Caring for Handspun

I’m often asked how I care for my handspun. I confess I’m perplexed by the question; however, I understand it. Handspun can feel more precious and special than a commercially spun yarn. I care for it the same way I do all yarn and fiber; this post shares how I store, wash, and wind my handspun yarn.

Storage

I store my handspun the same way I store all yarn, away from the cats. In my studio, that means a 2-layer system. The outer layer of protection is large hard-sided bins. This keeps inquisitive felines from having easy access and helps keep my studio tidy. I have a range of 2×2 expedit (now kallax) storage with lekman boxes. There are also a few free-standing bins.

Plastic Lekman box, pulled out from expedit. Skeins of yarn are in plastic bags.
these are commercial spun yarns, but the concept is the same

If it’s in my expedit, then I also keep the yarn in a zip top plastic bag. While those 9 squares on the front of the lekman boxes act as a handle for humans, felines see them as a puzzle toy and want to know what’s inside. The bag helps to ensure that if a cat gets close, there’s still a layer of protection. Most every bag I use and reuse has chew marks. I’m slowly converting to fabric zip top bags, but it’s been a low priority project, some of the plastic zip top bags I use have been in rotation for over a decade.

In either each bag, or the plastic bin I like to drop either a small bit of cedar or sachet of lavender. It’s a small bit of extra protection.

About twice a year I try to go through and check every skein of yarn and braid of fiber.

Washing

a plastic bowl with sudsy water and some knitting. a post it with "gauge" handwritten, a pen, and a small ruler is in front of the bowl
this is a swatch getting a bath, handspun yarn gets the same treatment

If you need to wash a skein, please treat it kindly. In general, that means wash in cold water with a wool wash and hang to dry. If you need further instruction on using a wool wash, both Eucalan and Soak provide resources on their websites. There are other brands as well on recipes online.

If this is the first wash after spinning, then you’ll want to do things a bit differently; however, that’s a completely different type of wash and not covered in this post.

Winding

small hand wound balls of handspun (& swatches)

This is where things tend to change from commercially spun yarns. I prefer to hand wind my handspun. There’s something extra yummy about that process and I enjoy the extra time it takes, and I like the look of the ball of yarn instead of a cake.

I give the skein a bit of a snap with my hands before I put it on the swift, I’ve found this helps to reduce tangles. If you want to use a ball winder, go slow, and pay attention to the yarn as you go. If it’s an art yarn, meaning for example includes beads or coils, then I strongly urge you to hand wind.


I hope these tips help you feel more confident storing, washing, and winding your handspun yarn.

Spinning resources

With everything going on right now, I’ve decided to sit out on the actual event of Spinzilla. Don’t worry, I’m still spinning! I thought this week I’d put together a revised spinning resources post for those who are participating or simply looking to learn more.

I sampled this Hello Yarn fiber last week and decided that I’ll continue my love affair with chain-plying. Before I start spinning however, I need to decide if I’m going to rearrange the colours on the braid or spin it as it is.

Books

Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno. I interviewed Jillian last year and also reviewed her book.


The Fleece & Fiber SourcebookThe Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook
by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius


The Field Guide to FleeceThe Field Guide to Fleece
by Deborah Robson


Magazines & Articles

Ply Magazine you can now purchase digital copies!

3 Simple Steps for Preparing Fiber for Spinning

Five Tips For Spinning a Consistent Yarn

A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Spinning From the Fold

Plying a Balanced Yarn

KnittySpin, by Jillian Moreno (do you sense a theme?). I also suggest going through each issue cover by cover. Here’s the current column: Deep Fall 2017 : Heather & Tweed: Which is Which?. Favourites include Plying for Knitting: The Lace and Cable Edition and Navajo plying. There’s also the spinning tuesdays on the Knitty Blog, Jillian’s written about Jillian’s Spinning: Finishing Yarn

Supplies

Here are some current favourites:
Akerworks. I interviewed Adan in 2015and I’ve been long in love with their bobbins and mini spindles. One day I hope to add a Lazy Kate and Spindle Crane to my toolbox.

Fiber
Anzula
Elemental Fiberworks
Hello Yarn
Oink Pigments Fluff

I’m very thankful to the lessons I learned by participating in Spinzilla and how it gave me the confidence to take on a project that years later still amazes me, my Happy Fuzzy Yarn handspun swatch project:

summer swatching plans, part three (spinning)

Sometimes one post becomes four. While I didn’t initially plan to make this a four part series (part one, part two), it turned into one! In addition to the yarns I’m swatching primarily for knitting and crochet, I am also working on my spinning and weaving this summer too. Today I’ll discuss the spinning plans, next week weaving.

Anzula

Braid of Anzula Superwash Merino Top in Colourway Earth and Squishy in colourway Aqua

a pairing of anzula: super fine merino top and squishy

I have a plan for pairing this braid of Australian Superfine Merino Top (in colourway Earth) with Squishy in Aqua.

