25 March 2008
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.
SKEIN WINDING TOOLS
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.
BALL WINDING TOOLS
MECHANICAL BALL WINDERS
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
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
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
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 atssex 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 quite a few websites that sell fleece and tops - below are some of my favourites:
P & M Woolcraft http://pmwoolcraft.co.uk/
Wingham Wool Work http://www.winghamwoolwork.co.uk/
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.
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.