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My Spinning Philosophy (and how it ties into jewelry making)

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The other day I was flipping through my copy of Intertwined: The Art of Handspun Yarn, Modern Patterns, and Creative Spinning by Lexi Boeger and the intro to chapter 3 reminded me why I spin.

Free the Pattern

The Yarn made me do it.

“Working with handspun yarn provides a perfect opportunity to free yourself from the constraints of formal patterns by allowing the characteristics of the yarn itself to dictate the work’s form. There are many ways to do this, and a few examples will follow, but the idea to teach yourself to really look closely at the yarn, and let the details and eccentricities that you find there guide you in your creative process. Many people are hyper-focused on the act of knitting or crocheting, and oblivious to the yarn itself as they work through it.” 1

Faux Tailspun Yarn in pink flamingo
Faux Tailspun Yarn in pink flamingo

I’ve been in a bit of a spinning & knitting slump as of late which I find happens when my days are more consumed with jewelry making or fleece processing. This quote reminded me why I got into making yarn in the first place. It’s easy to get into concentrating on technique only, esp. when you are out of practice. But for me that takes away from the joy of spinning. I’m a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of spinner. I’ve come up with the best skeins this way. They are in no way reproducible, but isn’t that why we love handspun anyway, the uniqueness of each skein?

I really enjoy Lexi’s book as she is about pushing the envelope as to what we think of when

just a few of my fave yarns I spun
just a few of my fave yarns I’ve spun

we think of handspun yarn. I don’t tend to click with many spinners I meet since their goal many times is to get the thinnest and/or most even yarn usually for a particular pattern or project. I would much rather let the fiber take me on the journey and then decide after it is spun what it would like to become. It usually takes me several attempts to make something out of a skein of yarn because it doesn’t always want to do what I want it to. I find a pretty pattern in one of my books, and convince myself that this particular handspun will do the trick. Most of the time, I am wrong. Instead, I have had to train myself to look at the yarn and decide from its feel what it should become. I do look at patterns for inspiration, but most of the time, knitting (or crocheting) just spontaneously happens.

If you think that a jewelry maker making the jump to spinning yarn is odd, here is where the parallels are drawn. When I make jewelry, I like to sit down with a component – such as a gemstone bead – and let it develop into a piece. Sure I have a sketch book with designs and this is more useful for the engravable jewelry. Even then do the designs rarely look like what is in the book. I like to let it develop as I go. Much like mixing different colors of fiber for spinning, I like to take beads and metals to find a harmonious blend. It’s painting, only on a 3-dimensional level to produce a tangible product or textile. To me spinning is the perfect compliment to jewelry making – not to mention the ultimate mash-up: spinning beads into my yarn (I also got tired of boring plastic and rubber stitch markers too so I make my own – that I call knitting bling). πŸ™‚

coopsworth 2-ply with purple stacks
coopsworth 2-ply with purple stacks

When I started spinning I just went for it. The opportunity arose where I could buy a wheel and I seized it. It made absolutely no sense at the time, but I am so glad I left logic on the shelf, and delved into spinning yarn. It is an absolute bliss for me, even with every ache and pain that goes along with it.

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Current Yarn Stash – handspinning overflow

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This is the culmination of 4 years of hand spinning. All the experiments with both dyeing and spinning: locks, roving, all of it. All the hours put in to hone this skill. Some were hits, some were misses. I would say the majority are acceptable, if not pretty darn good for a gal who hated the drop spindle but decided to just to throw caution to the wind and buy her first wheel in 2012. I adore spinning. To hell with knitting. I will sit and spin all day any day. πŸ˜‰

Now with two wheels (first my Lendrum and then my Spinolution wheel) I can work much more efficiently and that means the yarn stash has the potential to grow even bigger, faster. I didn’t do a lot of processing (skirting, washing, or dyeing) fleece last year. We seemed to be in a perpetual state of renovation. But that didn’t seem to stop me from combing, carding and spinning.

I laid all this out on the table the other day, and I was a bit disturbed at how big the yarn stash has grown. With all that time sitting and spinning I haven’t had, well, any time to knit or crochet or weave. It feels a bit stagnant to me, in the sense that – as much as I feel you can never have too much yarn, having these around is stunting my creativity and zest to try something new. There is literally too much choice right now.

One reason why I find it hard to let go is because spinning is such a cathartic process for me. It really is therapy – if not a spiritual experience. So the finished yarn carries a lot of those emotional qualities for me.

The other reason is that I look too critically at my work, and assume it is not good enough for anyone else to enjoy.

Excuses aside, it’s time to get these ready for listing and hopefully into some new homes (my handspun is probably the only thing I sell that I am not unhappy about if it doesn’t sell ;)). I have a few skeins drying now – some of these have been in storage so have become compacted and needed to be fluffed up and looking their best again. πŸ™‚ I also have my pricing spreadsheets set up and shipping rates worked out. I just need to get photographing and listing. I’m not sure if that is all going to gel together by the end of this month – which is fast approaching. I was hoping to get a least a skein or two up this week but I guess you just can’t rush a good thing.

