Sheepspot

spinning

Another podcast!

behind the scenes, what we doSasha TorresComment
SpinDoctor Image.jpg

Hello, dear spinners! As many of you know, I hosted the SpinDoctor audio podcast from 2010–2014, just prior to launching Sheepspot. 

I'm so excited to announce that I'm starting a new podcast. That's right: The SpinDoctor is almost back in!

So what brings me back to this place? Well, many things. Of course, my love of all things spinning and sharing this knowledge with others. And many of you have told me that you miss my voice! And truth be told, even with the many crafting-related podcasts online today, all this time later, we are still lacking in spinning-centricpodcasts—particularly of the audio variety.

So I'm plunging back in with The Sheepspot Podcast.

Now, three years after SpinDoctor, lots of things in my life (and I'll bet yours too) have changed, so if you've been re-acquainting yourself with the older episodes of SpinDoctor (and please do!), be warned that The Sheepspot Podcast will be quite different from SpinDoctor.

The new format will be shorter (episodes will be 15–30 minutes long), with minimal editing. Each episode will offer one focused spinning lesson or one "behind the scenes" peek at what's going on at Sheepspot.

Most importantly, though, I hope to make The Sheepspot Podcast a valuable and enjoyable learning experience for every spinner who's listening. I know we're all way too busy, and I promise not to waste your time.

Is there a spinning topic that you'd like me to cover, or a spinning question you'd like me to answer? If so, please let me know. Contact me here and send it along. I'll do my best to get to it in an early episode!

Using a color wheel to find color harmony in your spinning

how to, what we doSasha TorresComment

On the left, an analogous colorway using yellow-green, green, blue-green, and violet. On the right, a split-complementary scheme using blue-green, red, and orange. 


In the last blog post, I offered some of my favorite "pro tips" on color management in spinning, culled from what I consider to be the best sources available on the subject. Today we dive deeper, as I talk about using a color wheel to suss out color harmonies, or color combinations known for yielding pleasing results, in the braid you want to spin.  

If you'd like an easily digestible lesson in understanding the principles behind the color wheel (and so much more), I recommend Felicia Lo's  book, Dyeing to Spin and Knit. Once you know a bit of color theory and understand how a color wheel works, then you can better decide what you'd like to achieve with the fiber you've got before you.

Due to a little something called "optical mixing" (the theory behind pointillist paintings like this one), our eyes perceive the tiny dots of color produced when we create handspun yarns as mixtures of the colors in question. Let's put this to practical use: First, you'll unbraid your fiber and take a good look at the colors and their alignment on the color wheel. Depending on these relationship(s), you'll then decide on your desired outcome. Here are some examples:

  1. If, as in the photo on the left above, the colors are analogous, or side by side on the color wheel, then you're in luck. These colors will play well together no matter how you'd like to spin and ply your fiber. Your next decision is whether you'd like to preserve the brightness of the colors, their order in the fiber itself, etc. Anything will work, even a fun barber pole effect. Your colors will not muddy.
  2. If the colors in your braid are complementary, or opposites on the color wheel, or even, like the fiber on the right above, split-complementary (one color or hue with the two hues adjacent to the opposite color), then you've got more to think about. These opposites can dim or muddy one another, depending on proportions and other factors. Or, they can also be used to create lovely colors on their own, again depending on proportions. Maybe you do want to tone down the brightness of this braid of fiber? Maybe you don't. Before you go and spin your default two-ply, think through the outcome. (Sampling is in order!)
  3. Don't write off or destash an overly-exuberant (loud) braid of fiber. Instead, spin it fractally, or even as a traditional 3-ply. The results will be a much more muted version of the colors in the original fiber and a highly knittable yarn. You won't believe the difference!
  4. Consider bringing a solid color to the mix, if you have one on hand. Whether it's black to deepen the tone, white to brighten, or a color similar or even complementary to what's in the fiber bump itself, you can completely transform your end results with this oh-so-simple addition to your spin.

The options are truly endless when it comes to spinning and using the color wheel and color harmonies as your guide, and knowledge is power, as they say. Learning more about color harmonies is a terrific way to become a more purposeful spinner!

