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Can’t stop this thing we’ve started

12/09/2008

In which our knitter realises that she may be heading towards the title ‘fibre artist’

I cannot say that I did not know, that I was tricked into spinning, slyly passed handspun to pet, or that passers by put spindle and fibre into my hands as I dozed on the train and I woke up with half a skein of singles. I knew that spinning was something that would chime a chord with the part of my soul that responds to the call of the yarn and needles. And yet it is more, an addictive, hypnotic trance brought on by watching the spindle twizzle round and round while you desperately wonder whether you’ve put enough twist in.

Spinning is responsible for at least two late nights in this household (and certainly not the last) as I got to grips with my class homework (I’m very conscientious about homework; particularly if it’s knitting related). On Wednesday night I finished spinning the singles and, without pausing to run up for the camera to record the full bobbin, I enlisted the trusty H to let the spindle turn through his hands as I cranked the ball winder.

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This means that within a week or so he will have either (a) found some clever spinny tool on the internet that holds a spindle or (b) rigged up a Heath-Robinson contraption for me. For now though I had a sizeable ball of handspun and I even managed to unite handspun and camera in one place.

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I did go to bed when I realised that I wouldn’t be able to ply it all that night but as soon as I got home on Thursday the pyjamas were on and the spindle was plying [NB – I got home late, the PJ thing isn’t that odd].

I was surprised at how much more space the plied yarn seemed to take up on the spindle but I suppose that it makes sense geometrically. The spindle seemed pretty full by the time I was finished so I’m a little nervous at spinning a whole 100g on it if it’s full at 50g – are there any cunning tricks that I don’t know about yet?

The next stage in the sheep to stash process is to wind the plied yarn around a niddy noddy (spinning has such great words). This looks a little bit like a wooden anchor and logically the structure would help to even out the twist as it can’t just curl up on itself like it could if I went straight to the swift. I have no idea whether I’ve got that right, it’s just what makes sense to me.

Anyway, I don’t have a wooden niddy noddy. I found some instructions on how to make one here (from PVC pipe) but sadly we had no pipe, or wood. H offered to make me one but the craving to skein up the new yarn and bask in it’s soft glory was too much so we set too with ingenuity and the contents of our house.

Now all you need to come up with a solution like this is a childhood spent making Blue Peter projects out of shoe boxes, loo roll tubes, egg cartons and washing up bottles and a husband with a Masters degree in Engineering.

You need:

~ the tube from a roll of wrapping paper
~ a craft knife
~ sellotape
~ a pair of metal knitting needles

1: Cut about 6 inches of tube off either end. If you want to be precise about the size of your skein then measure the centre length you want and cut the remainder in two.

2: In each of your short lengths cut a rough circular hole, slightly smaller than the diameter of the tube.

3: Pinch each end of the long tube and slot into the holes on either short piece.

4: Sellotape in place, taking care that you have one end running up and down and the other, side to side.

5: For stability insert a metal knitting needle down each of the end tubes, squashing it in next to the end of the centre tube so that it stays in place and doesn’t jiggle about. I used 5mm but as long as it’s sturdy I doubt it matters.

Finito. It looks a bit like this (with pleading not to notice the bits of cardboard and fluff on the carpet)
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I finished it off with a little dip in some lavender Eucalan and then blocked it out and gave it a few whacks on the kitchen cupboard. And now it is dry:September 062

If the last effort was Carie Big Wool then careful examination of the stash cupboard tells me that this is Carie Warwickshire Tweed – a southern cousin of the sadly discontinued Yorkshire Tweed. It is about 12wpi but I don’t know what that really means in practice – I just have a little Karatstix measure from Socktopus to play with.

It’s certainly thinner than the first iteration:

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but I don’t know really how much yarn I have in terms of length. I’m just really pleased that it looks like a real skein; see:

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I even managed to find a penny for the obligatory ‘money shot’ (yes, you may come and hit me now)

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If the last mini skein that I showed you was First Handspun then this is Second Handspun, first Knittable Handspun, and as such is equally treasured. If I can find the right pattern then I’d love to knit with this – any suggestions?

In the meantime, some Strawberries and Cream coloured merino is serenading me from the basket with promises of reclaiming summer, so if you need me I’ll just be over there.

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  • Kay-From the Back Yard 13/09/2008 at 1:57 am

    I’m so impressed with your spinning. I have a drop spindle with instructional dvd, and it is gathering dust so far.

    Keep up the good spinning!

  • picperfic 13/09/2008 at 4:38 am

    You are one skein ahead of me in the handspun department and it looks so lovely. I would be itching to make something like some fingerless mittens with it. Sorry to disturb you though, I can see you’re busy from over here!

  • Caroline M 13/09/2008 at 7:40 am

    I’m so proud of you, what a lovely skein and what a cracking niddy noddy. If you follow the path of the yarn around with a tape measure then you’d know how long the skein is, count the strands and then you know the length. Commercial niddy noddys come in standard sizes, mine is a 2 yard one (they’re about £8 to buy).

    If you double the yarn and pull it through a needle sizer it gives you an indication of the right needle to use.

    My first handspun I made into a little fulled purse for my son’s pocket money, it was very bumpy but you can’t tell that now.

    Must stop writing essays..

  • mandycharlie 13/09/2008 at 8:34 am

    Your yarn looks wonderful. Your quite obviously a natural at this and need have no fear about stash enhancement!

    The niddy noddy engineered by H is Genius!

  • tanis 13/09/2008 at 2:03 pm

    You’re putting me to shame with your spindling skills. Can’t wait to see what greatness you bring back from the spinning class tomorrow.

  • Diane 13/09/2008 at 5:16 pm

    It’s awesome! I love your niddy noddy. And you reminded me of something I forgot to put in the bag for tomorrow!

    See you soon 🙂