Spinning for a Project- the Yarn for Wolkig

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I spun six samples of yarn for the Wolkig Cowl, and each time I was wrong about what I wanted.

First I spun four singles, I was sure the yarn I wanted would be one of these. I spun two with a worsted draft and two with a woolen draft. For each set I spun the top in two directions vertically from the end and from the fold. 

In the first photo, the singles top to bottom are worsted drafted from the end, worsted drafted from the fold, woolen drafted from the end, and woolen drafted from the fold.

The singles did what I thought they would, the worsted was sleek and dark and the woolen was lighter and showed more fluctuation in color. The yarns spun from the end looked marled and those spun from the fold, speckled and had variation in where the colors landed. They were fine, albeit a little overspun for a stand-alone single, but I just didn't like them.

The worsted drafted yarns swallowed up a lot of the subtleness of colors, and the woolens just didn't do it for me. I really thought the worsted from the fold was going to be my yarn, smooth yet with a air and a speckled color due to spinning from the fold. It does that, but I don't much like it. I will knit a wee sample to be sure. 

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Here's where being a spinning is the best. Those four singles yarns are what the pattern calls for, they are the most like the commercial yarn the designer used, but I don't want to use them. I don't much like how they look, they don't show off the  fiber enough - I can't even see the sparkle! I'm also concerned about instant pilling with the woolen singles. Since I spin, I can take the parts I like about those four yarns, as well as match the gauge of the project and come up with a yarn that I do want to use, something that highlights the fiber and might protect the yarn a little from pilling.

Based on the singles above I knew I wanted a woolen drafted yarn, with an additional ply. I spun two, one from the end (woolen draft on worsted prep) and one from the fold (woolen draft on woolen prep). Yes, this is much more of what I wanted! I couldn't catch the sparkle in the photos, but it's there. Again I was surprised, I thought the yarn spun from the fold was going to be my yarn, I almost didn't sample the yarn spun from the end.

In the second photo, the top yarn is drafted woolen from the end and the bottom yarn is drafted woolen from the fold.

It's the 2-ply yarn, drafted woolen from the end that I like the most.

Next, I'm going to knit small samples to check gauge and measure all of the bits of my yarn before I start spinning for the project.

This amount of sampling took an afternoon and used just over an ounce of fiber, not much time or fiber.


Spinning for a Project - Wolkig Cowl

Wolkig Cowl photos by Martina Behm

Wolkig Cowl photos by Martina Behm

The Wolkig Cowl by Martina Behm has been in the back of my mind as a project I want to spin yarn for since it came out in Knitty's First Fall 2017 issue.

When I came home with some Hipstrings merino/silk fiber that my daughter oohed and ahhhed over, I knew I had a fiber match.

To help me get it done I'm going to track my process here. Let me know what tips and tricks you have for spinning for a project.

The first thing I do when I spin for a project that calls for a commercial yarn is to dissect the yarn the pattern was designed with.

Wolkig was knit from Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend Fino, a fingering weight yarn. Here is the yarn info I can find.

  • 70% merino/30% silk
  • singles
  • 6-7 stitches to the inch knit in stockinette
  • 1550 YPP
  • 16-18 WPI - this is a guess, since I don't have the yarn in hand. I based it on a combination of YPP and knit stitches to the inch. That makes it in the range of Sock/Fingering/Sport


Hipstrings Lapis Lazuli 

Hipstrings Lapis Lazuli 

Having those yarn facts, lets me know that I can spin a yarn to match the Fino. But my next question is, do I want to? What changes would I want to make to the yarn? 

The fiber I have is a blend of Merino/bamboo/ silk/sparkle. It's going to be gorgeous, but not very durable, pilling-wise. The streaky-ness of the fiber is something to consider for yarn making too. I like not fully blended fiber blends, but I also like yarns that aren't altogether consistent.

When I spin a lightly blended fiber mix with a worsted draft, the occasional bumps caused by the fiber being not wholly blended makes me a little nuts. If I am drafting woolen it doesn't bother me.

I'd like a little more durability in my yarn for this cowl and fiber, does that mean a worsted draft or adding plies?

There is also color to consider. Not fully blending the fibers causes striping, lengthwise. If I spin it from the end it will marl. If I spin it from the fold, it will speckle more than stripe (marls look like stripes to me), and it will be woolier, adding to the durability question.

What's a spinner to do? Sample until the cows come home, or at least 3 or 4 yarns. 

You know what I'll be doing this weekend!

Holidays and a Sign from the Cosmos about 2018


Our Christmas was very low key and relaxing. We had Isobel for just a week before she was back to school to keep training for diving, so we purposefully didn't schedule much extra beyond piling on the couch. We had food, friends, and family with a bonus pile of snow.