You will find the prices will be affordable if not downright rock bottom. These yarns have served their purpose as a teaching tool to hone my skills and I am happy to give away the time and possibly even partial cost of materials in order to make way for new skill building. The hardest ones to price will be my merino and alpaca yarns, since they were the most expensive of my fleeces to obtain. They are so soft and fluffy and – the hardest ones to part with. But I am all about intention and energy and my hope is that these yarns will make it into the hands of people who can appreciate all these qualities that come with them.

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Then when I am done with all that, you see these two containers in my closet? The label on the top bin says: wholesale overflow. And that is exactly what this is. 13+ years of wholesale, clearance and closeout jewelry supplies. In my lifetime, I will never use all of this. So these materials will have to find a new home as well. Now, to clone myself several times in order to get all this done… πŸ˜‰

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wholesale/consignment

Not seeing what you are looking for? Interested in potentially carrying my products in your shop or business? Need a large (bulk) order for your event or organization? Fill out this form and I will get back to you with the possibilities. Wholesale is available to Canadian & US customers while consignment is available to Canadian businesses only.

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Finding Inspiration: What to Make With Handspun Yarn

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funky handspun becoming an infinity scarf in the wee hours (my fave time to knit)…

If you are like me, you like to comb the internet for inspiration. I consider myself a spinner, but not so much a knitter or crocheter. My knowledge of knitting and crochet is actually pretty basic. People tend to be quite surprised by this because the assumption is one starts spinning after mastering the needles.

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core-wrapped up-cycled banana fibers and sequins

I taught myself to spin just few months into teaching myself to knit and crochet (the beginning stages, anyway). The story as to how I got started would suit a post on its own, but the fact that I learned about making a textile from the ground up made me appreciate the basics of knit and crochet. Handspun yarn literally has a life of its own. Rather than you making it into what you want it to be, it tells you what it will be. Β Thus, you gain a respect and appreciation for handspun that you realize is best left to speak for itself.

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jumbo colorful yarn chain (aka Navajo) plied from fleece seconds

Because of this, we are often left scratching our heads as to what to do with gorgeous artful textured handspun. I say “we” because I know I am not alone in this. Many of us have that stash of pretty yarns. Because of its unusualness (or its mind-blowing prettiness) it becomes a permanent fixture in the yarn bin like the wall-flower never picked to dance (and we know it really should be the belle of the ball!). Whether it is handspun or an artful commercial yarn, I know many knitters know exactly what I mean. When I started spinning the goal was to make the most even, symmetrical yarn possible. But soon I really wanted to push the boundaries of what yarn is. The problem was I wondered what I could make with such unusual and small amounts of it. I have a growing collection of yarn that I spun that I feel is “too pretty” to use.

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core-wrapped handspun with handmade flower inclusions

So even as a spinner, I find myself taking to the internet to find inspiration. Not patterns. Patterns are no good with such a unique medium. More of a reassurance that others truly are making items out of handspun and it’s not just a pretty yarn to be hung in the studio. I also have this bad habit of over critiquing my yarns and again, a post for another day… I found this wonderful article on craftsy that really sums up what to make with handspun yarn.

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crochet handspun jumbo yarn infinity scarf worn as a shrug with handmade flower and button detail

Since it is recommended to use larger needles with handspun and to keep the stitches simple, I believe handspun is a great textile for the novice knitter or crocheter, or, if you are like me – those who do not possess the time or patience for a long term project. I want to get back to the wheel, afterall. πŸ˜‰Β  It may look intimidating at first. It can be comprised of many bumps, thick and thin sections and even over twisted sections, but when you realize a basic knit or crochet stitch will give you a stunning one of a kind scarf for example, one quickly realizes how how satisfying it is to use. The projects are not only simple, but since they are worked up with large needles, they make the perfect afternoon project.

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free form crochet left-over handspun neck warmer washing machine felted

Don’t be afraid to mix your handspun with commercial yarns. I love to make the ribbing of my hats with commercial yarn and then let the handspun be the personality of the rest of the hat. What about a scarf in elogated knit stitch switching back and forth between handspun and commercial? The possibilities can truly be endless, and it is freeing to not have to follow a pattern. Free form crochet is your friend with the leftovers! I’ll be starting a series here on the blog showcasing what I have knit with my handspun. Some will be hits, and some will be misses I am sure. Many of the examples posted here are from my spun seconds pile. I really need to have the courage to tackle that pretty yarn stash. My goal is to share the journey with you so that we can grow together. The yarn is piling up here and I need a butt kick to come up with some projects with it. I do not feel comfortable selling my handspun when I myself do not know what to do with it! With that, I am off to play with that jumbo rainbow yarn pictured above. signature