I recently made a lovely new friend, Mel, who has got me thinking again about pulling out my spinning wheel… we met via another lovely friend who kept insisting we’d get along beautifully because of our mutual appreciation for woolly wools. Turns out we have a lot of other things in common. Mel is an amazing spinner and, while I definitely am not, I definitely gleaned most of my knowledge of fibre through spinning in a very intensive course at the local guild. So much of the way a yarn behaves relates to its fibre content and the way it is spun and plied; if you can understand what that particular fibre does best and how spinning can maximize (or compensate for) that, you have the potential to make a yarn that shines. That bit of understanding of yarn construction and what that yarn might be good for has helped me every day I’ve worked at my LYS.
I had learned to knit not long before I started spinning and I really fell in love with the handspun yarns sold at the guild- and, because I hadn’t graduated to jumpers, I was more interested in finding that one incredibly beautiful skein for a hat or scarf than buying a uniform armful of yarn. As I learned to spin, I really, really enjoyed the calm it brought me and I saw that I could make lovely yarns myself… but could never imagine spinning enough for a whole jumper! I always remember one of the wonderful guild members telling me she found that most people chose to be either spinners or knitters because of time constraints! I was and still am definitely a knitter and a greedy one who is unashamedly product-focused, so, as my knitting ambitions and then my projects got bigger, I moved away from spinning and handspun yarns and eventually ended up working part-time in a yarn shop, surrounded by commercial yarn that is beautiful but lacking some of that handspun soul that I love so much. These days, the yarns I choose for larger projects with are usually minimally processed and feel and look as close to handspun as a millspun yarn can, but I still pop into the guild regularly to hunt for those beautiful skeins, figuring that way I can support someone else’s spinning, someone who is much better at it than I, and enjoy the fruits of their labour ; )
Long story short, Mel spins. Not only does she spin (and knit- not sure how she manages it!), she prepares her own fibres by blending colours to create tops that can then be spun into the heathered, tweedy yarns that we both love so much. I think yarn dyed in the fleece and then blended and spun is so much more beautiful than yarn dyed in the skein! Being a good Yorkshire lass, she has a strong affinity for British breeds and so has hunted down a source of fibre from all kinds of more unusual, rare and conservation breeds, like Masham, Swaledale and Whitefaced Woodland. She then blends them to create this:
which then becomes this:
And that big pile of beautiful fluff she made for me! I have been feeling the urge to spin again this winter and this is the incentive I need to oil the wheel and get practicing so that I can spin and then knit with it. I can’t wait to see what it’s like spun and then knitted- I hope I can do it justice! I’m not sure how spinning will affect my tight knitting schedule ; ) I think I’ll always be a knitter ahead of spinner, but perhaps I’ll find the balance this time around. How do you balance your crafts?!
And for you spinners out there, the ace news is that Mel is now producing small, one-off runs of hand-blended tops, specializing in the more unusual breeds of sheep that have so much to offer! Her beautiful fibre can now be found in her shop.
Thanks so much for the inspiration, Mel!