Troubleshooting: Spindle Hooks

Can any of you lovely spinners share some advice with me? I love spindle spinning–so easy to take with me–but I have yet to figure out a good way to remove the yarn from the shaft. My current method is to loosely hold the end of the shaft while I wind it off with a ball winder, but that has problems. How do you all do it?

One of the primary problems with that method drew my attention for a frequent flaw in good spindles: wimp-ass hooks. You know what I mean–the tiny thread of wire poked in there and bent into shape as if it’s not going to have to be reshaped every three days. So annoying. But here’s how you fix that problem: stick a better hook in it.

Step 1: Remove the old wire.

You can probably do this with no hands. Maybe get some pliers if it’s giving you trouble, but I have yet to meet the wire that wouldn’t just pop out. Most of those thin wire hooks that are so prone to bending do not have screw bases, but if it’s really giving you a fight, try lefty-loosey to get it moving.

Step 2: Buy a cup hook.

These 1/2″ brass cup hooks from Home Depot work pretty well. They have bigger sizes if you’re working with a large spindle, but for smaller, you’ll need to check out McMaster-Carr. They go down to 1/4″ and also have some interesting stainless steel options for 1/2″ hooks. The downside there is that you have to buy in high quantities, but they’re much cheaper per unit than Home Depot, and if you’re a big spinner, you might just go through them. Besides, I find cup hooks to be more broadly useful for house projects, so it probably doesn’t hurt to have too many lying around.

Step 3: Pre-drill the hole.

Seriously. Don’t just try to screw the hook into the wire’s hole. It’s not big enough and you’ll crack the shaft and then you’ll have to do Step Whoops-a-daisy, which adds time and work and materials. Use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the screw post of your cup hook. You can wiggle it around if you need to make the hole bigger, but fixing a hole that’s too big is more of an issue, so stick with small. Most sets don’t have a bit small enough for the 1/2″ hook mentioned above, so take your hooks to Home Depot and compare the specialty bits to find the right one for your drill. As you drill, stop and test the hook carefully until you get the right size and depth.

Centering the hole is not the world’s easiest task, which is probably the reason for the super-light wires on so many spindles, but so far I have found using the center of an + drawn across the top of the shaft as the center point of the drill bit to keep my spin true enough, and doing that once has been, for me, easier and more accurate than futzing around with heating and bending those stupid wires into place every other day.

Step Whoops-a-Daisy: Fix that cracked shaft.

Didn’t read step 3 very carefully, did you? It’s okay. I did the same thing the first time I replaced a wire hook. The fix is simple enough. Grab your wood glue and dab it generously into the cracks. Clamp the shaft back together and wait 24 hours for the glue to set. Sand off any bumps of dried glue if necessary, then go back and do step 3 properly.

Step 4: Screw in the hook.

Do I really need to explain this more? Righty-tighty. If you hit resistance, back up and drill a bit more. Because spindle shifts are so small, they are very easy to accidentally crack, so don’t force the screw to keep turning.

Ta-da! That wasn’t so difficult, right? And now you don’t have to worry about bending the hook back into shape every time you (ahem) drop the spindle. Or bang it about trying to get the yarn off. Speaking of which, don’t forget to comment and save me from my own ineptness in getting the yarn off my spindles!

Spinning Decompression

Note of a lazy blogger: I wrote this post when the dates would suggest I did, but didn’t get around to taking pictures, so…this is late.

The Tour de Fleece ended this Sunday, and I have to confess that I more or less dropped out after Day 14. Not that I stopped spinning, mind you. I just stopped spinning enough that you could see progress on a daily basis because it was hot and I was busy.

I met my goals of finishing and plying the blue mystery wool on the wheel. So…huzzah! That was my success.

Mystery Blue Spun

I ALMOST finished the dragon yarn. I got it finished spinning it Friday and pulled it off the spindle Saturday, but I didn’t get it plied. I started plying on Monday and managed to get through about 80% in an epic session before my arm threatened to fall off completely. Hopefully I’ll finish that tonight.

Dragon Yarn - Spindle Spun

Needless to say, since my final challenge to myself was dependent on finishing the dragon yarn, I didn’t tackle it. I did consider buying another spindle just so I could play with angora the way I wanted to on the 18th, but my husband would have made annoyed frowny faces, so I restrained myself. 🙂

I did, however, do something I had forgotten I would be doing during the Tour: my spinning demo for my mother’s knitting class. Teaching and demonstrating is a skill in its own right, and one I really don’t have, but the ladies were all super nice and interested in the process.

