Spin­ning finds resur­gence among tex­tiles

The Progress-Index - At Home - - CRAFTING - By Jen­nifer Forker

Like knit­ting and cro­chet­ing, spin­ning — the process of twist­ing fibers to­gether to make yarn — is en­joy­ing a come­back.

Textile artists want “to con­trol the front end of their yarn,” says Sarah An­der­son of Sno­homish, Washington, au­thor of “The Spin­ner’s Book of Yarn De­signs” (Storey Pub­lish­ing, 2012). “In­stead of go­ing to the yarn shop and say­ing, ‘What do you have?’ I can choose. I can say, I want this wool and silk to­gether and I can blend them to make just the yarn I want.”

“Fif­teen years ago there was a re­nais­sance in knit­ting. Now a lot of those knit­ters are start­ing to spin.”

By spin­ning yarn your­self, you can con­trol its weight, tex­ture and color. And to­day’s fibers don’t just come off the backs of shorn sheep; some are made from plant stock, such as wood pulp, and from syn­thetic fibers, such as ny­lon.

“A lot of spin­ners re­ally like to try ev­ery fiber that’s out there,” says Rachel Romine, a long­time spin­ner and knit­ter who works at her fam­ily’s shop, Par­adise Fibers, in Spokane, Washington. “We have a rose fiber that’s made from rose flow­ers — from the stock, I be­lieve. That was a big hit.”

She’s seen artists spin feath­ers, shred­ded news­pa­per or pet hair into yarn.

An­cient civ­i­liza­tions spun yarn from nat­u­ral fibers — wool, cot­ton, silk and linen — with a wind­ing stick, and later with a hand spin­dle. With the in­ven­tion of the spin­ning wheel in the 11th cen­tury in Asia and its ar­rival in Europe about 200 years later, spin­ning ex­pe­ri­enced its first re­nais­sance, and the Western textile in­dus­try was born.

Be­sides knit­ting and cro­chet, spun yarn can be used in weav­ing, rug hook­ing, needle­point, crewel em­broi­dery and tat­ting, among other textile crafts, says An­der­son.

To get started, she rec­om­mends find­ing a class at a yarn store or through a lo­cal spin­ning guild. A spin­ning wheel is not es­sen­tial. Many spin­ners use only an in­ex­pen­sive spin­dle for wrap­ping fibers. Other sup­plies might in­clude a lazy kate, which holds bob­bins of yarn, and a skein win­der (the por­ta­ble ver­sion is called a niddy noddy), for wind­ing fin­ished yarn into a skein.

“It’s nice to sit with some­body who can coach you at the start,” says the self­taught An­der­son, who has 40 years in the craft and rec­om­mends do­ing a lit­tle spin­ning ev­ery day.

“It’s a mus­cle mem­ory,” she says. “If you sleep on a skill, es­pe­cially some­thing hav­ing to do with your hands and co­or­di­na­tion, it’s as if your brain has been work­ing on it overnight.”

An­der­son’s book helps spin­ners un­der­stand how the twist­ing process works. Yarn twists in two di­rec­tions: Turn the wheel or spin­dle to the right, or clock­wise, for a Z-like twist in the yarn; turn it to the left, or coun­ter­clock­wise, for an S twist.

Sin­gle strands of fiber are spun in one di­rec­tion and then com­bined in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to lock them to­gether.

Fiber may be pur­chased at knit­ting stores or online.

“Many of us also buy from farm­ers,”

An­der­son said. “Once peo­ple know you spin, wool seems to find you.”

Raw fiber — right off the sheep or al­paca — needs to be carded and washed be­fore use.

Spin­ning can be­come ad­dic­tive, says Romine.

“I warn my knit­ter friends, if they want me to teach them to spin, it’s go­ing to cut into their knit­ting time,” she says.

The at­trac­tion is partly just the act of spin­ning, which be­comes med­i­ta­tive once it’s rote, and there’s also the al­lure of cre­at­ing some­thing from a pile of fiber.

“You can turn (fiber) all the way into yarn and then into a sweater,” Romine says.

“You re­ally feel you’ve ac­com­plished some­thing ma­jor and sig­nif­i­cant.”

Hand­spun yarn has a dif­fer­ent feel and tex­ture than man­u­fac­tured skeins, she in­sists, and there’s a sen­ti­men­tal at­trac­tion.

“We deal with re­ally nice man­u­fac­tured spun yarns here,” Romine says about her store.

But “there’s still some­thing about that per­son spend­ing those hours spin­ning that yarn. it’s al­most like a photo. It’s a record of their time they spent cre­at­ing this.”


Left: This photo pro­vided by Storey Pub­lish­ing shows a bas­ket of color­ful fiber in a spin­ner’s stash from “The Spin­ner’s Book of Yarn De­signs” (2012) by Sarah An­der­son. Above: Raw fleece for sale is shown at the New York Sheep and Wool Fes­ti­val. Af­ter...

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