Pro spinning tips on color management

what we do, how toSasha TorresComment
Managing Color.png

How would you plan this spin?


Hello, spinning friends! Do you look at a braid of boldly-painted top and immediately think of the dozen or so ways you could spin it, based on color management alone?

Not so much?

Well, I do, and I want you to be able to do so, too. That's why in the next few newsletters, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite theories, tips and resources on the topic of managing color in spinning. From face-palm simple to downright deliberate, there's a color-management trick or tool here to grab your interest.

First, a few tips culled from Jillian Moreno's Interweave video, "12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top," perfect for those who enjoy bold color but prefer to spend their time spinning, rather than prepping fiber:

  • Color always appears brighter and bolder when spun at a thicker weight yarn.
  • Altering the outcome of your yarn is as simple as changing the order of the color repeats and/or the way you split the braid itself. Keep it intact or nearly so, by splitting it down the middle once for long color repeats, or rip it into thin strips for shorter runs of color (and anything in between). Try a fractal split, leaving one half of the fiber as is and then stripping the other half into shorter bursts of color runs, for the best of both worlds. 
  • There's no reason to abide by a dyer's color inspiration if it doesn't strike your fancy. Don't love a color in your braid? Pull it right out of the fiber bump and spin away.
  • Try tearing half of a braid into small chunks and spinning this bobbin against half you leave as is. Or, try "chunking" the entire bump of fiber itself and then spinning it randomly.

For a more thorough look at Jillian's love for spinning colored tops in different ways, there's more in her great book, Yarnitecture.

Speaking of books, Deb Menz's Color in Spinning is my go-to source for all things on color. Meticulous and yet relatable, Deb has been creating and spinning the blends and handspuns we now consider to be "on point," notably blended rovings and tops and even purposeful handspun that fades in intensity, and she's been doing so for more than three decades. Her optical blending process begins with the dyeing and goes through the careful pre-drafting of her fibers (if you've never been a fan of pre-drafting, this book will make you want to try it Deb's way), but her lessons are applicable to any spinner who wishes to better manage the way we see colors in our spinning projects.

You need this book. No spinner's library is complete without it.

If spinning is your zen, then time spent with Judith MacKenzie McCuin (even if she's in digital format) is nothing short of therapeutic (Franklin Habit once called her "the bodhisattva of spinning"). Judith still believes in putting in the effort to spin that "perfect yarn" for a project, and she gets there through employing the use of practical spinning theory--heavily influenced by 20th Century Swiss expressionist painter Johannes Itten. Watching her and hearing her soothing voice throughout her Spinner's Color Toolbox video never gets old . . . . If you've longed to take a class with a true Spinning Legend, this video is the next best thing.

And finally . . . how could we talk about spinning and color without mentioning Felicia Lo, founder and creative director of Sweet Georgia Yarns. If Deb Menz teaches us how to optically mix colors by being mindful on the front end of our spinning, then Felicia is our guide to managing optical mixing through spinning. Her book, Dyeing to Spin and Knit, is full of brilliant photos and talks about every topic from marling to barber-poling, even down to the nuances of taking control of color transitions. It's all in there, which means that no spinner never need fear a colorful bump of fiber again.
Hallelujah.

Above all, experiment. Use a few of your most colorful fiber bumps for the sole purpose of understanding some of these theories and practices, and make sure to keep a detailed notebook of yarn samples and knitted swatches for future reference.

Setting realistic spinning goals

what we do, behind the scenesSasha TorresComment
Spinning Goals Blog Post Photo.jpg

Since writing about Spinzilla in the last blog post, I've been thinking about spinning goals and self-acceptance. Basically, I'm talking about setting realistic spinning goals for oneself and feeling good about them. Or, sometimes, not setting any goals at all.

Here's a true fact: I've never participated in Spinzilla. And it's been years since I spun the Tour de Fleece. In September and October, I'm busy teaching a great big lecture course to 270 stdents at my day job (with, thank goodness, lots of help with grading from teaching assistants) and getting ready for—or recovering from— the fall festival season. And in July, getting the first shipment dyed and out to my new fiber club subscribers usually requires my full attention. 

