I’ve rediscovered my drum carder and learned a new trick: making rolags. It all started when a friend was thinning out the fiber stash she inherited from her mother in law, who passed away a few years ago. She’s been steadily going through everything, including Christmas ornaments & decorations her father in law couldn’t bear to part with and drove cross country to deliver. I gratefully took all of the fiber that she and another friend weren’t interested in, which more than doubled my fiber stash.
What to do with it all? It’s a bit more than what I can conceive of spinning myself. I do have an etsy shop though, so could sell it but can’t quite square making money of fiber I got for free because of someone’s death. But I am involved with a group raising money for a local charity, so why not donate proceeds to them?
This has been the perfect solution. I’ve raised a little over $17 for Stillbrave, a local non-profit led by Tattoo Tom (yes, he is a character and yes, he is quite dedicated) that provides non-medical support to children with cancer and their families. I first heard about and got involved with Stillbrave while playing roller derby and the good friend I do tae kwon do with is still involved with them.
So, the rolag making! I watched a few youtube videos and grabbed some dowels and got started. The optical color blending of colors has been interesting and actually surprising in one case.
That’s pretty neat, isn’t it?
This and two other colors are available in The Yarn Office, my etsy shop and (as I’ve come to think of it) vanity project that I’ve sunk more money into than I’ve made. But it’s there, and what else would I do with some of this stuff, which I created not because I had a specific use in mind but because I could. I think all of that may be a blog post for another day. In the mean time, if you spin, please have a look at the rolags & one batt listed in the shop – you can help put a smile on a sick child’s face or help ease the burden for parents and siblings of the sick child.
Spinzilla was ages ago, or so it seems now, especially since a good chunk of the people in my yarn and fiber network went to Rhinebeck1 this past weekend, and like Spinzilla, I hope to one day experience Rhinebeck. Since this was my first Spinzilla, I set really attainable goals for myself: I just wanted to spin every day. Upon hearing about the Monster Mile Club, I also quietly decided that I wanted to spin a mile (1760 yards).
Tallying your yards spun is a bit different for Spinzilla. You count the length of all your plies in addition to the length of the yarn, so you count the spinning of the singles and the plying of the yarn, so you calculate total yards spun as (length of yarn x plies in yarn) + length of yarn. For example, let’s say you have 10 yards of a finished 3 ply yarn. For Spinzilla, you count 30 yards (10 yards for each ply) plus the 10 yards for making the final yarn, for a total of 40 yards spun. I know that calculation can be confusing, and I probably haven’t helped much to allay that – suffice to say that I spun a total of 5,040 yards, blowing my goal to spin 1760 yards out of the water! Here’s a family portrait of my 2.89 miles spun. I’ll get to the individual spins in a moment.
To prepare for Spinzilla, I spun nearly every day and loaded up my stash with far too many braids of fiber; I think I somehow thought my pace would increase magically but I also used it as a convenient excuse to indulge. On day one I started out with this lovely braid, my favorite out of everything I got at Shenandoah Fiber Festival. I saved it just for Spinzilla, too.
I decided to spin this 4 oz bump2 as a fractal 3 ply, so I divided the braid into 3 lengths. The first length, I spun. The second length, I divided into 3 strips and spun. The third length I divided into as many strips as I could manage, about 9, and spun. Then on day two I ignored my new copy of Archangel and plied them together and got this: 202 yards of 3 ply yarn, 174 yards of 2 ply yarns, and about 12 yards of singles.
On day 2 I also started spinning 4 ounces of top (40% merino, 40% bamboo, 20% tussah silk) I got from the Fiberists at Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival.
I practiced my long draw on the singles (I usually use short forward draw), with predictably uneven results, which was a bit frustrating even though I got better the more I did it. By the end of the bobbin, it was pretty even, but I used up a lot of my patience on drafting technique. On day three I chain plied the singles, so I’d use them all up, but I did it quite badly; I started losing my patience, went too fast, and ended up with a yarn that has small, loose beehives through it a bit unevenly.
After the frustration of chain plying gone wrong, I took a nice long break and decided I’d spin this 8 ounce bag of merino & bamboo. Once again, I wanted to try a fractal spin, so I divided the fiber into three equal parts. I spun the first part as it was in the roving, without having to divide the roving lengthwise. I divided the next part of the roving into 3 lengths, and the final part of the roving into as many small strips as possible.
As I spun, I discovered why the seller may have given me 8 ounces for the price of 4; parts of both braids were stuck together as though glued or felted or possibly melted (does bamboo fiber melt?). I powered through it on days three, four, and five, finishing on day five (Saturday) by plying. I ended up with 2 skeins of 3 ply yarn, one at 180 yards and the other at 256 yards, 56 yards of 2 ply yarn, and 10 yards of singles.
By this point on Saturday afternoon, I was really sick of spinning. My hip flexors and lower back hurt from sitting too much – I should have thrown some spindle spinning in – and I had listened to all the podcasts and NPR I could handle. I was also really tired of looking at orange and pink and red. For my final spin, I chose the soothing colors of this superfine merino roving from Three Waters Farm and tuned in to Indie 88 out of Toronto, which was doing a countdown of listener favorite songs.
I decided to fractal spin this bump as well, dividing it lengthwise into 3 parts and then further dividing it similarly to the other fractal spins I did. I ended up with 138 yards of 3 ply, 44 yards of 2 ply, and 56 yards of singles at about 9pm on the last day.
