 grammes (1/2 oz) I can't wait to spin with it - have to find a wood turner first.....

My favourite spindle was a fourtieth birthday pressy - it's a Golding Ring Spindle. It spins forever and is an absolute joy to work with - it's a top whorl spindle which I think is more stable and easier to spin with than a bottom whorl one. I'm currently spinning some lovely caramel Alpaca fibre that I bought in Norwich during the Norwich & Norfolk Artists Open Studios.

My first ever spindle was a simple wooden one (bottom whorl) made by one of our Guild members. I paid very little for it except that having bought it I was instantly volunteered to demonstrate at a show in Harlow - Gosh you learn quickly when people are expectantly watching & waiting for your words of wisdom! Truth to tell it was almost as much drop as spindle that day but I did spin a sizable quantity of Black Sheep fleece that I'd been given and I learned and even began to enjoy drop spinning.

My second spindle is made of polymer clay with cute little sheep on it - I found it at West Dean's Wholly Herbs Show (Our guild demonstrates natural dying there once a year and a fellow stall holder was selling them) It's small and light and fits in a pocket - great for spinning on the go.

Sites for drop spindles:


Etsy shop - butterfly girl designs

glass drop spindles

Woolly Designs - with lambs, alpacas, rabbits........

how to make your own

how to use a drop spindle

video - spinning basics by Abby Franquemont

19 March 2008



I love rolags - I love the way they look and the way they feel - and, because I love them so much, I enjoy making them. In the eyes of the other members of our guild (East Herts & West Essex Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers) this makes me a very strange person indeed!

My husband & I have a little game (oh please - put your imagination away!) - I tell him to close his eyes and hold his hands out and then I drop a rolag from about a foot - it's amazing how he often can't feel the rolag land.

With the bamboo rolags that I prepared in Norfolk you could hold 30 in your hand and only feel a whisper of a fibre tickling your skin.

The bamboo rolags were deliciously tactile - soft to handle and with a delicate sheen which intensifies when they're spun.

I recently dyed a mix of Llama, silk and wool in my slow cooker - it came out of the pot in beautiful shades of sugar pink, peach, raspberry and lavender - the rolags from this were almost edible - looking at those I found it hard to imagine why anyone wouldn't just want to make rolags just to admire them in their own delightful right. (hey we all have our quirks - right?)

Of course it's quicker to spin from tops direct, even if you have to open the fibre out first, but no matter how pleasing little nests and balls of prepared tops are I have to say that, in the main, rolags win my heart.

15 March 2008


Today I went to a talk and slide show by Kaffe Fassett held by the Middle Essex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers at White Notley (near Braintree). Wow what a day! We had a free pass to the Museum at Braintree for the morning - I would most definitely recommend visiting this museum if you are interested in textiles as there's plenty here to see including quite a lot of information about Courtaulds and Warners. Not far away is the Warners textile archive which I didn't get to today but am told that it's well worth a visit - one for the future then!

The talk began at 2pm and the hall contained - well it must of been over 100 - excitable women eager to hear Kaffe Fassett talk. He provided a slide show which showed some of his inspiration and a lot of his work. He talked about how his ideas come about and proclaimed that it's so easy we could all do it! (If only we all had his special eye for mixing colour). He showed us so many things including latest designs for the Peruvian Connection (oh how I wish I could afford this stuff - beautifully designed and made - wonderful colours - ah well, maybe one far off day in the future!).

If you get a chance to see Kaffe Fassett talk do take the opportunity - he is so inspiring - I am buzzing with ideas for what to do next - watch this space!

He then showed us a selection of his samples and quilts.

After the talk we were able to buy his signed books. I desperately wanted his "Pattern Library" but by the time I got to the front they were all gone - I shall just have to see him again in the future!

If you want to see what Kaffe does visit his website at

and you can see his work for the Peruvian Connection at

There were also displays of books published by members of the Middle Essex Guild and many lovely hand spun yarns and beautifully knitted woollies (see pic - I don't know which Middle Essex Guild Member did this but it's really lovely).

All in all a very yummy day indeed!