All of this is completely OK with me. I love what I do—all of it—and I count my blessings every day that I get to do it. Running Sheepspot means that these days I spend most of my making time dyeing, though I do have a wheel in my studio and spin while waiting for dye to set or fiber to cool. I know that you, too, are juggling your making time with work, families, spouses, or other time-consuming life circumstances.

The more stressful our daily lives, the more I believe in the need to carve out a bit of quiet time for spinning. For lots of folks, group competitions such as Spinzilla can serve as reminders to ourselves that we need to create this time, whatever that may be, and bring it forward into our routines. For others, though, such events can feel like added pressure, like just another "should."

So practice self-compassion and let your spinning goals emerge from what makes sense for you right now. 
The time I spend spinning is meditative and replenishing, and for those reasons it's something that I do my best to make time for. It really doesn't matter how many miles you spin, only that you participate in the act of spinning itself.

Spinzilla

what we doSasha TorresComment
Spinzilla Post Image.jpg

Sasha here, to talk about what's got me excited, and that is the fifth annual Spinzilla (October 2-8, 2017)! As always, it's hosted by The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA), which is promoting "a monster of a spinning week."  

Spinzilla is a global competition in which spinners (either on teams, or as "rogue," or individuals) try to spin as many miles of yarn as possible in just one week, both for bragging rights as well as to bring visibility to our craft. Registration fees are donated to TNNA's evolving mentorship program, so that our kids can grow up and be fiber-loving spinners too!

"But Sasha, 'miles' of yarn?" you may be thinking. "Maybe I'll just sit this one out."

Aw, don't do that—at least, don't do it based on fear or intimidation. Instead, take that week as a gift to yourself and your inner spinner within. Feed your spinning monster. Below, I offer my key reasons why Spinzilla is an event well worthy of joining.

  1. Camaraderie: Not everyone has the good fortune of being able to belong to a fiber arts guild. For one week each year (even longer, if you join in the Ravelry forums in time to enjoy Spinzilla preparation and discussion), you can join ranks with spinners from all over the globe. Ask questions, gather intelligence, or simply enjoy the online companionship. It's a beautiful thing.
  2. Success: First of all, one mile is the equivalent of 1760 yards. That right there sounds a whole lot more attainable, doesn't it. Factor in the TNNA formula for counting yardage  [plied yardage] + [plied yardage x # of plies] = yardage for which you can claim credit, and a person's end results are looking a whole lot longer. Or, focus on attaining a goal during that week, such as becoming more proficient at core spinning or even spindle spinning. Tailor the week to meet your definition of success.
  3. Sustainability: By making learning accessible to the next generation, we can all be party to sustaining this craft as not just a hobby, but hopefully a lifestyle or means of support for decades to come.
  4. Inspiration: There will be bobbin and handspun porn galore during and just after Spinzilla and I, for one, cannot wait to lay my eyes on it.
  5. Prizes: I almost didn't add this one to the list, but I did. I am only human, after all. It's as simple as could be to be entered to win all kinds of incredible prizes, too. Just make sure to post photos in your team thread and to turn in your final yardage tally to either your team captain or to TNNA (if you go rogue) by the competition's deadline. You will be notified if you've won any extras.

Truly, whether your monster is a Godzilla or a Gonzo, I look at this competition as one that benefits all spinners, current and future. Registration is open through September the 30, so gather that fiber stash and get ready!

Goodbye to yarn

behind the scenes, what we doSasha TorresComment
goodbye to yarn picture.jpg

Have you ever noticed that the really important conversations are the ones we most often put off having?

This is one of those conversations, but here goes: as of the end of this month (September 30, to be exact) Sheepspot will no longer be dyeing and selling yarn online. Instead, we’ll be focusing 100% of our energies on providing our spinning customers with beautiful fibers and the information and support they need to make beautiful yarns with them.