Also, when I jotted down where they could buy a spindle like mine (Highland Handmades, for the curious), one of the ladies looked at my handwriting and decided that I am a rushing river in a narrow channel, which she explained meant that I am deeply emotional and creative but with tight control. I don’t know what about my handwriting gives her the notion that I am the master of my own emotions, but best not to look a gift compliment in the mouth, right?

I’m off to West Virginia to visit my sister later this week, so perhaps I’ll have some time for the angora then. How did you all do?

Spinning Demo

By the by…I’m doing a 1:00PM spinning demo at Yardgoods Center in Waterville tomorrow, if anyone is around and curious. You’ve seen the quality of my work: this is not a class to help pros refine their skills. I was asked because one of the lovely ladies of my mom’s Friday knitting group heard that I have a wheel and has apparently always wanted to see it in action.

It’s also a demo, not a class, but if you show up with these supplies, I can probably get you started.

  • 2-3 CDs
  • Pencil
  • 2 rubber bands
  • 1 yard of wool yarn
  • Unspun roving (for sale at Yardgoods if you don’t have any lying around)

The ladies in the knitting group are delightful, so I can promise that however well the demo does or does not go, we’ll have a lot of laughs.

From Spindle to Wheel

It’s Tour de Fleece, Day 5! How’s your spinning going?

My mom called me up the other day and asked me if I would do a spinning demonstration for her knitting class. I thought she was joking, because I’m a complete n00b when it comes to making yarn and certainly not qualified to teach anyone the best way to get started. Mom reassured me that they weren’t looking for a pro, however, just someone who could fulfill an elderly class member’s wish to see how spinning works, and to see how what you learn on a spindle prepares you to work with a wheel.

I'm exaggerating the hand motions, but you can see that I let the twist run all the way to my back hand when spinning woolen.
I’m exaggerating the hand motions, but you can see that I let the twist run all the way to my back hand when spinning woolen.

I had said that spindle spinning is a good training ground to my mother, partially because I was defending my use of a spindle over the very expensive wheel she and my husband got me for Christmas. I had a sense that this was true, but I hadn’t really thought about why–the bigger whys of my wheel-avoidance being (1) spindles are easier to travel with and (2) I’m still a little scared of messing up my roving with the wheel.

You make mistakes a lot faster with a wheel than a spindle.

As I thought about how I would explain the relationship of spindle to wheel, I decided I needed to pull out the bump of blue roving I found at the Common Ground Fair last year. I’ve been saving it as my “learn to ply on the wheel” project. I also recently had a conversation with a spinner at the Fiber Frolic about the difference between woolen and worsted spinning. Not having tried both, I wasn’t quite sure what my approach was. I decided to try to do the other with this roving, just as a learning experiment, and I’m glad I did: the decision answered my other question.

To figure out how to spin woolen vs. worsted, you have to understand the concept of the drafting triangle. If you’re spinning woolen, you let go of the vertex of the triangle and let the twist run up into the base and stopping it at your back hand. If you’re spinning worsted, you slide your fingers from the vertex to the base of the drafting triangle, never letting the twist run past your forward hand (refer to photos).

What I realized, as I was trying to get comfortable with the motions of worsted spinning, is that it requires control of the drafting triangle that I didn’t have a year ago. I was able to learn this control using the park and draft method with a drop spindle. At some point, without even noticing I didn’t need the safety of parking anymore, I moved to letting the spindle hang free while I drafted, which is much more similar to working with a wheel.

You can sort of do a park and draft on the wheel, but it’s much clumsier, because if you’ve got the tension on the wheel set to pull in the yarn while you’re spinning, you get almost immediate backspin when you stop the wheel. It’s not a lot of backspin, but it’s enough to cause problems. So if you want to do park and draft on the wheel, you either have to constantly mess with the tension, or you have to hand wind the yarn onto the bobbin. These aren’t impossibly hard things to do, but working with a spindle lets you take backspin and tension out of the equation long enough to let you master your drafting control.

While spinning worsted, the twist is strictly out of the drafting triangle and fiber is fed more carefully through my front hand.
While spinning worsted, the twist is strictly out of the drafting triangle and fiber is fed more carefully through my front hand.

