Thursday, May 8, 2014

One reason I have fallen for handspinning

A poem which I enjoy reading to the folks at the nursing home is composed by Billy Collins. Its title reads, "Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house". You can read it here. (It's short and enjoyable. Go ahead and read it; I won't go anywhere.) As I typed out the title for this post, I was reminded of it, and I like having a little bit of poetry in my life. So there.

One of the questions that comes up whenever the uninitiated person observes me or my partner spinning yarn is the inevitable "why spin yarn?" The typical assumption is that it is cheaper, as if money is the only reason for doing anything. In my case, though, spinning yarn has nothing to do with saving pennies. 

Recently my partner, a far superior spinner to myself (he's developing a collection of competition ribbons), did an experiment with some lovely dyed Romney wool he scored at the Garden State sheep and wool festival. He spun half of it by drafting the fiber in a worsted manner (pulling the unspun fibers forward to where the twist is added to the yarn), and the other half he spun using a supported long draw (pulling the unspun fiber away from the twist, so that the fibers are drafted forward by the pull of the twist itself).  I explain this horribly, but suffice it to say that the difference in that single step of spinning created a dramatic difference in the finished yarn. Check it out:

Woolen-spun single, chain plied

Worsted-spun single, chain plied

One of the reasons I love handspinning is that there is so much more potential for the final result than a mere skein sitting on the shelf. I love the lofty, rustic, and inviting nature of the woolen-spun yarn, whereas I might choose the worsted-spun yarn if I wanted something with a cleaner aesthetic.  But it's not just the practicality of the matter; indeed, it's mostly the whimsy that draws me in and drives me to spin. Different wools spin up in dramatically different ways, but even the same wool can appear in different forms. I'd go so far as to make the generalization that knitters take the wool for granted, but spinners get to experience firsthand the nuances and inner workings of different types of wool and various preparations. It really is a sort of an adventure. 

Side by side

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