Friday, January 23, 2009

The Spindolyn Arriveth!!

First of all, it is beautiful. Unfortunately the base it stands on is in a dark area, but if you look closely, you can see it. The size of the hook is rather ungraceful on first glance compared to the more delicate hooks on most drop spindles, but I see why it's useful at its size. There may come a point when I think I'd redesign its shape, but it works.

Spinning with this takes some practice, even for a more experienced spinner. However, there's just something about spinning with it that I know will be fun, if not comforting once I get the fluid motion and rhythm down. The stem piece that the spindle shaft fits into on this one seems to have been drilled and glued in a tad off center into the base, but it still spins well. I've sent an email to see if it makes a difference, because if so, I would want it right. That may not be a relevant concern if holding it in your lap, which is what it was designed to do. What I liked about it as a beginning spinner is that I don't have to worry about a drop spindle dropping or starting into a furious reverse spin if my attention gets captured by refining my drafting.

To learn on it, I'm spinning a very lovely, extremely soft pastel BFL that I bought from Erica who goes by the shop name, Squoosh at Etsy. Though my yarn is not as thin as I believe the Spindolyn prefers, it's thinner than I've spun before, and works pretty well on the Spindolyn. Though uneven, and some parts are thinner (a few thicker), an average length I checked came out to about 14wpi. That seems to keep being somewhere in the vicinity of my 'default spin' thickness. I'm now a little sorry that I didn't keep up with its much thinner start that both Jenny and I got when we first tried it because it would have been great practice to maintain that finer of a yarn. I'm also thinking that it's easier all the way around to spin finer than I tend to. That said, however, I'm getting a fairly consistent thickness, and probably shouldn't complain after a whopping 30 days of spinning anything, ON anything.

If you want to see the Spindolyn in action, because it's an intriguing little invention with great potential, its inventor and hand-crafted maker can be seen demonstrating it in her delightful video. Even if you weren't interested in spinning, her accompanying music will make you reailze how ridiculously complicated you've let your life become, and that simplifying whatever you can is a good thing. Catherine's original Spindolyn, which is what she used in the video, did not have the black rubber sleeve over the shaft; that was a re-model that she felt eliminated certain winding-on problems she said were inherent in the bare shaft original. Her video also shows a very gentle, and to me inviable, drafting technique. When I asked her for pointers, since I hold my fiber totally differently, she said to hold the fiber loosely, as though you were holding a baby hummingbird and didn't want to crush it. And to release into the drafting zone as though sowing teensy seeds thinly in a row, or letting fine sand through your fingers. It's hard to describe a motion with words, but that gets a 10 for transmitting a feel for something. You can see her video here.

The shaft does not hold as much yarn as a drop spindle, but they can't be compared. Each has its own purpose. I'm finding that I really like both, and I think the spindolyn is going to be a great tool for improving my drafting technique. The way I've been doing it actually works pretty well because I'm told that I'm getting amazingly even yarn for my experience, but I think that in the long term, I could eventually be able to have perhaps more control doing it the way Catherine does it. So I'm now in the process of trying to learn this different way of holding and releasing the fiber for comparison. There's something I like about the way it's coming naturally to me, and I've been working on improving that way with definite progress. But I'd like to learn her way as well, then have a choice of which I think will be best to refine. Maybe both!

Catherine mentions, on her website ( that you can sink the whole base of the spindolyn into a bean bag, enabling you to spin from a table top. I didn't have a bean bag handy, so I dumped a whole box of rice into a Ziplock bag with expandable (flat) bottom. It wasn't deep enough with rice to offer stability, so I rubberbanded the middle of the bag, forcing the rice to squish up higher in the bag. It worked, but the rice itself doesn't have the weight-to-volume that split peas might, so I'll try those next. In any event, the little that I did spin with it from tabletop, I liked because it enabled me to stand and get a much longer strand before having to wind on.

What I can't seem to master is how she spins her spun yarn onto the shaft cone without getting too loose of a cop. I think that would be a lot easier with the finer yarn.
I like this tool.

Finished Project #1 - From First Spin!

I just finished knitting my FIRST SPIN! With only somewhere around a vaguely-estimated 123 yards that I spun, as thickly as I spun it, out of the gorgeous 4 oz. of fiber that Jenny gave me with the drop spindle for Christmas, I was really limited as to what I could make. That's not a lot of yarn but probably typical for a first spin.

