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Summer Q&A: Ask Your Catch-All Questions!

There were a bunch of good, but unrelated to each other, questions asked last week when I started the Summer Q&A series with “spinning from the fold.” What’s more, the Q&A format worked out pretty well for handling the summertime blues!

But then Monday snuck up on me with no topic planned. How could I have let this happen, you may ask? Well, it was a pretty busy week on various fronts, with some deadlines and secret-for-now projects, and a few surprises and unplanned things came along too.

The first was that Edward came home from camp with a God’s Eye recently. He’s wound it and rewound it and he was rewinding it for the umpteenth time when I said, “Wanna see a trick?”

“Sure!” he said, and I showed him an easier way to wrap it neatly. He was enthused. “Do you have stuff to do more?” he asked, and I went looking. On the way to the yarn room, I asked him, “More… of WHAT?”

“Stuff like God’s Eyes,” he said. Turns out I really didn’t have much in the way of popsicle sticks and inexpensive acrylic (go figure), but I did remember that a while ago, I’d scored an old potholder loom on eBay — you know, the kind that uses knit rag loops? Yeah, admit it: you remember those things. But let me refresh your memory all the same:

There he is with his very first potholder (it’s since been pressed into service in the kitchen). No sooner was that one completed than he was setting up for another.

I had to work hard at restraining myself. I mean, as long as he’s interested in something like that, there’s literally no limit to the projects I can find for him. It would be far too easy for me to get overzealous and totally overload the dude and ruin all the fun.

I also did not cackle with glee when, at bedtime, he said, “I just want to finish this row.” It’s just as well I kept my mouth shut, too; Chad gave me a very pointed look.

In the morning, we were heading to go see Chad’s grandfather in central Ohio. Getting ready and getting into the truck, briefly we couldn’t find Edward. He’d dashed off to the family room and started a third potholder. The loom and sack of loops went with us. By the time we arrived, he’d made two more potholders, which he presented to his great-grampa with delight. And when the lad went out to the truck to bring in a diversion, instead of the Nintendo DS, he came in with loom and loops, and started a fifth potholder.

“I’m trying to make it so it’s checkered,” he said. And he figured it out.

After visiting a while, Chad looked at me. “Hey,” he said, “Why don’t you go give your friend Beth a call, and see what time her shindig runs till? If it’s late enough, we could go up.”

So that was the second surprise: we hit the road for Howell, Michigan, to see Beth at The Spinning Loft where she was having a summer solstice event.

I freely admit to pausing to consider whether or not I had enough projects with me, and mentally praising myself for always packing more than I need (I mean, it’s not like we had a change of clothes, but I had projects, so who cares about clothes?) and then laughing at myself because, hey, where were we heading? Right. A place with ample project resupply options.

Except… maybe I hadn’t considered everything after all. On the road, I took out my cell phone and called Beth again. “Hey,” I said. “By any chance do you happen to stock loops for potholder looms?” The boy was looking like he might run out. He finished his fifth, sixth, and seventh potholders on the drive to Michigan.

Halfway through Toledo we hit an incredible storm. It was pouring to the point that you really, truly, couldn’t see anything. We pushed on. It was dramatic. The weather eased… and then not far into Michigan, the rain picked up again and suddenly turned to hail.

“I don’t know how well this bodes for a dyeing-on-the-porch type of event,” Chad commented. I agreed that I hoped it wasn’t pouring in Howell.

We had a great time, and Beth’s new shop layout is great! While she didn’t carry potholder loom loops, she did have some other small loom setups, and we scored Edward a little tapestry loom and some coned yarn. He painted silk hankies and made a sizeable dent in the cookies. I got to try out that Mach 1 wheel finally. As for Chad, he’s just a saint. He did get to look at some wheels he’s never seen (you know, because there do exist wheels I don’t have and have not owned yet, and Beth has a number of them for sale).

We made it home a little before midnight. Sunday we caught up on some chores, and then the next thing you know, it’s Monday, and I haven’t figured out what my topic for the week might be. Whoops.

I haven’t finished spinning this yet either:

but when I do, it’s destined to be Anne Hanson’s new scarf, Elm Row. Possibly stole-sized, depending on what I get for yardage.

So, like I say, there are some really good questions that aren’t related to a specific single topic, that came up last week. I’ll tackle some of those this week, and since I’m doing that, go ahead! Ask me another. It’s random catch-all question week.

32 thoughts on “Summer Q&A: Ask Your Catch-All Questions!

  1. Long draw! I assume that it isn’t a vast conspiracy aimed at confusing me, and that presumably some or all of the many folks who claim to do it actually can.

    But I can’t. Lumps, bumps, then it all falls apart.

    I’m fairly proficient with the draw that I use, and have been doing it for quite a long time. Which may well be part of the problem – that technique is completely ingrained.

    I was hoping to corner someone at SOAR and make them show me, but I’m on the wait list so that may not happen. (*pout*) So here’s a challenge: can you explain (again) in words (and/or pictures) so that us poor incompetents can finally get it???

  2. I’ve always wondered. How do I know when my drop spindle is full?

  3. OMG, I had one of those and I LOVED IT. I still think those made the best potholders ever, though the ones I made when I was Edward’s age have shrunk with time, usage, and washing. I miss those.
    Oooh, and piggybacking on Phiala’s comment – I’ve seen you mention supported long draw. I do what I think is the long draw, but I don’t know what supported vs. not supported is.

  4. Both my kids, and before that my sister and I, wove those pot holders; your son’s story has resurrected so many memories!

