Thursday, November 13, 2008


I knew she had a reputation as an excellent teacher, so I was looking forward to the three days that I’d be spending with Judith MacKenzie McCuin, in a spinning & weaving workshop sponsored by our LYS, Northwest Handspun Yarns. But I was blown away by her ability to take my spinning skills to a whole ‘nother level.

The first day’s class was “Comprehensive Spinning”, exploring the history of spinning, discussing varieties of fibers & their evolution, and polishing worsted & woollen techniques. Judith is a wealth of knowledge, and got us all thinking about fleece with greater depth and appreciation for generations long past.

The second class was “Spinning for Weaving”. We did several novelty yarns which were suitable for use in a mixed warp. It was in this class that I finally came to understand why my own mixed warp, done years ago, didn’t work so well. The key is *strong* two-ply (not three ply), and worsted spinning that is less likely to stretch than woollen. And if we were going to use a thicker yarn, it worked best to allow more space between those thicker warp threads and the adjacent ones. Duh (slapping self upside the head). Several of us were using rigid heddle looms, so we simply skipped two spaces on both sides of the thicker yarn. People using table looms were able to make adjustments in the reed to allow more space for the thicker yarns.

In spinning novelty yarns, I got *way* carried away & made things that were too thick for my rigid heddle loom, so when I returned home that night, I went through stash of unused handspun, and came up with the warp in the photo. I think there are probably some woollen yarns in here, but they’re pretty stable and I’ve had minimal stretchiness & only a couple of breaks. I’m weaving it off with a weft of Harrisville Shetland single from my stash.

The third day was spent “Spinning for Knitting”, so we made three-ply yarns of various weights. You can see, in the photo, that using one prepared combed top & spinning worsted, we were able to go from our “default yarn” - what we normally make if left to our own devices & not trying to do anything different - to both extremes, simply by adjusting the tension on our wheels. We adjusted in very small increments. With looser tension (less pull-in using Scotch tension) the yarn becomes finer & finer, down to what is known as “frog hair” among spinners. Adjusting tension by tightening made the yarn thicken. My thickest is bigger than a pencil. As I said, this is all the same combed top. I used the same whorl (pulley) on all except for the most extreme. I went to a smaller whorl size for the very finest, and larger whorl for the bulkiest yarn.

I’m still weaving on the rigid heddle - not my favorite, I must say, but that’s not the warp’s fault. I do think I’m coming to terms with the RH’s idiosyncrasies (and my own, in working with it).

While Moms are away, dogs will play. I’m going to need to order a replacement piece from Poland.


Blogger Leigh said...

I am so envious! Sounds like a wonderful workshop. Just the kind of thing I would love to take.

12:09 PM  

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