I had a particular scarf in mind which is tailored. That was my only problem with it, because I'm not. I still like the way it looks though, and I had enough yarn for that. So I started it and only knit up about 2 inches before I realized, the size 4 needles called for were way too small for my yarn -- at least the part that came off the ball first.
This was coming out super stiff, thick and dense. I hated it, and would never be motivated to wear it. (The center stocking stitch part is where the slit would eventually go.) Otherwise it's ribbed. Thick, stiff, tight ribs!

So "tinked" it. (Jenny says "tinK" is Knit spelled backwards, and it refers to Un-knitting, otherwise known as ripping it out. So I switched to size 8, and started again.

Better, but still too dense and stiff. Only now, add that it would be too wide also. I thought maybe I could fold it over in the back, but why start out having to adjust to something you don't like anyway for this yarn.
I really wanted this first spin to be knit into something I could keep forever. Not only did this fiber come along with my drop spindle (and I can now say my "first" drop spindle), but Jenny picked out the fiber because it's a really nice BFL that spins great, and it was in my colors.

So for all those reasons, I abandoned that pattern and looked on Ravelry again for another thing to make out of it. I found one. Its picture wasn't QUITE what I wanted, but envisioning my yarn, I thought this might be a perfect thing to make. Plus it called for size 13 needles! Now we're getting somewhere!

So I tinked again.

This is now three tinks on the same yarn. AARG!

The pattern did not say "Cast on so freaking loosely that it's downright ridiculous, so I didn't. I cast on looser than I normally do, but not so it was downright ridiculous. Next time I make this (and I will), I will cast on so loosely that it's downright ridiculous. The very first rows are... you start with 60 inches, then knit 2 together down to 30 in the first row! Then without any breather purl row, in the very next row you decrease yet again! Down to 15 stitches. I mean, that's a violent change. I really had to struggle to knit two together even in the first row. The second was worse.

Time out: At least a year ago, I saw a whole set of bamboo knitting needles on eBay, cheaper than just one pair elsewhere. I ordered them for Jenny, just in case they weren't crap quality. I mean, they came out to $1 per pair so I didn't have high hopes, but it looked like these were mass produced somewhere in Asia, and who knows. Well, Jenny didn't like the tiny ones at all, which was what she was after, so I've had 12+ sets of round needles in tons of sizes, just sitting there. I am soooo glad I do! I figure the teensy ones are all wrong (cables are too big) but the big ones, I actually like a LOT! In any event, that's how I came to have so many needles so I could keep trying different sizes. And that's really a darned good deal! I could definitely get into knitting with bamboo needles for everything!

So the yarn kept being thick, and I was really liking this scarf-to-be. Then suddenly, not even a gradual change, it became thin. And I mean THIN! Can't find the close-up, but you can see what happened on the left side of the paper. Skinny yarn, skinny part of scarf.

I kept hoping the thickness would vary back and forth so it would look consistent and on purpose, but there are just sections that are skinny.

So this is what I got. One lacy, thinner tail, and one thicker, clubbier tail.

Adding to the variation in width of the scarf caused by the thick yarn on one tail and the thin on the other, when binding off, I just couldn't do it as tightly as when I cast on. So we have one "super-ruffle" and one "not so super" ruffle.

Here are the two ends hanging off a hook so gravity adds to the differences even more.

End result (the bad part):

  • The two ruffles really do look like they're on two different scarves. In fact, one ruffle is a good 1/3rd wider than the other.

  • Same with the actual body of the scarf. The thick side is about 1/4 its own width wider than the thin side.

    End result (the good part):

  • Hey, one end will be flipped over onto my back. You won't see them together.

  • Hey, if I'm being dressy and delicate, I can have the lacy end in front. If not, then the clubbier end in front. A convertible scarf! (Okay, we are really reaching here, but it's actually true because they don't look much alike.)

  • Hey, if it was perfect it would look like I bought it in a department store.

And last but not least...

  • Hey, it's my first spin! Some people don't knit anything from their first spin. It seems fitting somehow that it would be as inconsistent as it is, and I can't help but love that about it.

So there it is. And I will definitely wear it! In fact, I think I'll wear it with pride.
I sure learned a lot more about spinning, just from having knitted something out of what I did spin.