Why I Wanted to Learn to Spin my Own Art Yarn
Why I Wanted to Learn to Spin my Own Art Yarn
As most of you who keep up with my Facebook page, know, I am learning how to spin my own art yarn.
I keep thinking some of you must think I've gone mad. One of my biggest fears in this art thing I'm doing, is that people won't take me seriously if I do too many different things. And yet, I keep finding more craft forms and art forms to do. My interests are just too wide to contain them to one or two things.
And now I have taken up another art form, or better yet, addiction. Because, whooo boy! I cannot think of much else than spinning since I've really started a couple weeks ago.
It's a dream that has been playing around in the back of my mind for several years. Pretty much at the start of my arty business journey, I stumbled into an online friendship with Suzy Brown from Wool Wench. My mum and gran had just been re-teaching me some crochet skills and I was already combining small crochet jewelry items with my clay flower ornaments. 'Meeting' Suzy, set my burgeoning love for yarn and wool and fiber on FIRE. Her yarns were exactly what I didn't know I was looking for. Fun, textured, soft and above all, colourful!
Soon, I was buying ALL the yarns I could get my hands on, pretty much every yarn-y and spinny post on Suzy's Facebook page (her profile pic really tells you all you need to know about Suzy ;-) ) set my mind alight with new ideas for more and crazier combos of her fabulous yarns and my clay creations. Next to the crochet goodies, I started making jewelry and headdresses with the art yarns.
We chatted a lot about our love for colour, texture, about arty ideas and she infused me more and more with a love for all things fiber.
So much so, that on impulse, when I saw a little second hand spinning wheel online, I messaged her immediately to ask whether it was any good to learn spinning on. She said it was, so I went to pick it up with my dude that same weekend.
But, learning to spin was not in the cards for me yet. I was so busy with my other art and I was so content with Suzy's constant supply of yarn-y wonder, that I didn't take the time to properly learn to spin on my new old little wheel. Besides, how would I ever make yarns this cool?!
And then Suzy moved back to New Zealand. She lived in the Netherlands when we met, not super close so that we could hop on our bikes to have tea together every week, but it was definitely handy to be able to send each other stuff via the post without having to pay the ridiculous international postage fees that every post agency seems to wield these days.
So, Suzy moving and her becoming increasingly busy with her awesome business so as to have less and less time for spinning for selling, made it more difficult for me to obtain cool art yarns for a reasonable price.
Because, I am not saying at all that there are not more wonderful yarn artists out there with their own personal flair, but the ones I like are all in different countries than mine, which makes yarn buying trickier and way more expensive.
Luckily, I am very fortunate to be able to travel to the Scottish Highlands and Islands twice a year with my dude and I get to shop at the Handspinner Having Fun shop in Broadford on the Isle of Skye. I have to be economical with my yarn cravings there, though, because there's weight restrictions on your luggage on the airplane, dammit! But, I can add to my stash with maybe four yarns per trip, at least. If I have the funds, that is.
However, this all coincided with my art yearnings moving more and more away from crochet items and more towards pieces created with textured, colourful art yarns. Mostly because I had been getting more and more interested in the yarn just in its yarn form and I wanted to make things that left the yarn as it is as a focal point more and more.
In 2015 I made some arm knitted shawls with large clay ornaments that really showed off the yarns they were made with.
And then last year, I made the step to leave my clay ornaments off an art yarn piece altogether and focus even more on the lushness of my art yarns collection by making a thin, long funky art yarn scarf, just decorated with some flowers at intervals. I loved it so much! And apparently, so did my audience, because my first art yarn scarf was gone within a day! I hadn't even decided on selling it yet, when I was contacted by three people wanting it. I made two more that week, 1 thicker autumn-y one and another thin one. The other thin one was again, gone in a day. The thicker autumn-y one was quickly claimed by my mum. I decided to stick with the thinner concept from then on, though, because I felt it showcased the yarns used better.
