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04 April 2007 @ 05:51 pm
Old fart advice  
Okay all you "old fart" spinners (I say that as a term of endearment, of course :) ), share with us something you know now as an experienced spinner that you wished you knew when you were starting out. And what would you consider the most important thing you've learned about spinning along the way?

(also posted in spinningfiber)
Lalalalalalalala: Everything in thisapplefaerie on April 5th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC)
Well, I have been spinning for not quite two years so I wouldn't say i'm an OF spinner, BUT:

Something I knew from the start but not everyone realises -- art yarns are hard to spin, and even harder to design AND spin well. Selling your first attempts labeled as anything but that is folly.

Never take advantage of your fellow spinners in either internetland or IRL.
You really can teach yourself everything there is to know about spinning, just by sitting at your wheel and experimenting.

DT > ST if you've got a funky back. I have an ST and wish I had a DT so i extended both legs the same and was moving both equally with the same amount of force from either side of my body.

As was mentioned, free fleeces are often (typically) worth half what you paid for them. If you fancy a particular batch of wool on a website and the folks who run the site offer you "a super deal", you're not going to be happy with what you get.

Don't save your "special" tops, rovings or batts for a "special" day. That day will never show up. Buying cheap wool to learn on only increases your learning curve. Buy nice stuff and your talents will grow faster.

Have a drum carder handy for those unfortunate times you order a lot of hand dyed roving from someone who has felted the whole kit and kaboodle. You CAN salvage a lot of it, if it's not felted all the way through. Combing or hand carding doesn't work, because you have to put some serious brawn into it to pull those fibers apart from eachother/open up the top to the point you can pick the pieces off of it which cannot be saved. Doing so with hand cards may bend the tines, drum carders seem to have a bit more to them, but maybe it's just my really old, warped workhorse which could never get it's tines bent!

If you order washed locks, GET THEM PICKED FOR YOU. Specifically things like Merino. Cotswold isn't a requirement, nor Lincoln or any of the non-ultra-fine shorter staple wools, since you may want to preserve the lock structure instead of getting giant clouds of every-which-way wool locks. Hand picking Merino washed locks (with your fingers, no flicker for the poor) will make you want to gouge your own eyes out. I've still got a pound + of unpicked Merino washed locks which I just can't bring myself to hand pick. It's just too time consuming and boring as sin. A good drum carder will solve all my problems, i.e. a Louet which doesn't require you to pick before carding (or so I've read. This could be total BS.)

Order the skein winder which is made by the company which made your wheel. I made the mistake of ordering one off of eBay, and they claimed it would fit my wheel. This simply isn't the case. At all. Skein winders are the most awkward piece of equipment ever, and I've jammed umpteen fingernails by getting them caught between the spokes and the arm, and I've tripped over it too many times to count, PLUS skeining 600+ yards of laceweight off onto an unstable winder rocking and shifting everywhere on your lap? NO FUN.

The most important thing I've learned?
Just because a lot of people seem to love the fiber doesn't mean you're going to love it, too.
People seem to fan themselves over Polypay. I can't STAND Polypay. It has next to no sheen, it's not fine enough to be posh, it's not coarse enough to be strong, and the staple length sucks. But I read often about people nearly fainting from their love of Polypay.
boogie_babe on April 7th, 2007 12:40 am (UTC)
And predraft well. Really, I think this is the most important thing to coming up with the yarn that you want.

Practice makes perfect but if you predraft well, you'll be happier with your yarn. Unless you are looking to make art yarns - for some of those extreme predrafting isn't necessary.
Abby Franquemonthuaman on April 7th, 2007 12:47 pm (UTC)
So this is one of those things I've been thinking about a lot lately. I essentially never predraft. I think part of me feels like (and granted I'm on that first cup of coffee this morning and it's been one of those weeks and so was last week) "Dude, prep! Do good prep so you don't have to do MORE prep by predrafting!"

But it's hard for me to judge; when I was getting started, there was no commercially-prepped fiber, and in fact, prep tools were largely "put the kids to work hand-picking and hand-teasing and hand-pulling roving," because there also weren't prep tools used where I learned. Then later I learned to use handcards and make rolags and spin them on the great wheel. Then in the past 5-6 years, I started buying commercially-prepped stuff.

I tried all this predrafting business, but it takes too long. If I have to do that extensively to a fiber, I feel like it's got problems. I feel like I should be able to tug off a chunk of fiber in whatever form, and spin it, and that's that -- and if I can't, then there's a prep issue.

That said, I do think it's easier when you're starting out, and that the act of drafting fiber without adding twist teaches you a whole heckuva lot about drafting in general. Pulling a roving is predrafting, you know?

What's more, with commercial top it's often more compacted than it ideally should be; and I think commercial top is not that easy to learn to spin from, all things considered. But I sorta don't like the spreading practice of stripping a commercial top to spinning thickness, then just adding twist; I feel like this doesn't teach a new spinner how to draft. If simply learning twist management is the objective, I'd rather see people plying.

So, here's my question: when you predraft, what do you predraft, and how do you usually do it?
boogie_babe on April 7th, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
Good point. I was just assuming it was commercial roving. It seems most people these days use commercial roving and IMO that does require a bit of predrafting. I hate to sit down and have the roving me too thick and that I have to really work at it. I like it to be way more airy than the roving comes. Does that make sense? Whether it's stripped or just pulled apart, I like to do plenty to commercial stuff.

IMO - I think it's good for beginners to strip stuff some - it helps give them the confidence. I don't think it should be stripped to the weight you are using. That's virtually impossible if you're making sock yarn or something thin. I think stripping is a decent way to predraft the thicker rovings.

My batts I just pull off a piece and go to town. I do really like a good batt. It's easier and there is no predrafting really. It's a pull it off and go sort of thing.

I suppose I should have really qualified my response. Can I blame the sinuses and lack of coffee?
Abby Franquemonthuaman on April 7th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC)
Here's what I said in the other thread...
Heh. Let's see... this is tough. I learned surrounded by opinionated spinners and other kids learning to spin, so... it's hard.

1. If it isn't working right, and you can't make it, stop.
2. If it's pissing you off, walk away and do something else and try again later.
3. Everybody in the world can't spin (even though everybody in my world could when I was first starting out).
4. It actually is hard.
5. I didn't know I'd grow up to enjoy it.
6. Teaching is a totally different skill from learning.
7. Sometimes, there is no combination of willpower, skill, and effort that can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse; let it go.
8. You'll never be 100% pleased with your own work, no matter what; you'll always be able to see flaws nobody else can.
9. Most catastrophes really aren't anything of the sort.
10. Yarn does different things, different ways, and that's okay.
11. Knitting yarn isn't necessarily useless garbage spun by lazy gringos.
12. Spinning wheels (and other tools) aren't cheating -- even though I still believe a master spinner should be able to make his or her own tools and not require more than a stick to do production quality work.