Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Modern Day Spinning Circle

Hand crafted spinning wheel
The spinning wheel pictured to the left is a lovely piece of craftsmanship from the turned spindles that form the wheel to the carved hearts and other embellishments.  To the man operating the spinning wheel, it is a piece of fine furniture as well as a fine instrument for creating yarn.

At any large gathering of spinners you could expect to see variety of spinning wheels in operation.  The size, position of the wheel and the treadles might vary but that large wheel shape tells you your seeing a spinning circle. 

spinning circle

Many things have changed since it was necessary to spin our own yarn.  For many of us it is now a leisure activity and we see the opportunity to join a spinning circle as a pleasure not a necessity.

The spinning group of the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners meets every Tuesday from 10 am to noon.  Members bring their wheels or knitting with the intention of working.  They also bring their problems or triumphs to share over a cup of tea.  Of course there is always a spinning circle as these just form spontaneously if there are more than two spinning wheels in the same location.  It is something to do with all that twisting that goes on.

But take a peek at the latest Tuesday spinning circle and you'll see a modern twist.  The first hints that something is different are the  extension cords and the outlet bar.

e-spinners in cherry wood
The spinning devices in this circle are electric.  The large wheel that is romantically associated with hand spinning and history is no where to be seen.  The bobbin and flywheel are obvious but they are now being driven by a motor in the base.

So why would you want to replace that beautiful wheel in the first photograph with a far less romantic electric spinning wheel.  Well, that lovely wheel is heavy and an awkward shape that is difficult to store and transport.  In that way it really does resemble a piece of furniture.  The electric spinners are bread-box size (does anyone have a bread box anymore?).

 The traditional wheels pictured above are driven by foot power and while that gives one an excuse to knit colourful socks and booties it also means you must be able to coordinate what your feet are doing with what your hands are doing.  Getting all those parts moving in a synchronous fashion can be difficult at first and impossible if you have health issues that effect your lower limbs and feet.

blended fibres before spinning
Even with the electric motor assist, the spinner is still very much in control of the final yarn, from selecting, dyeing and blending the fibres to controlling the thickness and amount of twist.  It is still very much "hand spun" yarn when it comes off that bobbin.

Raw fibre and the final yarn

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Building a Sample Collection

Sheila's lace samples
New weavers are often advised by the more experienced to make and finish samples of their designs before committing time and yarn to the full project.  Few of us follow through with that suggestion at first.  It seems we have to learn from our own disaster, the scarf that was stiff as a board or the sleazy top fabric that wouldn't hold together.

If you work from a recipe then the author has done the sampling for you and will give you the appropriate materials, structure and sett and finish.  The more you deviate from the instructions the more likely you are to have surprising results that can be good or bad.

If you work from your imagination and yarns bought at a thrift shop then the results will surely be a surprise so you'd better do some sampling early in the process.

 Sampling doesn't just mean weaving a small section.  It includes wet finishing because the "magic in the water" can cast a truly evil spell on your hard work.
yardage sample

A collection of samples can be a valuable resource.  It is worth setting up a system for retaining samples and information so that they are easy to retrieve and interpret.  Don't limit yourself to your own samples.  Broaden your collection with designs from other weavers.  There are several sources.

Guild of Canadian Weavers

 Before weaving software was common weavers shared designs through printed materials which often included a small sample of the cloth.  Today it is easier to check a WIF file and a photo in an on-line source but something important to textile artists is always missing.  For us the texture, drape, loft and sheen are just as important as the weave structure.  Sample programs like that of the Guild of Canadian Weavers still exist and many study groups have limited sample exchanges. 

If you have attended a lot of workshops with "round robin" sessions then you will have acquired an excellent sample collection to help you recall the lessons.  These can be the starting point for your own designs.

workshop notes


sample of pique

Take a second look at the first photo of Sheila's samples to see 9 variations of a simple design with huck lace accents.  She has explored colour effects and played with the placement of the huck lace and has a lovely collection of mug rugs/samples.

sampling crackle treadlings

                                          MARCH SPINNING AND WEAVING CLASSES

Our winter workshops continue with spinning and weaving classes for those who have some experience and would like to increase they skills and knowledge.  Participants in the "Twill Treadlings" class will be coming home with a most useful sample, a guest towel with decorative rosepath.
guest towels
The spinning class will look at the history of spinning, wheels, various techniques and tips for spinning and plying plus an overview of yarn consistency and diameter.

spinning socks
For more information on classes contact us at