We saw The Last Jedi and Isobel took 100 baths (no bathtub at college). I thoroughly enjoyed the spinning nest I built myself and may never vacate it. I really don't remember a more leisurely Christmas. And Henry, the lucky duck, gets another week off before he goes back to school.

I thought leisurely about 2018, trying to not be frantic about planning, goals and resolutions. That is hard for me.

I've had a very busy couple of years work-wise and would like to be more intentional with this one. But I always struggle with doing more. I have lots of ideas and want to chase them all. For 2018 I was on the mental teeter-totter of doing more online, classes, special groups, videos, something. My intuition was telling, me nope, but I kept mentally gnawing on it.


I'm teaching a lot this this year, and it's what I really love to do (along with writing and plotting things) which is what the sensible part of my brain kept saying. The truth of it is, online things are what a lot of smart people in the fiber industry are doing right now, and I felt like I should too. Or at least it's what I felt I should want to do.

These ideas didn't feel right, but I kept teetering and tottering, until New Year's Day. That was the deadline I gave myself to commit to anything new in the first half of the year. I was distracted and grumpy thinking and arguing with myself about it all, until I got quite a message about slowing down.

There's probably no bigger red flag to slow down and pay attention than to trip and fall in your own family room. It's just a bad sprain, and quite annoying, but it helped me make a bunch of decisions very quickly. No online reindeer games for me this year. I have classes to teach, articles to write and new books to hatch. That's not saying that I won't do anything new, but I'm approaching 2018 with intention, listening to my intuition, and wearing an industrial strength ankle brace.

My Key to Enjoying the Holidays - I Treat Myself Like a Preschooler

We almost always host Christmas, which for us lasts two to three days. One day relatives, one day our little family, and one day our love family.


The part that is rough is my own clashing expectations of doing all the things and simultaneously lounging in my jammies relaxing. Plus, people all the time. That is the part of being an introvert that is 100% for me, being around people is exhausting, even when I very much want to hangout with all of my people.

I have devised a way to make those in-house Christmas days fabulous for me. I treat myself like a preschooler. I think back to when my kids were little and how I'd get ready to spend a long day anywhere with them. I'd make sure they had the things that kept them relaxed and happy and I do that for myself.

I have a spot that is mine. I claim a spot that will be mine for three days. I'm lucky being a spinner because my spot is dead obvious - it's the one with the spinning wheel in front of it. My wheel also blocks anyone from going near my spot. Note that my spot has excellent light, extra pillows, an optional heating pad and a plug to charge my phone.



I have a basket of toys. Spinning, knitting, stitching, even a little weaving is all at hand in my basket. Every project is an easy one, suitable for chatting or movie watching. I make sure to have all of the tools, fiber and yarn that I need in the basket - no hunting for bobbins, the next ball of yarn or snips.

I have my favorite snacks. Notice the peppermint Joe-Joes in the middle of the basket, there might be chocolate hidden in there too.




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I keep go-bags in case I have to relocate. These three bags hold a different craft, knitting, spindle spinning and stitching. In case the socializing takes me to a different room or someone takes my spot (the nerve!), I can grab one and be happy.

I have a story. An audiobook is critical to my peace over the holidays. I can cook, clean, craft, be a little bit in my own world in the midst of it all. 

I only wear comfortable clothes and I nap when I need it. I love all of my families enough to know when I need a nap.

I do a lot of cooking, cleaning and socializing over Christmas and knowing I have my spot and stuff at hand makes me a happier Christmas elf.

I wish you all Happy Holidays!


Roller Pin Question, EDSK to the Rescue & the Holidays Are Coming

I'm feeling a little rattled by Christmas, it's coming soon. I think I have everything on track, but I'm not sure. And honestly, I don't really want to check.

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I had some questions about the roller pins in my Everyday Spin Kit. What are they and what are they for?

They are nylon pins used to hold plastic hair rollers in place for a wet-set.

My mom had those giant pink rollers to help her approximate a Mary Tyler Moore flip hairdo. I can still smell the Aquanet.

I use them for cleaning out my hand cards. The are flexible and don't nick the carding cloth.



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My Everyday Spin Kit saved my spinning today. I was setting up my Lendrum and the nut that helps to hold the flyer head on had wiggled out of place. I knew I needed a set of small pliers and I knew exactly where to find them in my EDSK. Bonus, my oil pen was in the kit too, so I oiled my wheel before I sat down to spin.


Christmas is approaching with the speed and subtlety of a muscle car.

I wasn't really going to make any gifts, but changed my mind, I'm making three and two don't have to be ready until after Christmas. They are all easy, I'm no fool.  

