Spinning, Supported Style

Click for full size
Click for full size

There are many sources of inspiration at SOAR. One of them is the Spinners’ Gallery.

This pair of shawls were spun and knitted by Denise Bartels. These beauties were spun on supported spindles and plied on the spinning wheel. The spinning, the knitting, and the blocking were absolutely perfect.

They inspired me to pull out my supported spindle collection and spin on them again.  I have never been able to spin more than a few yards here an there (other than cotton on tahklis). I’m not sure why. It just seemed such a slow way to make yarn. But then, 2 years to spin and ply 2 oz of silk isn’t exactly blazingly fast either.

It also has never occurred to me to spin wool on supported spindles either. I don’t know why but I only associate short fibers with supported spinning.

Pacific Evening Shawl
Pacific Evening Shawl

Once I returned home, I pulled out my supported spindle collection. I only have 3 in my collection so I took them out for a test drive. One of them has some cashmere that I started at SOAR in 2012. I didn’t get very far with them. I spun a bit, and it was a bit of a slog.

Briney Deep Shawl
Briney Deep Shawl

I pulled out another spindle and a small bit of merino/silk that was leftover from another project. This went much better, especially once I pre-drafted the heck out of it before spinning over the fold. But the spindle shaft was too fat at the tip. I will need to sand it down.

Spun Singles!

Then I went to the 3rd supported spindle I have. It is one of a pair that I purchased years ago at another SOAR. One is maple (cashmere project) and one is walnut. Both gorgeous, but heavy. Really heavy.

Feeling a bit like Goldilocks, I looked around and found the stone bead supported spindle I made years ago and a bit of sample fluff from Corgi Hill Farm, I sat down to spin.

I think I’m finally getting it! It will be a while before I gain proficiency, but it’s definitely looking like lace weight yarn!

Will this take over as my preferred spinning method? No. I doubt it, but it is nice to have this successfully in my spinning repertoire.

On The Go Spinning Kit

This post falls under “Things you learn at SOAR, but not during class”.


John pulled one of these out one night while we were yakking and spinning. What is it? It looks like a giant suppository, doesn’t it.

It’s an extension cord safety seal for outdoor extension cords. It keeps the cords from pulling apart and protects the junction from the elements..


But, as you can see, it’s also the perfect size to hold a Golding Micro 2″ RingSpindle along with some silk.


And here it is with my Golding Napalese Manadala spindle.

You know what I like best about it? It keeps the hook end of the business away from my silk supply and messing it up!

Creativity Happens

Felted Beads Bracelet
Felted Beads Bracelet

So much of SOAR happens outside of the official activities. So much is shared over a cup of coffee, tea, glass of wine or meal.

Above bracelet is an example. As we were enjoying our cup of tea after lunch, I noticed the bracelet on Loyce’s wrist. Next thing I knew, we had an impromptu mini session scheduled for that evening. Someone ran out to buy some paper clips. (Yes! Paper clips!) We reconvened with little bits of fluff we had around, some soap and warm water. That’s it. With some instruction from Loyce, we were chatting, chaining paper clips, and rubbing wool in soapy water.

More ideas came out of this bracelet tutorial — fat round beads, smaller/bigger paper clips, use of findings for closures, necklaces, earrings. Quick and easy stocking stuffers! Finally, a use for all those scrappy fits of fiber waste from spinning.

SOAR Workshop

Spun Silk on Bobbins

SOAR was fabulous as usual. It’s always wonderful to spend time with people with the similar passions. The creative energy is so strong that it is almost tangible.

My 3 day workshop this year is with John Mullarkey on Tablet Weaving for Spinners. I’ve taken several tablet weaving workshops in the past, even one with John. I’ve taken silk spinning classes before. But this time, the workshop combined the two — spinning silk specifically for tablet weaving.

Tablet Loom
Tablet Loom

I have woven bands with my own hand spun silk in the past, but they were inkle bands. The threads had fuzzed up during the weaving process. With tablets, I expect even more abrasion. So I wanted to see how John spins the silk to withstand the abuse.

We spent a bit of time on the basics with some 10/2 cotton warp he had set up before we started spinning.

The orange and the purple threads in the above right photo were spun on the wheel. The green/yellow and turquoise were spun on my Golding drop spindle. I have found that I get better twist and ply consistency with my spindle spun than on the wheel. I’m not a treadle counter but more of a tactile spinner. With the drop spindle, I spend a bit more time touching the threads before winding on.

Spinning these threads on a drop spindle takes a bit longer but it is also more portable. Besides, tablet weaving requires very little yardage. (I found out that I’m really bad at estimating yardage. As in, I spun about 3x more than what I needed.)

Band on the Loom
Band on the Loom

My default silk spinning is pretty fine. I didn’t want to mess with it because I was in the midst of spinning silk for a different project. I was afraid that if I changed the grist for the class, I might have problems with the other project.

The band at right used 12 cards. My woven band was about 1/4″ wide. The other bands in the class ranged from 1/2″ to 1″. Yeah, I’m glutton for punishment.

The colors I chose didn’t have enough color and shade contrast to show up well with the fine threads. You have to look close under good light but it was enough to keep me going.

We all wove the same draft. It was amazing how different everyone’s bands looked based on color and thread size. More experiments!

Of course, I couldn’t just turn cards the same way the entire time. I played around a bit on the same warp: fish going in one direction, then the other with a pair of kissing fish where they met; crosses; ovals; and arrows.

Tablet Woven Silk Band

2013 Spring Cleaning #4 Update

blocking in the hotel room

I just realized that I never published any photos of the pre-finished shawl on the blog!

Sorry about the horrid picture. I finished the last of the knitting on the plane to and at SOAR. I ran back to the room between evening events to block the shawl the night before I had to turn it in. So not only was this photo taken on my phone, it was in a dimly lit hotel room.

Good thing I had a large room to myself, even if it was covered in mold and mildew. (It was a fun asthma filled week.)

A big thank you to Jen for bringing her blocking wires for me. I didn’t want to fly with mine.

SOAR 2011 Gallery