On Spindles

I’ve written a lot about spinning since I picked up the hobby early last summer because it is something that has burrowed itself deep in my mind and will not let go for a lot of reasons. Spinning yarn is something that most see as an archaic activity made useless by all of the technology that is in use everyday. Though in a practical sense that may be true, the act of spinning is not useless. Spinning is a centering activity. It both produces a useful product and creates a healthy mindset in the spinner.

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Spinning can be done using a spindle or a wheel and what I am most curious about and often think about, are the differences between the two tools. After spending nearly a year working from a spindle I find myself wishing for a wheel some days and cursing the idea of them the next. Spindles are so personal, so delicate, and so variable that there is an infinite amount of information and techniques related to them. Spindle spinning is also one of the oldest handcrafts in existence. The connection to the past and the wealth of human history experienced when spindle spinning is comforting to me as a modern spinner.

 

 

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

The spindle is a tool that has been a staple in cultures for centuries and I love knowing that I am doing my part to keep it somewhat alive and present in the current culture. Spindle spinning offers you the opportunity to experience different cultures and styles of creation through a simple adjustment of the tool type. You can spin as a Tibetan craftswoman when you use a Tibetan support spindle or a Russian spinner with the Orenburg supported spindle. These tools are similar but immensely different when their origins are explored.

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Wheel spinning is also doused in history but of a different kind than the spindle. The wheel signifies to me a step closer to industrialization. This form of industrialization specifically is obviously more personal than the massive factories that came soon afterwards but you cannot deny that the personal spinning wheel helped pave the way to a mass-produced society. The spinning wheel took many forms before it reached the treadle version that is most common today but no matter what its form it still signifies a shift in culture and the attitudes towards creating items for use. The wheel no matter what its form called for a dedicated amount of time to the craft because it was not and is not as mobile as a spindle. I believe this immobility solidified craftswomens’ roles in their societies too much. The wheel needs a dedicated spinner to sit and spin where the spindle allowed for the spinner to travel with the spindles and partake in other activities or chores while still being able to create materials necessary for living.

Heavenly Handspinning "Fidelis" from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Heavenly Handspinning “Fidelis” from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Quality wheels from traditional manufacturers are now so expensive that it is a challenge for modern crafters to experience them regularly. The increase in independent wheel producers and designers draws me and many others, based on the multitudes of sales these people have, closer and closer to the world of wheel spinning. I’m interested in assisting this designers who are making an effort to design a usable, visually interesting, and affordable tool like the Etsy sellers (some have also branched out to distributing their wheels to vendors like the WooleryBlue Bonnet Spinning, JMS Wheels, and Heavenly Handspinning. I appreciate the work that these people have put into making wheel spinning more accessible for a wider audience.

 

 

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Etsy

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Ets

 

Though the wheel presents a powerful argument as to why I should whip out my wallet and cough up a few hundred dollars for a quality tool, I want to cling to the spindle and all of its variations because there is so much that I don’t know about them yet. Someday when I wish to produce more material in a shorter amount of time and wish to commit myself to the immobility of the wheel craft a wheel will find its way into my house. For now I will keep spindling and acquiring the histories of different cultures through their individual methods of textile creation.

 

I want to know what others think about the spindle versus wheel debate. What do you use? What brand or style of wheel or spindle? Are you a practical use spinner or an art yarn spinner? Why do you spin at all?

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Beurre In Progress

beurreLast Sunday I cast on for the shawl, Beurre by Hillary Smith Callis and have been hooked ever since. It combines super simple lace, garter stitch, and short rows so it is easy enough to work on while relaxing after class but retains my interest.

When I bought the pattern I was dismayed by the minimal instruction but I found that the simplicity worked as I went on. The most challenging part of the piece is the first step, casting on over 600 stitches. This really tested my patience and continually counting and recounting the stitches was such a hassle. After that step it was all smooth sailing.

IMG_20140208_151243I’m making my version out of some leftover beige aran weight wool/acrylic blend yarn so it is a bit denser than the original version (original is knit in dk). It keeps my lap warm as I work on it and the yarn is really shiny so it looks much more luxurious than it cost to make.

I’ve completed the lace bits and am about half way through the garter stitch and I’m sort of sad to see it so close to completion. I may have to line up a new yarn to make another version of this toasty shawl.

Adventures in Handspun

DSCN0058I just recently finished spinning the purple/blue fiber I acquired at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ireland and it is so soft and rich that I’ve been keeping it near my desk so I can occasionally pet it when the mood strikes. I ended up with one 50 gram bundle being 210 yards of fingering weight yarn and the other 50 gram bundle being 235 yards of fingering weight. The smaller bundle turned out much more blue than the larger one but they still coordinate really well and should make a lovely garment.