I know this decision may be disappointing to those of you who don’t spin, and who have enjoyed knitting with Sheepspot yarns, so I want to be transparent with you about how I got here

When I first started Sheepspot in 2014, I really thought I was creating a yarn company. I wanted to give knitters who didn’t spin access to some of the wonderful wools I had discovered as a handspinner. And I was genuinely excited about sourcing wool and working with mills to realize my yarn-making ambitions at a bigger scale. 

I wasn’t prepared, though, for how travel-intensive and physically exhausting sourcing wool would be. Or how long it would take to see that wool turned into yarn. Or how unpredictable the results could be. (Remember the Ile de France Aran? Argh. It was so lumpy and unevenly twisted I couldn't sell it.) Or what all of the above would mean for Sheepspot’s cash flow. 

And along the way, something else happened. I started dyeing fiber. And I discovered how much I loved it. Because I am, at my core, a spinner. And, in my heart of hearts, I want to serve other spinners

Maybe that’s why I’ve always sold much more fiber than yarn. At any rate, I’m following my biz coach Tara Swiger’s advice: do more of what works

And crucially, not just what works in a what’s-best-financially way, but what works in a follow-my-heart way

Enough about me. Here’s what this means for you:

  • If you’re a knitter, September 30 will be the last day you can buy Sheepspot yarns online. Until then, and while supplies last, all yarns will be deeply discounted. Any unsold yarns will be available for purchase (again, at discounted prices) in person at festivals only. 
  • If you’re a spinner, stick with me, kid! Going forward, I’ve got even more delicious wools for us to sample and enjoy together. More preparations (including batts and more dyed locks). More videos. More learning. More spinning. 

I’m so excited about Sheepspot’s future. Here’s to growing forward. 

Sasha

PS: Starting this fall, I’ll be opening the Sheepspot Studio for live, in-person spinning events and classes. If you live anywhere near London, Ontario, head over to www.sheepspotstudio.com to learn more about what I have planned!

Do you pre-draft?

how to, what we doSasha TorresComment
predrafting picture.jpg

Hi, All. Sasha here to talk about a subject which is often debated among Big Name spinners, and that is pre-drafting. Pre-drafting is just what it sounds like—you take a strip of fiber and attenuate, or draft, it in advance of spinning. Some find it to be an extra preparatory step worth taking, as the fiber is not merely attenuated and ready for twist to be added at the wheel or on the spindle, but it can also be stripped into narrow, easy-to-manage parcels. There's now less to think about while actually spinning. Those who protest its use do so because this pre-drafting of fibers changes the original bump of fiber, particularly when it's been hand dyed. Here at Sheepspot, we fully support the use of any tips and tricks which may help spinners feel more in control of their own spinning and their end results, and I believe that pre-drafting is one such tool. By all means, do it if it helps! Let's get to it.

How to pre-draft your fiber for spinning

You can predraft the roving or top without stripping it, but, remembering that this is all about more easily managing a bump of fiber for spinning with greater ease and control (we're going to use combed top from my stash, though technically the steps are the same for roving and batts), the first step is splitting the fiber into more narrow strips. Think about what's easiest for you to manage, because this is personal preference. I don't like to make my strips too narrow, because they start to become equally difficult to handle if the fibers have trouble clinging together. Find what works for you.

Fiber-stripping tip: hold the strip of fiber up vertically, then poke your finger through halfway across, starting a few inches down from the top. Using quick, firm movements, tear up to the top, then all the way to the bottom. You should get two even strips of fiber using this method.

Now, we attenuate the fibers. One strip at a time and with your hands several inches apart, you will gently, sloooowly at first, draft out the fibers ... not so far that it breaks apart, just to the point that your see and feel (and if you listen carefully, perhaps even hear) the fibers begin to slip past one another. Your strip of fiber will become a fluffy pleasure. Carefully roll it into a nest, put it aside for spinning, and continue until you've completed your task.

What to do if you accidentally pull too far? Say "Oops!" and just keep going. It happens. (And it gives you an opportunity to practice your joins.)