I made several more last year, all of them long gone by now, this year I made three so far, one is gone, two are still in the shop here. The thing was, this new design that I loved so much, ate through my yarn stash really quickly! And I noticed my hoarding tendencies were striking hard at that point. I couldn't bare the idea of running out of several of my favourite yarns. Even my two annual trips to Skye couldn't add to my stash enough to make me feel at ease with using so much yarn for one scarf! And then there are some plans for the future that will require way more art yarn than I have now if they go well, and that I will tell you about as soon as I know more about what's going to happen.
All this called for desperate measures: I was definitely going to have to learn to spin my own art yarns! Insecurity about never making yarns as cool as Suzy's be damned.
I spent hours and hours reading whatever I could find online, and watching tutorial videos on YouTube (don't you just love what we can learn online these days?!) and decided to give it a whorl (hehe) with some rovings that a friend sent me a few years ago when I bought my little wheel.
It was incredibly fun, but a big mess!
It was incredibly overspun and tangled and it wouldn't take up onto the bobbin (the round part where you see some 'yarn' wound on already) on its own, I had to manually roll it on.
I discovered a huge handspinning group on Facebook, where I joined and just posted this pic with an explanation of what was happening and a question of what I was doing wrong. I got an avalanche of responses all with tips and explanations. It was great! I love that group so much. There's all levels of experience walking around there and they're all so helpful.
With this help, I learned what my wheel was doing and how to control that fairly quickly. Much quicker than I'd expected.
My second attempt at spinning a yarn already produced a usable result:
It wasn't perfect by any means, but I'm not looking for perfect. I'm looking for fun, textured and colourful yarns that can go in my art yarn art pieces. I am not looking to spin a perfect yarn that will give me a smooth piece when I crochet it up. That's yarn I can buy from many people who are much better at this than I am.
Now, art yarn is not yarn that is wonky, weird beginner's yarn that is just called art yarn. It's yarn that required technique and it has to be just as firm and durable as 'regular' yarn. But, it does not have to be perfectly straight and smooth, in fact, it's not supposed to be. And those are the yarns I love the most. They look the best in my necklaces and scarves.
Which is why I am learning to spin, just to make art yarns.
Technique wise, I'm catching on way more quickly than I thought I would, but that is probably mostly due to so many awesome videos being available online on all these techniques and the fact that I'm now quite literally addicted! I have been spinning for hours almost every day since I started, I just don't want to stop. I've been buying fiber to spin left and right, even though, technically, I am supposed to be saving up for these future plans I was hinting at.
But, when the muse calls, eh? ;-)
To leave you with some more pics: here is some more spinning I've been doing lately:
This was my second usable yarn I spun. Both of those usable yarns have already ended up in a scarf, one of which is sold already. This yarn made me realise that the flyer (the part with all the little hooks on it, it guides the yarn onto the bobbin) on my spinning wheel is not suited for spinning art yarns at all, because the orifice and the hooks are too small for bulkier and textured yarn to slide by smoothly. Luckily I found out that the maker of my wheel, Louet, sells an art yarn flyer, yay! And because he is the best, my dude got me that for Valentine's Day, whoohooo!
This yarn was spun on my old flyer still and it was spun from wool that I dyed myself with the help of Suzy at the Hand Crafts Fair in Rotterdam years ago.
And this is my favourite yarn I've spun so far (I washed it today, so I can use it this week, yay!). It was spun on my new art yarn flyer and it was my first time spinning with loose locks (the green and aqua bits, the rest is half of an art batt I bought from the lovely Esther from Star Fiber Studio on Etsy and I spun the batt and the locks in intervals around a core yarn). Usually wool locks are combed until they are all fluffy and there are several different ways to make that fluff into a big piece of fluff to spin from, there is top or roving, batts and rolags. But, you can also spin from the locks which gives a much more textured effect and is more elemental because it shows in the yarn the very basics of where the fiber actually came from. And I love that!
So that is a bit more info about this new spinning obsession you've been seeing on Facebook ;-)
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