I’ve decided to make a shawl but I can’t decide which shawl pattern to choose. I feel like this is a really momentous decision because I have not made a usable garment from my own hand spun yarn before. I have made a small pair of rainbow hand spun mittens (child size) but they adorn my yarn board as decoration rather than a functional item. I’ve picked out a few patterns I might use and will spend the week deliberating. Let me know which one is your favorite because I need all the help I can get with this decision!

IMG_1366Henslowe by Beth Kling

I adore this delicate shawl and apparently so do 1562 other knitters. With so many projects it is easy to tell that this pattern is one worth making. The crescent shape of the shawl is really sweet and really compliments the soft lace edging.

 

 

 

 

The Birthday ShawlThe Birthday Shawl by Kate Twirl

I really dig that the lace edging is knitted onto the main triangle piece of the shawl because I am a newbie to lace work so the thought of ripping back, in case of a likely accident, a few stitches as opposed to hundreds is really appealing. It is also a really traditionally shaped and designed piece so it would be a nice addition to my collection of knitted items.

 

IMG_1610Momijigari by Beth Kling

The size of this shawl is great because it can be worn draped over the shoulders or as a scarf with minimal awkwardness. Shawls can be hard to pull off in an everyday setting because of their shape but this shawl would not be a challenge to wear at all. The lace pattern is also really intriguing.

In A Funk

I haven’t picked up a needle, a spindle, or a hook for over two weeks. It has been a really long time since I went this long without some sort of project in my hands. Since New Year’s my life has been a little out of sorts and is finally reaching some normalcy now that I am back in my own space at school. Though I’ve been able to achieve some normalcy I am once again completely bummed out because I am at school. I can’t stop thinking about all the work that is ahead of me this semester and how far away graduation seems at this point. Being bummed out and anxious about work really puts a damper on my creative outlets. This apathy towards crafting has in turn forced me into a quiet blog spell, something I hate to have happen. To chase away the blues I’m going to pick out a few pieces that I hope to make once this funk goes away.

Grover’s Mill-Kristen Kapur Designs
Grover's Mill

I love the cabling on this sweater. It is the perfect combination of simple cables making it a great mindless but still impressive knit.

 

 

 

 

 

Uniform Cardigan-Madder Made
uniform

This cardigan is a gem. A wonderful, cozy, customizable gem. I fell for this pattern when Karen Templer of Fringe Association posted about it a bit ago. I’ve been coming back to the calm neutral photos ever since.

 

 

Iberian Discovery-Stephen West
Iberian Discovery

West’s designs are great because they are full of texture and unconventional design elements. This one looks entertaining and like it would be a really cozy finished product if it was made in the right yarn.

 

Now it is time to force myself to knit a few rows to see if it will cure me of the funk. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The Ultimate Sweater

Boden_10_medium2Today I stumbled upon my dream sweater whilst partaking in my usual morning Pinterest exploration (its like reading the newspaper for me). I rarely make anything for myself but I absolutely MUST indulge my selfish side after I finish my Christmas knitting and make this. It is called Boden by Amy Miller and looks to have been recently released. I love her other designs as well but this sweater is her finest work. It is simply constructed and thoughtfully crafted to maximize its timelessness.

I’m a sucker for a hi-lo hem and the shlumpy but chic shape of the piece really makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book. I also really love that this cozy sweater could be transformed from a slouchy cuddling at home piece into a great casual date piece with the addition of some sleek skinny jeans and heeled booties.

In other knit news I’ve finally completed my boyfriend’s socks! I’ll have him send me a picture of him wearing them once they are delivered to him. I’m also onto the fifth and final piece of my Slade sweater. This weekend will consist of finishing that piece, blocking, and picking up the collar stitches. Hopefully I’ll have a finished sweater to show you sometime next week!

What are you working on this weekend?

Knitter Dreams

After a horrid day of walking in the cold wind and rain and then realizing that the sweater I am a quarter done with isn’t going to quite fit its recipient I decided to spend the evening dreaming instead of ripping out what I have done or altering it beyond the original pattern.

First off, I have studied the Dublin Knitting and Stitching homepage extensively this afternoon and I could not be more excited. I was planning on just going for a day but I may have to break out the big bucks and stay for both Saturday and Sunday. I can’t wait to see all of the galleries and of course the miles of exhibitors. I’ve only been to one other fiber-y event (Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago) and it was marvelous. This show seems to be on an entirely different scale so I cannot wait to see what it has in store.

