Going outside of my spinning ‘comfort zone’

Good morning and happy Saturday! I hope enjoyed the stretch of un-winter like weather the last couple of weeks. We sure have. It seems like this winter I have even less tolerance for cold than in previous years. By this point in the winter we have usually had enough temps at zero and below to make anything around 25 or above feel downright balmy, but even at 30 degrees last night when I let the dogs out before sitting down watch a movie and do some knitting, it felt unbearably cold. Spring is coming though, and not because some groundhog said so (not that I believe in such silliness), but because it always does.

Now that I have finished spinning my fiber for the scarf exchange (and I have made quite a lot of progress knitting that project) I have enjoyed participating in the monthly Spin-Along (SAL) challenges in the Spinning Men group on Ravelry. Each month the SAL has a theme. Last month it was a ‘treat yourself’ theme, where participants chose something luxurious from their stash (cashmere, silk, alpaca, camel, etc) to spin and knit something just for themselves. My choice was a beautiful blend of yak, merino, and silk that spun up quickly and is now becoming a pair of simple fingerless mitts for myself.

The month’s theme/challenge is ‘out of your color comfort zone’ and I thought of sitting this one out because I didn’t think there was anything in my stash out of my color comfort zone. I love spinning colorful yarns and my stash is filled with varying shades of greens, blues, purples, reds, and oranges. Like most people, I buy fibers because I love the colors and I avoid things that don’t appeal to me. As I dug through my stash though, I came across a 4 oz braid of roving that I had forgotten about.

The roving from Spinners Hill is full of reds and oranges ranging from bright to rusty, which are well within my comfort zone. But there is a healthy dose of pink amongst those reds and oranges, and while I’m certainly comfortable with pink (I’m not even afraid to wear pink shirts), it was the combination of colors in this roving that I found odd. I’m fairly certain my original intention was to run the whole thing through my drum carder to homogenize the color, and then blend it again in with the very autumn-like yellow roving that it was stashed with to make another gradient to spin. I may still make that gradient, but when I do I will need to find something else to do it with. For now, this odd combination of colors was going to become my fiber for this month’s SAL.

Since the colors are a little bit outside of my comfort zone, I decided to increase the challenge by spinning outside of my comfort zone too. This means making thick singles for a bulky two ply yarn. It’s true that once you develop the muscle memory for spinning fine singles that spinning a thick yarn again becomes difficult. Even my natural treadling speed on a wheel with my largest pulley doesn’t get me the kind of thick yarn I wanted for this fiber. Trying to purposely treadle slower and draft for a thick yarn most always results in a lot of unevenness, so for this project, I chose to use a drop spindle.

One of the great things about spinning with a drop spindle, and this is something that I tell my students when I teach a spindle spinning class, is that you can perform each of the processes of making yarn individually. Yep, I’m talking about ‘park and draft’ where you build up extra twist in a length of already spun yarn and then park the spindle between your knees which allows you to focus on just the drafting to distribute that built up up twist. It seems like a slow process, but because I’m making a thick singles, I’m using up the fiber much more quickly than if I were to spin for a thin singles.

It’s working pretty well for me so far, and the thickness of my singles is much more consistent than it would be if I tried to do this at any of my wheels. I have been doing some on-the-fly ply-back sampling as I go to check the amount of twist and I love the results. I’m even starting to get an idea of what I want this yarn to become. My mother-in-law has asked me to knit her a hat, and I think this is going to be perfect for her. Yes, she lives in Florida, but they do get some occasionally cold weather. I’ll see her in September when we go down to visit, so this may be the perfect project to bring on the plane.

That’s all for this morning. I’m off to do some spinning for a while and then I have to head out to check out a spinning wheel. Earlier this week a friend called and told me about a spinning wheel he saw at an antique store he frequents. From the way he described it, I’m thinking it’s a CPW. I would like a CPW, but until I make some space in my craft room, it may have to live in the basement where three other wheels are currently residing while I figure out what to do with them. But that all depends on whether this wheel is worth taking home, and I won’t know that until I see it.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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