9 March 2008


There are many sources of fibre - it's not uncommon to find people who have a few sheep in their garden who have fleeces to find homes for - very often these fleeces are simply given away to whoever would like them - however these fleeces are frequently not the finest!

There are quite a few websites that sell fleece and tops - below are some of my favourites:


P & M Woolcraft

Wingham Wool Work

My favourite shop is The Handweavers Studio in Walthamstow - only a short drive for me and sooo exciting to visit - I would advise taking cash only and no cards otherwise you WILL overspend! there is a website which I will find asap (but the shop's better):

It's also possible to find hand dyed fibre on ebay some ofwhich is really stunning - it's certainly worth a look.



This project came about because of a fleece to garment day that was held in a lovely old barn last year. Several guilds took part (the guild that I belong to came 3rd - or second to last!) It was a great day with all sorts going on and I'm really looking forward to taking part again this year. The garment(s) we had to produce were two knitted scarves, knitted end to end - 125 stitches on size 8 needles for 25 rows. The finished scarves had multicoloured lengthways stripes and were extremely pretty - so naturally I thought "I could do that at home" - and, being more of a crocheter than a knittter the natural progression was to crochet my scarf rather than knit it.


The fibre I have used for this project is commercially prepared and dyed Merino tops. I've chosen warm reds and pinks with a little white for highlights. I bought the tops from my fav crafty shop - Handweavers Studio in Walthamstow.

The tops come as tightly wound balls which need to be opened out and then split. To do this I hold the top up and gently peel off a strip from one side (see pic) - if the top is fairly new this will be relatively easy. However if it's been in the bag for a while it may resist a bit.

Once I have my strips ready I then pre-draft them prior to spinning - this just makes it easier to control the thickness of the yarn that's being spun. (If you want to mix colours you can do so quite easily at this stage by pre-drafting two colours together or by pre-drafting two colours separately and then winding them into balls together).

To pre-draft simply hold the yarn in your left hand (if you're right handed) and, with your right hand, pinch between forefinger and thumb and pull gently toward you - just enough to open the fibres up - not so much that they drift apart. The strip you end up with is much longer and thinner and the fibres are very open - this is the key to controlling the fibre during spinning.

I then wind all my pre-drafted wool into loose balls (I used to use "nests" but I find that they snag more, when you're trying to spin, if you move them about too much).


I then spin on my Ashford Joy spinning wheel and ply into a two ply yarn which I like to wind into centre pull balls ready to be crocheted.

I had six colours - two pinks, two warm reds, a deep burgundy and almost white (one ply white and one ply mixed white and red).

For this project I spun a yarn that was about 17 wraps per inch. The finished scarf weighed 75g. This means that it weighs about .4 of a gramme per 10cm square.


The final phase is to crochet the yarn into a scarf.

For this scarf I used a crochet hook that's around about 3mm (It's an antique bone hook so I can't be exact but this is a reasonable estimate). I crocheted 200 stitches lengthways then, using double crochet (American singles), I randomly changed colour for each row until I'd completed 39 rows. My scarf measures approx 49 inches by 6 inches (125cm x 15cm)

I then washed it in a gentle woollen washing liquid and blocked the scarf to finish - I don't always do this but these scarves tend to go a little curly if you don't also it does give a smarter finish, which I felt was appropriate here.

The yarn weight is unimportant as you can change to an appropriate size of hook for your yarn and then crochet an appropriate number of stitches - this is dependent on the length that you want your scarf to be (I like a shortish scarf that can easily be tucked into the top of whatever woolly I'm wearing - but this isn't to everyone's taste). you can use your own colours and if you're not a spinner you can use commercial yarns - these projects are a great way to use up oddments - you can create scarves with a rainbow of colours and a myriad of touchy, feely textures. So have a go it's simple and can be completed quite quickly.

3 March 2008


Well I've not posted anything new for a few days - My hubby & I went away for the weekend - We had a lovely peaceful time - he played lots of guitar and I prepared loads of fibre. I washed and carded some lovely black alpaca fibre into rolags and prepared the rest of the newly rediscovered bamboo fibre. I also prepared some commercially dyed and combed tops by pre-drafting them and winding them into balls. So I've lots of prepared fibre ready to start spinning.

Tomorrow I shall continue my series on animal fibres.