Throughout Spinzilla, I checked in with my team every day on Ravelry, Team Spin Off, sponsored (I think) by Interweave Press and Spin Off magazine, to which I should subscribe. It was a great group, very encouraging, and one of my favorite parts of the whole thing was seeing what other people were spinning.
I also follow Abby Franquemont on social media and followed along with her astounding progress – she spun more in her first day than I did for the entirety of Spinzilla! But I had to remind myself that I haven’t been spinning since I was 5, that I don’t have the same skill set, that it is my first time participating in this event, and I also didn’t have the same strategies. Imagine my surprise to see Abby post the day after Spinzilla ended lamenting how little she spun (IIRC, she spun upwards of 11 or 12,000 yards), how she could’ve done so much more in her youth, how it sucks to be so old. We are all our own worst critics and I need to break that cycle with myself, too, not just point it out in others. To that end …
I blew my goals out of the water. Not only did I spin every day, but that’s what I spent most of my days doing. I also spun close to 3 miles, more than double my goal. I tried two things I hadn’t done (much) before: fractal spinning and long draw, and I got better at both. It’s been a while since I lost my patience with myself and something I was doing like I did the Saturday of Spinzilla; I haven’t felt like that since just before deciding to back off on roller derby. I’m not going to back off on spinning (or fiber art in general) the way I did with derby; I just need some time to collect myself, which is okay and a normal part of how I expend time and energy on things.
Adjusting my thoughts on Spinzilla has also led me to reconsider roller derby; I may look into going to a practice to see how it feels. The league and my former home team have changed so much since I stopped playing in 2015, Going back could also mean going back at 50% effort instead of my usual 250% effort. We’ll see.
I’ve been in denial: I really didn’t think my stash was this big (or this disorganized). I really need to sort and organize everything, and part with the yarn I don’t particularly like.
This is where I keep my stash officially, an armoire in The Yarn Office, the room formerly known as the formal living room.
I always think of my stash as being on the top shelf inside, but the bottom shelf has some yarn & FOs even though it’s taken up mostly by old journals and project bags and other stuff. The yarn and fiber bumps sitting on top of the armoire are my haul from MDS&W this year. And there is yarn in a few of the bags stuffed into the corner next to the armoire, yarn I was going to donate but then used to make a yarn ball wreath for my front door in 2010/2011. There are also 2 bolts of upholstery fabric tucked in there I’m never going to use – the sewing machine and I have a very tenuous relationship – and should donate.
My satellite stash is a basket next to my spot (my precious spot) on the couch and has yarn for current or upcoming projects. The big basket does have some FOs, but it’s about time for me to sort through this and return things to the mothership main stash.
The Yarn Office has another stash section. Two of these bins have batts that I’m selling in my etsy shop, also called The Yarn Office, one has leftover Knit Picks Comfy from a baby blanket projects my knitting group did, and another has sample skeins from a natural dye class I took in 2011, along with subsequent natural dye samples that I did on my own.
Here is the fiber basket stash that lives next to my wheel. The white fiber is targhee that I’ve had for 6 years now and the red is fiber I got in my knitting group’s Christmas exchange in 2011. There may be more hiding in the basket; I didn’t want to look.
This isn’t really my yarn – I’m just fostering it for a little while; it’s yarn my friend Cecily gave me when she was packing to move and realized she was never going to crochet. I think I need to pass this stuff on to someone else who would enjoy them more.
I almost forgot about this basket in The Yarn Office; it has most of my handspun, with some hand-dyed yarn & part of the commercially-knit sweater from which it was unraveled. I did that back in my thrifty/green yarn days, 2008-2009.
Except for the fabric and notions in the two closest bins and the giant tub, this is all fiber that I’ve processed from raw fleece (or plan to process). Also, there’s is an alpaca fleece hiding in the corner that’s peeking out from between the bin towers. Shhh – don’t remind my husband.
And I almost forgot; I have two drawers in a dresser upstairs that have yarn in them, so I guess that makes them part of my stash.
Most of this is from before 2004. Note the vintage yarn label on that skein of Knit Picks from when they first started their own yarn line. Also, the purple is Valley Yarns Berkshire; I used it to make the sweater on the Fall 2007 cover of Interweave Knits but didn’t like the end result and have been doing various other things with it since then.
Most of this is from before 2004. The orange thing is a sweater my grandmother knit, but orange isn’t my color and I unraveled part of it because I needed orange for something else. The pink is 100% wool I ordered for making felted slippers in 2003ish. I got the Dale of Norway Baby Ull (the small white skein) for a fair isle hat I never made, although I did use all of the blue I got with it for something else. There’s a partially finished modular blanket made with long-retired yarn, the hat that’s my first attempt at colorwork that’s too small to fit all but the smallest of human babies, and the swatch from my first sweater in 2004.
I really need to sort through everything, organize, and donate/gift a lot of it. I hate not being organized, but when you live with 4 guys (well, now 3 since my oldest went to college), cleaning and organizing everything can be really frustrating – it seems like I’ll clean something, turn my back, one of them will wander by, and I turn back and boom: the clean thing is now dirty again. While it does occasionally bother me, they have taught me that there are more important things in life than having a clean, organized house.