Just in case anyone is wondering why someone would hate on such a peaceful method of spinning, I do want to mention that pre-drafting of hand-dyed fiber does slightly alter the intensity of the colors. If you attenuate in advance, you do lose a bit of the coloways' oomph, but frankly, I don't think most people would notice. As for purists' upset over the fact that we're splitting the top and breaking down the color runs, some of the greatest spinners I know do this every day because they want to experiment and play with color!

As always, I say to do what works for you. If pre-drafting is that, do so proudly.

Why I love my niddy noddy

behind the scenesAlicia de los ReyesComment

In the last Sheepspot newsletter, I mentioned that my absolute favorite niddy noddy is this one made by Schacht. I'd like to share the many delightful ways this particular niddy noddy is a leap forward in niddy noddy technology, but first, let me say: no one is paying me to say this. I just really, really love this niddy noddy, and I really, really want all spinners to know about it.

(If you're wondering what a niddy noddy is, it's a tool for winding yarn into skeins. It's made from a center bar and two bars at either end placed perpendicular to one another. Here's a handy video of one in action.) 

Most niddy noddys have two small but annoying problems: they can be tiring to use (the rotating back and forth is hard on your wrist) and the yarn sometimes wants to fall off one end (the end that is flat, and intended to allow you to take the skein off at the end). Schacht has solved both of these problems.

First, the Schacht niddy noddy is made from aluminum, so it is super lightweight. This makes it easy on the wrists—plus, it has a handy cushioned grip in the center, so it's very comfortable to use.

Second, the length of the center bar is adjustable. This not only means that you can wind different-sized skeins with one tool, it also means that when you are finished winding your skein, you just collapse the bar and can easily remove the skein—no need for a flat-ended arm (yay!).

As a bonus, you can unscrew the bars and make the whole thing flat for packing, which is perfect for those out-of-town spinning workshops.

It's certainly spendy, but for me it has been worth every penny. This niddy noddy makes me happy every time I use it.

Do you have a fiber tool you absolutely love? Share it in the comments!

Spinning from the fold: a roundup

behind the scenesAlicia de los ReyesComment

Sometimes, you want to spin a woolen—read: airy, warm, and fuzzy—yarn, but you're not starting with a nice fluffy roving. Maybe you have combed top, or maybe you're working with a blend of fibers (say, cashmere plus silk) of very different lengths. Spinning from the fold is a technique that will allow you to spin a woolen yarn from a combed prep, or give you more control over tricky fiber blends.

I've gathered a few videos and tutorials here that will teach you how to spin from the fold.

First, Beth Smith shows us how it's done: 

Laura Chau shares a tutorial on Craftsy on how to spin from the fold with a wheel.

Lee Juvan shares a tutorial with excellent photos on Knittyspin.

Abby Franquemont goes in-depth in this handy FAQ on spinning from the fold that details how to prep for spinning from the fold and how to spin from the fold with a spindle.

Do you have any tips of your own for spinning from the fold? When do you use this technique? Do share in the comments!

Color resources for knitters and spinners

what we do, maker's momentAlicia de los ReyesComment

Now that we've covered the basics of color theory, here are some helpful online classes and video downloads to help you dive deeper into using color in your knitting or spinning, some from Craftsy and some from Interweave.*

Knitters

Want to learn more about combining colors in your knitting? I absolutely loved A Practical Approach to Color for Knitters by Franklin Habit! Franklin is a really gifted teacher—smart, thoughtful, and encouraging. The information he provides is top-notch, his swatches illustrate his points brilliantly, and I loved the stories of his color-deprived childhood. Do check this one out.

I also really liked Anne Berk's Simply Stunning Colorwork, because most of the techniques she teaches use only one color per row, which is perfect for the limited-bandwidth knitting I'm doing these days. This class made me want to knit lots and lots of striped things.


 
Spinners

Spinning Dyed Fibers with Felicia Lo was one of the first online classes on color for spinners. Felicia (the owner of Sweet Georgia Yarns) leads students through an exhaustive discussion of how different spinning techniques affect the look of yarns made from hand-dyed fibers. This is an early Craftsy class, and in some ways it shows (the class is quite a bit longer than it needs to be, IMHO), but there are some gems here if you're willing to invest the time. Plus, you get to watch Felicia spin some truly stunning yarns. 