First I need to spin a sample and then work up a swatch.

Before that can happen, I need to decide how I want to prepare the fiber and spin it. I have already pulled out Jillian‘s Yarnitecture book to help me work out my spinning strategy for this project! Can you guess what I’m designing? I’ll provide a big hint, I’ll be writing about this combination next week too.

more sampling

Suri/California Variegated Mutant fiber

Suri/California Variegated Mutant fiber

I want to better understand how different fibers behave when spun with small changes made to process all along the way. What happens if I draft differently? How does this fiber behave as a two ply or a three ply or a chain ply? Sure I can read about it, but I will learn by doing.

I picked up this ball of Suri alpaca and CVM (California Variegated Mutant) through a friend a while ago. I think it will be interesting to use for this experiment.

Yes, there will be a notebook involved!

something for me

Merino & Yak blend

Merino & Yak blend

I bought this braid of Merino/Yak when Happy Fuzzy Yarn was going out of business earlier this year. It seems appropriate to spin this summer for a variety of reasons.

From past experience I know that I adore the fiber. The hydrangea colourway make me happy and I am smitten with how it works on this fiber combination. I need to spend some time to first decide what it will be after it’s spun and the best way to get there.

daily practice

Elemental Fiberworks & Akerworks mini spindle

Elemental Fiberworks & Akerworks mini spindle

This isn’t really swatching, but I’ve mostly only been spinning once a week when my task list reminds me to post #tuesdaysareforspinning to instagram. I really want to move on from the red section of this beautiful Elemental Fibers (it’s a rainbow spectrum) and eventually free up the Akerworks mini spindle for other projects.

My goal is to try for 5 minutes of spinning each day.

snow day spindling

When it snows (and sleets) in mid-March, sometimes you just need to spend a bit of time with a spindle in a bright happy colourway.

turkish spindle with happy fuzzy yarn bfl/silk

Pictured is a tiny turkish spindle with Happy Fuzzy Yarn BFL/silk in colourway Kelp.

Slow spins

After spinzilla, I like to focus on slow spins. Why? I enjoy the process and working through the lessons I learned during the week of intense spinning.

What did I learn?

I have a default spin setting. I haven’t completed a WPI calculation on my yarn yet, but I believe it’s quite similar to last year.

I’ve decided to embrace this current characteristic of my spinning.

What am I spinning slow?

First up is Elemental Fibers in colourway spectrum on my mini Akerworks spindle. My goal is to make it through the red section by the end of this year.

Elemental Fiberworks & Akerworks mini spindle

Next is spinning through 245 grams of fiber from Bartlettyarns. I purchased it at Maryland a few years ago. This first skein is 126 yards. My goal is to spin consistently and match this initial spin.

Bartlettyarns spinning

I’m trying to limit my active spinning projects, though I’m also trying to expand my spinning repertoire. A few months ago I began to spin this Happy Fuzzy Yarn batt on one of my neglected beginner spindles. I really disliked spinning them as they’re large, but I wanted to try to spin a different yarn than my default. While I did ok for the first yard or two, I quickly defaulted to my standard spin. Tonight I switched to my 13g tiger maple featherweight bosworth spindle (purchased in 2008) and quickly settled into a more enjoyable spin. It will be chain plied.

Standard spinning & Batt

How was my Spinzilla?

To my complete surprise, my 2016 Spinzilla was equivalent to last year. I’m happy as it means I am spinning more efficiently as my total credit yardage was the same.

PSG 2016 Spinzilla results

What’s the plan for all this handspun?

Stay tuned! I expect a few of my recent skeins will soon be up in a shop to look for new homes. If you’d like to be one of the first to know when they’re available, please sign up for my monthly mailing list, it arrives to your inbox on the last Thursday of each month.

getting ready for spinzilla 2016

Spinzilla 2016 is fast approaching. This year the event runs from October 3rd through 9th. Signups are open now.

What’s Spinzilla & How do you join?

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It’s an annual week-long event sponsored by the Spinning and Weaving Group (SWG) of The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA). The $10 registration fee supports the NeedleArts Mentoring Program.

The goal? Share the joy of handspinning!

The challenge? To have fun and encourage spinners of every level to spin as much as they can throughout the event. Yes, there are prizes for who can spin the most, but as it always coincides with the Jewish holidays, I ignore that detail and while I try to spin as much as I can, I set another sort of goal for the week.

How? You can join a team or spin rogue.

Penny’s 2016 Spinzilla Goal

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I plan to practice worsted drafting and to produce slightly over twisted/plied yarn that I can use to knit into new winter mittens. I’ll probably chain ply all my singles as I still love that technique.

I’ll be spinning for team Happy Fuzzy Yarn, please join us!

Spinning Resources

YarnitectureYarnitecture (my review) by Jillian Moreno

I’ve been adding to my pinterest board (may take a moment to load):

2016-09-13-spinning-socialmedia