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Are there ever absolutes in Spinning Yarn?

Posted: 15th November 2021
Author: Catherine Wright
Longdraw workshop

A member of our Spinning Group was telling us the other day about the workshop she attended with a very well respected spinning teacher who is no longer with us. The purpose? - to learn how to spin yarn. This teacher had a huge knowledge of spinning and was technically brilliant. During the class, she slapped the spinners hands if she felt they were spinning incorrectly. Not a huge deal maybe but probably not something that would happen in any class today. Was that lady so convinced that her own spinning was the absolute pinnacle of perfection that she felt she could hit her students?

Learning to Spin gorgeous handspun yarn on an Ashford traditional wheel at the Textile Biennial
Teaching Spinning at the Textile Biennial in Blackburn using Ashford traditional wheels

Why Would Our Spinning Differ?

During lockdown I was able to devote so much more time to my own spinning practice and learn lots of techniques that I had previously not had time to, searching through all the great's books and blog posts.
The only thing I became certain of was as I took in more and more information and one thing I say on all my classes is, 'ask ten different spinners, get ten different answers'.

There are so many variables in how we spin yarn, wheel, style of spinning, fibre, our own mood(!) that the only thing I can be sure of is as a spinner you have to find your own way. This is evident in the wpi system we all use which can have huge variations whether we wrap tighter than someone else, whether our yarn is washed or unwashed and what commercial yarn we are comparing it to (commercial yarn brands differ in gauge which is why we're told to use the specific yarn used in the pattern and knit a tension square, which I know you all do)

Although the wpi system can differ from person to person, I would still recommend measuring as you go. This will help you maintain consistency in your singles as you go. We use our Spinner's Apron to measure our wraps which negates the need for tools which sometime go missing.

How wraps per inch can vary

The wpi chart that Felicia Lo of School of Sweet Georgia demonstrates this perfectly and I do love this chart for it's huge variations. Click here to link through to the original post

So, I think as spinners, we have to find our own way. We take in all the information we can from more experienced spinners than ourselves, books, attending spinning workshops etc but we need to start at some point to document our own spinning journey and experience.

When you spin your singles at a certain wpi - what does that lead to as a plied yarn for you as a spinner? Knit a square, keep a record. Do a breed study, there are so many suppliers now from large mills to small mills who work with local producers to farmers who prepare their breed specific fibre for spinners, links below. We need to start having the confidence in our own spinning ability and experience and tailoring our projects to our own technique. Surely that is what handspinning is all about, a skill that is unique to us. What an amazing thing that is.

https://www.worldofwool.co.uk/ for tops and carded fibre

https://www.benridgewoolworks.co.uk/ A small mill working with local farmers and producers, carrying over 40 wools and blends

https://blackcheviot.com/Farm in the highlands of Scotland producing fibre for spinners from their own flock

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