You'll also want to check out two DVDs on color by Judith MacKenzie: The Spinner's Guide to Color Theory: Mastering Color Without Dyeing, in which she teaches viewers how to blend already-dyed fibers to produce just the hues, tints, tones and shades they want, and The Spinner's Color Toolbox, in which she uses dyed fibers to make a stunning variety of textured yarns. In addition to being an amazing spinning teacher, Judith is also a very gifted dyer and colorist. I got about a zillion ideas for spinning projects from these classes.

I've mentioned (and linked to) Jillian Moreno's two DVDs on color before, and not just because I love her. I think they are both great—clear, succinct, and loaded with samples and swatches: 12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top and 12 (Plus!) Ways to Spin Batts.

Last but certainly not least, there's Color Works for Spinners by Deb Menz. Deb is the author of the ultimate book on spinning color, Color in Spinning, and I'm partial to anything she does, because I took my first dyeing class with her. She is a precise, patient dyer and a wonderful teacher. 

*A quick note: some of these are affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and end up purchasing a class, I get a small kickback. I love Craftsy; their classes are well-shot, well put-together, and cover a whole range of topics that crafters can't necessarily find locally. Interweave's video products have in my view been much more uneven, so rest assured that if I recommend something, I've seen it and liked it. 

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!

Color theory 101: color theory for spinners

what we do, dyer's notebookAlicia de los ReyesComment

I'm *so* excited to have amazing fiber artist/teacher/spinsib Jillian Moreno (perhaps you know her from Knittyspin?) share how she shifted a fiber from a variegated colorway into a gradient colorway. Don't know what those terms mean? Don't worry! She spells them out below. Take it away, Jillian!

Dorset Down  in Boardwalk.

Dorset Down in Boardwalk.

When I first started spinning I used to just spin everything as it came. I would buy beautifully dyed fiber, split it in two, spin it from end to end and ply the two singles together. I did that for a long time, but now I can’t quit playing with fiber I get. I rarely spin fiber as it comes anymore.

Take this gorgeous variegated Dorset Down roving in the colorway Boardwalk from theSheepspot fiber club (above). I got it into my head that I wanted to make this variegated roving into a gradient yarn.

The difference between variegated and gradient is simple. A variegated fiber or yarn has several colors that appear more than once on the length of the fiber or yarn; it can be in a pattern or a random placement and is usually in fairly short color runs. Agradient fiber or yarn has several colors with each color only appearing once, usually in longer color runs.

Because I like to play with my fiber, I spun this roving in a couple of ways.
I spun part of it as it came into a fine single and chain plied it, keeping the colors as distinct as possible. Here’s the roving ready to spin. 

And the finished variegated yarn.

Then I made the variegated roving into a gradient. I divided the roving by color, just pulling it apart, trying for cleanest break I could get. I didn’t worry too much about perfectly clean breaks since I like some variation in my colors.

If you want only clear color, keep pulling out the tiny bits of color that don’t belong out of your fiber chunks. These little bits are great to save for making batts.

I chose a color order and spun the fiber into a fine single and chain plied it.
Here’s the finished gradient yarn.

Here are the two yarns side by side, variegated on the left and gradient on the right. Similar, but different. I love it.

Here’s a different view. The gradient yarn is on the left and variegated yarn on the right.

With the yarns spiraled like this you can really see the difference. The colors in the gradient are used only once and the colors in the variegated are used more than once with much more blending between colors. The blue is a particular standout.

Just for fun I spun and plied together one single of the variegated and one single on the gradient. It’s a color mixing party!

There are so many ways to work with a braid of fiber. One day I want to knit a sweater using a single colorway manipulated in a huge variety of ways; I think it would be stunning.

All photos © Jillian Moreno.

If you'd like information like this, along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers, delivered right to your inbox each week, sign up here to get my newsletter! You can also opt-in to get my e-course on choosing and using breed-specific wools as a special thank you!