The first yarn I spun on the wheel is a royal mess of broken ends, slubs, and spider-thin spots, and it was tough going. When I spun it, I hadn’t worked my way free of parking my spindle to draft. I put the wheel aside for a few months to focus on the spindle and by the time I finished the lot of fiber I’d been working on, I had graduated from parking. When I joined my roving to my leader on the wheel, I found myself humming along easily within seconds, no false starts or broken ends and understanding about the important of drafting dawned.

So…long story short: spinning is as much about drafting as it is about twist, and a spindle is, among other things, a less-complicated tool for building up your skill with drafting.

2013 Tour de Fleece Daily Updates

I accept that this post is probably uninteresting to most of you, but for anyone who’d like to follow along with my Tour de Fleece progress…I’ll update this post every few days with pictures, etc. Apologies for the poor photo quality, and enjoy…

Day 1: I finished spinning up the mystery blue, worsted, on the wheel. It took me slightly longer than Temple of Doom to spin.
Day 1: I finished spinning up the mystery blue, worsted, on the wheel. It took me slightly longer than Temple of Doom to spin.
Day 2: I put one episode of Firefly into working on the merino top from Halcyon.
Day 2: I put one episode of Firefly into working on the merino top from Halcyon.
Day 3: I plied the mystery blue--plying on the wheel for the first time. My singles were only about a yard different in length, which I was pleased with.
Day 3: I plied the mystery blue–plying on the wheel for the first time. My singles were only about a yard different in length, which I was pleased with. Took about ten minutes longer than an episode of Firefly to ply.
So I failed to spin on Day 4--just managed to skein off the mystery blue at 215 yards. Today saw some small progress on the merino.
So I failed to spin on Day 4–just managed to skein off the mystery blue at 215 yards. Today saw some small progress on the merino.
Finished the first half of the dragon merino!
Finished the first half of the dragon merino!
TdF Day 8
Managed to pull the first half of the merino off the spindle and lead on for the next half. Not a ton of yardage, but I’m over the setup hump, so maybe Day 9 will be an epic spin fest.
Today I wired two electrical outlets and did a fair amount of wall demolition so...minimal progress.
Today I wired two electrical outlets and did a fair amount of wall demolition so…minimal progress.
Yesterday was a rest day, so I went to my mom's and worked on sewing a dress. Today, I got in some good spinning with an epic session of Pathfinder and punnery.
Yesterday was a rest day, so I went to my mom’s and worked on sewing a dress. Today, I got in some good spinning with an epic session of Pathfinder and punnery.
More progress on the merino. Getting close to done...
More progress on the merino. Getting close to done…
It doesn't look like much, but progress it is.
It doesn’t look like much, but progress it is.

 

Tour de Fleece

I have been newly introduced to a spinning event this year called the Tour de Fleece (you need a Ravelry account, which is awesome and free, to play along). Because we fiber spinners just don’t spend enough time being mistaken for people who do crazy bicycling for exercise, the fiber spinning community sets itself the challenge of spinning every single day during the Tour de France and attempting a major challenge on the challenge day of the race, which this year happens to be July 18.

This is the bare minimum I'm hoping to spin during Tour de Fleece.
This is the bare minimum I’m hoping to spin during Tour de Fleece.

I’m on the Rookie team for the time being, in hopes that I’ll connect with benevolent spinning masters who love to share what they know with us n00bs, but I have a few specific challenges for myself between now and July 21st:

  1. Finish the blue mystery wool I’m spinning worsted on the wheel.
  2. Ply said blue mystery wool…on the wheel. This will be my first wheel plying, and I can’t lie: I’m nervous about it.
  3. Work up the dragon-red yarn on my new spindle and finish as 2-ply. This is a speed challenge that will necessitate carrying the stuff with me.
  4. Blend and spin some angora. The challenge here is a new fiber prep technique and a new fiber, so I’ll be in double need of luck for that. I’ll probably tackle this with my new spindle, so part of the challenge with the red is to spin both halves and get it plied before the 18th so my lightest spindle is ready for me to tackle the tough stuff on Challenge Day.

Spinning every day, I might find myself working through the fiber faster than I anticipate, so I might make it as far as working on my Romney lamb and Jacob alpaca fleeces that I’m hoping to coax into a nice, soft, durable, deep gray sweater yarn.

Good luck to all my fellow spinners! Happy spinning!