Monday, November 21, 2011

A tale of two skiens

I model for the life drawing class at the local community college. The students are starting to get bored drawing nude bodies about this time of the semester, so the teachers try to change things up a bit to hold their interest. This last Wednesday the teacher had me bring a costume and my spinning wheel, and we took the class outside under the trees. It was a beautiful day for it! I did some warm up 2 minute gesture poses, and then the teacher had me sit and actually spin yarn for the rest of the class time. Spinning involves small, repetitive motions, so it wasn't too hard for the students to draw the action. And I got to fill a bobbin full of white wool singles over the course of the afternoon.

I actually have several spinning wheels. The one I use for the drawing classes is my Ashford Traditional, because it looks the most like what people think a spinning wheel ought to look like. However, it is also the wheel that I lend to my daughter most of the time. We only have a few bobbins for it, so I figured I had better open this one back up before too long. So today I took the wheel back out with me to my local SCA (Medieval historical recreation) practice. I had a second lovely sunny afternoon to sit and spin, and filled up a second bobbin full of singles.

This evening I took both bobbins full of singles and put them on this Lazy Kate. Now, I don't know who Kate was, and why she was considered lazy, but this device to hold bobbins of yarn while you ply them together is a really useful little gadget!

To ply yarn, I feed the two singles from the bobbins back into the spinning wheel, this time turning the wheel in the opposite direction from my original spinning direction. When the two singles twist back on themselves it strengthens the resulting yarn, and if you do it right it makes a balanced yarn that won't kink up or untwist itself, or bias your stitches. That makes the yarn much nicer for knitting or crochet.

When I had a bobbin full of finished yarn I wound it off into a skein, using my weasel. I think it is technically called a clock reel, but when I was growing up my folks volunteered at a restored colonial farm house on the weekends. They had one of these, and the other volunteers called it a weasel. They said it was the basis for the nursery rhyme, "Pop goes the weasel', because after 40 turns around (or 100 yards) the device would make a clicking or popping sound. (The monkey in the rhyme would have been the child pestering the mother as she was working.) I've since been told this isn't true, but I love the story anyway.

All told, I got two beautiful skeins of two ply wool yarn, for a total of 262 yards. I'm going to have these with me on my table this weekend when I set up at Henny & Ev for their craft show on Friday and Saturday night. ( If they don't find a home though, I'll hold on to them for the next time we've got a dye pot going. I like having a stash of hand spun white wool for playing in the colors.


  1. Cool and you made that yarn while sitting for art students!

    Stopping by from blogging buddies


  2. Wow, totally impressed with this spinning thing that you do so well! I had no idea all the work that goes into it. What a great talent you have.

  3. Impressive! I would love to be able to do that. I only took one life drawing class back in my college days and we always did nudes...I think drawing someone spinning would've been a nice change.


  4. Thanks for stopping by, everyone! I think I enjoy making the yarn even more than I enjoy making anything with it. I'm getting quite a stash of handspun skeins. It is such a meditative, relaxing process.

  5. Beautiful yarn! And I like the "pop goes the weasel" story, too.

  6. I found this rather abused weasel at a second had store. The clock mechanism inside that would make it 'pop' had been removed, it had been bolted down so nothing moved, and the poor thing had plastic flowers growing out of it. I think they were daisies. I restored it back to working status, but the poor thing will never POP again.

    But I have a weasel! (And now a nursery rhyme wandering through my head too.)

  7. Just popped (pun not intended!) in after seeing you on Blogging Buddies. Fascinating stuff - will be following you. Hope you'll visit in turn where I post about making, mending and otherwise creating soft toys, which I then try to sell at Hope you'll follow me too - if you're at all interested. Cheers.