Somehow I’ve also managed to spend a copious amount of time on Pinterest today scouring boards for cozy items to add to my already gigantic queue. Here are a few of my favorites.

Cool Winter Cardigan by Anna and Heidi Pickles

luhie

Shibui-Shift

shift

PipiBird’s Frosting

collar

Clearly I’m still in a neutral toned frenzy. My heart is begging me to make a baggy saggy garment to curl up in during class but I know I have to finish my unselfish knitting first! Also those cables are the essence of winter wear.

Anyways, that is enough dreaming for now. I need to go solve my sweater problem before it turns into something even more unfortunate.

Lately I Have Been Thinking About Socks

Of course now that winter is presumably on it’s way out, I have begun to think about socks.  Knitting a pair of socks seems like such a traditional thing to do. When people picture someone knitting it is usually an image of a sweet grandmother clicking away on a pair of socks. This item of knit wear is the last item on my list to knit. I’ve done sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, cowls, and even blankets but I have never conquered socks. I’ve toyed with the idea but the heel seems so daunting, though it can’t be much more challenging then adding sleeves to a bottom up raglan sweater.

Eventually, I will make a pair of traditional wool socks. Until then here are a few of my favorite patterns. Maybe next winter I will crank some toasty toe warmers out.

Tyrolean Stockings by Ann Budd

www.interweaveknits.com-buddfront300_medium

Drops–Free Pattern

47-1

Warm and Cozy Socks by Linden Down (Free Pattern)

dsc_0088_medium2

3 Patterns I am Dying to Test

DSCN0310

shawl in progress

Recently my mom commissioned me to make her a simple garter stitch shawl to help fight her problem with being perpetually cold. I gladly accepted this project as I had never made a shawl and I wanted to make something nice for my mom. The project has been fun to watch progress but its over simplicity has left me wanting a knitting challenge. This means I have been glued to Pinterest searching for the perfect complex pattern to take up once I finish the shawl. Here are a few of my current favorites.

Acer Cardigan by Amy Christoffers

pattern1Though I am not a huge fan of knitted lacework, as it can often look frumpy, I have found myself being drawn to it more and more. This cardigan blends together chunky cables and delicate lace in such a fresh way that I am itching to brush up on my lace skills.

 

 

Chunky Cable Blanket by Therese Rabe of Onrus

pattern2Knitted throws have been dominating home decor photo shoots recently and I have been waiting for someone to make an accessible pattern for one of these beautiful blankets. This pattern is exactly that. It feeds my love for cables without going overboard and is made in pieces so your arms won’t fall off from the weight of a full size blanket. The best part about this perfect pattern though, is that it is free!

 

Classic Color Work Mittens

pattern3These cuddly mittens feature some classic stranded color work motifs that I would love to adapt into my own design. Stranded color work is something that I really enjoy doing but rarely have the patience to do it. If it is on a small project like a pair of wooly mittens I am sure that I would have no problem getting them done.

 

Jared Flood

Jared Flood

Jared Flood

Jared Flood’s pieces are the most recognizable of any designer in the knitwear industry due to his high regard for simplicity, a sophisticated color palette, and ability to use traditional techniques to create fresh pieces. Flood’s educational background is in photography, design and 2D media. He has had a particular interest in fiber since he was a young child but did not become ‘obsessed’ with knitting until 2002 There is no doubt that his artistic background has helped him create some of the most timeless knitwear designs since the classic crochet granny square.

Jared started making waves in the knit world through blogging about his knits and handcrafted patterns. After some success with his blog he later founded the fiber and pattern company Brooklyn Tweed. Brooklyn Tweed produces two weights of wool, a worsted weight called Shelter and a  fingering weight named Loft. Loft and Shelter are both made from the wool of Wyoming raised sheep and spun in Harrisville, New Hampshire. Jared develops the rich heathered color palettes of these yarns himself.

Brooklyn Tweed's current Loft colors.

Brooklyn Tweed’s current Loft colors.

Jared has developed a cult-like following of knitters of all ages and walks of life with his simple to understand instructions, innovative twists on colorwork and cables, and his jewel toned yarn collection.

I recently embarked on a Jared Flood designed piece of knitwear and could not have been more pleased. I chose to experiment with the simple ‘Brownstone’ pullover sweater. The instructions were clear, the gauge was perfect, and the sizing is true to normal sizing (a real problem in the world of handmade knits). Jared Flood is clearly a pioneer in the modernization of knitting movement and has forever have left his mark on the crafting community.

The photos used in this piece belong to Jared Flood and Brooklyn Tweed, no copyright infringement intended.