First up, I'm making a hat out of this gorgeous nubbly yarn. 2x2 rib watch cap, which I can knit it in my sleep or at The Last Jedi where I'll be tomorrow afternoon. 

I hope your holidays plans are going or shaping up smoothly!


Everyday Spin Kit

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I have a lot of small spinning tools, I have the ones I use myself for spinning and I have the ones I use and share when I teach. I usually keep them in ziploc bags, inside a bigger bag with medium and bigger tools like a yarn balance, handcards, a niddy noddy, my steamer and the like.  Right now it's all a big mess, especially the small tools. My personal, favorite tools and my teaching tools have migrated to a couple of giant ziploc bags, and I have to go through a gallon bag of control cards and various gauges to find my one favorite.

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This week with deadlines looming and holiday prep tapping me on the shoulder, I decided to do something about it. Not necessarily organize all of my tools, that would be crazy, but to create an Everyday Spin Kit. I have a Tom Bihn Spiff Kit which is 9.5” x 5.7” x 2.6”, that I'm going to use as my Spin Kit.

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Ziploc bags are practical, but the Bihn bag brings practical and cute, especially in bright purple (Ultraviolet in Bihn). While this bag didn't hold enough for me as a toiletries/makeup kit, it holds a lot of spinning tools. Even with the pockets full of tools there was still space to put something that wouldn't fit in a compartment between the compartments before I zipped it all up. 

Everyday Spin Kit.jpg

Here's what's in my kit: Needle gauge with a ruler, several spinner's control cards, WPI gauge, 2 twist angle gauges (one with a magnifier), three sizes of tags, tyvek wristbands, stickers, sharpie, scale, chalk line cotton, seine twine, elastics for my Lendrum, mini Eucalan, oil, roller pins, binder clip, clothes pins, 1 yard niddy noddy, a whale orifice hook, scissors, a tool that is pliers + 3 flat head and 3 phillips head screwdrivers, and scissors.

Here's what I know is missing: a small set of allen wrenches, a smaller hole punch, maybe a spindle.

What else would you add?


Thank You!

Photo by Ashley Flagg

Photo by Ashley Flagg

Before this year gets away from me, I want to say Thank You to everyone who helps me do something I love as a job! It truly makes me as happy as I look in that photo.

Thank you to everyone who bought my book, videos, or Craftsy class, and asked me to please do more.

Thank you to the event organizers who hired me and the students who came and took my classes. You inspire me every day.

Thank you to Amy, Jacey and Anne who ask me to write for Knitty, PLY, and Spin Off. I really love making all of those samples and I've wanted to be a writer since I was 10.

Thank you for reading my blog posts, newsletters and articles. It makes every day exciting to think of new things to talk about with you.

Thank you to my fiber people for spinning beside me, offering suggestions, and cheering me on because you know exactly what I'm trying to accomplish.

Thank you to my non fiber people for standing beside me, offering suggestions, and cheering me on even though you have no idea what I'm trying to accomplish.

Thank you for the opportunities, the support and the love. I am happily crying as I write this.

I am so grateful for you all.



SAFF and Butler Spinners and Weavers Guild

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I taught at SAFF for the first time this year, it was a bucket list teaching gig for me. I'd heard about Saff for years, it's one of the big mythical shows in the fiber world, along with Maryland, Rhinebeck, Taos and Black Sheep.

This was an event that went way beyond my expectations! I taught 7 classes over 4 days. I was busy, but the energy from my students and the folks that put on the show was so amazing I was never tired until dropped into bed at night.

I traveled with Beth to this gig, that's her judging fleeces (one of the great joys of her fiber life). We stopped at the Woolery (WOW! Definately stop if you are ever near) and went to French Broad Chocolate. This is definitely a show I hope to do again!

I am so proud of all of  things that Beth is doing right now, she is following her passion 100%. Are you interested in weaving with your handspun? Beth is doing a lot of great things with spinning and weaving (including Spin and Weave Alongs and a retreat). Make sure to read her blog and sign up for her newsletter so you find out everything.


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Classes for the Butler (Pennsylvania) Spinners and Weavers Guild were my last teaching stop on the road for 2017.

I couldn't have asked for a better send off for the year. Not only were these women accomplished spinners, they were a hoot!

Clearly they have been crafting together for years and are a tight fiber family because the zingers never stopped, the talking, story telling and laughing never stopped. It was fantastic! We learned about color, drafting and batts.

I taught in a beautiful building in the country, check out the Grange members signature quilt from 1971.

We all got excited about the two Woolmakers Bliss wheels that showed up in class (no they didn't know each other), and the fact that Michelle of Essential Fiber can pack a box of batts that lasts exactly until class starts.

So far I'm teaching at 10 different events in 2018 (I will update my calendar soon), I hope to see a lot of you next year while I'm on the road!