    I’m not a fan of tencel, yet I see it everywhere. I’ve had it cut into my fingers when spinning it. It’s faded in commercial and hand-dyed yarns. Only plus I can think of is its’ shine. What am I missing?

  5. The way I learned to do long draw is with a tahkli and cotton (and the obligatory lots of cursing). Most ready-prepared wools are too compacted for a long draw to work easily IME (tho Abby’s discussion of spinning from the fold is changing my mind on the subject… need to free up a spindle to try it). Cotton is great for long draw since the fibers are soooo short and fiddly. Unless it’s a long staple cotton, the fibers are just too short for a short draw to work, so it forces you to do a real long draw every time. And even when you’ve got inch long cotton fibers, it’s still incredibly short compared to the average wool. Heck, most of the angora I’ve spun has a longer staple and is less slippery.

    I don’t particularly *like* long draw on drop spindles. I can do it (after years of practice), but I prefer the more worsted style yarns that a drop spindle is so good at doing.

    I don’t remember the difference between supported and unsupported. I just remember that whichever one is “typical” American is the one I don’t do, because it will seriously tick off my cotton.

  6. I made those too (totally obsessively!)

    I’d like to join Phiala in the request for a clear explanation of long draw…cause I’m missing something!

  7. I second the long draw for a discussion. How, when, why, and what. I keep hearing about long draw and lofty yarn, but I don’t really understand how to make it so.

  8. What are your favorite methods of dehairing (like qiviut or cashmere) and separating a dual coated fleece?

  9. OK so on the green bobbin up there in the photo, why are you mercilessly wrapped around the infeed hooks like that? The poor thing is choaking to death.

  10. Potentially great spinners must think alike! Before getting here and seeing the long draw questions I formulated mine:

    Long draw, short draw, supported, unsupported, inch-worm, woolen (long draw?), worsted (short or inch-worm with pinched twist formation?), and other terms like “modified” are used to describe the drafting/spinning of fiber. I think I get the long/short difference which is kind of intuitive, but supported/unsupported? Is that about pinching off the twist?

    Is there any chance of developing a grid that explains this stuff in an organized way? Or is there one around already??

  11. Three things –


    Ditto on dehairing qiviut.

    And what did you think of the Mach 1?

    (Also, turned the heel on sock two. Its…kinda fun.)

  12. May I add my voice too to the request for help with the long draw. I know there are different ways of doing it and thus far I’m struggling on both the high whorl spindle and the wheel.

    I tried spinning from the fold today on my spindle and and it went as well as might be expected for a first try. Tomorrow I will give it a try on my wheel. We’ll see how that goes!

  13. Consistence concerns me greatly.

    I started out lumpy – I improved – and now I’ve reached some kind of plateau where I’m not getting any better…and it upsets me.

    I understand that sampling is recommended and I tried (I spun singles, saved some and plied the rest, saved some and finished the rest – and then tried to spin to match my unplied, unfinished sample of singles – which was taped to a card and hung on my wheel).

    I failed and I don’t know what I did wrong and I don’t know how else to become a more consistent spinner. I want to be able to decide if I want fingering weight or laceweight before I begin – and then have it turn out as I intend.

    Please help me, Abby!

    (Notice how I refrained from saying “Help me, Abby-wan Kenobi…you’re my only hope.” Oh, crap.)

  14. Potholder loom! OMG, I love mine. I made so many of them, and went door to door selling. They were very popular…in the early 50s that is! I also remember the teeth munching my fingers…and the package always had one or two loops that were way to short…grr.

    Yes, long draw and consistancy! repeat..consistancy. I really like “Abby-wan Kenobi” Right on.

  15. I concur on consistency and long draw. After reading some, I’ve been trying to work on it with a new spinning project, and I do find myself sometimes defaulting to my learning forward draw.
    and thanks for all the info on spinning from the fold. when I clear up the bobbins, I’m going to try.

    one other question… I think the shot above is one of the first bobbins of yours I’ve seen that is not evenly wound. but in your usual pictures, it does not appear that you are using a woolie winder (but I might be missing it). are you wheels fitted with a winder? if not, how are you getting such even winding? to do that I’d have to be stopping constantly to adjust. (and I know why the green bobbins looks choked! – your yarn is in “park” – I do the same to mine).

  16. …..because she is a twist/speed freak. She likes to keep every bit of freaky twist in her yarn so she wraps it tight like…..Is that right Abby?

    My wheel was making a gentle knocking noise today, I looked down and under the right treadle was a Bionacle (sp?) peeking out.

    I want to make Bionacle art yarn now. Boy would take me to court, no doubt.

    oh………….long draw. sorry.

  17. oh and if you need Qiviut to clean and de hair, I’m so your gal. Got tons of the stuff. Tons

  18. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of people asking for clarification on long draw — but how about the difference between long and short draw?

    And a big thank you for the very clear, photo-heavy answers on spinning from the fold — I’m going to try it as soon as I have a bobbin free. (Turns out spinning enough yarn for a sweater can be slightly bobbin intensive. Who knew? Last night I had my first “I wish I had a second wheel” moment.)

  19. Not a topic but a comment…
    Fun to see Edward on the potholder loom, since I too have an “only” son (now 22 yrs.) At that age, he also was intrigued by needle weaving small pouches on a cardboard loom. I showed him how to put a loop on the pouches to attach them to his belt. Shortly after that came belts and guitar straps on the inkle loom. Now he prefers to work with wood or wire (as in electronic stuff)…but his fiber education will never go to waste.

  20. Your kid totally reminds me of me at his age . . . And I would say totally go for the active encouragement! My mom was always vaguely “supportive” craft-wise, would buy supplies, pay for classes, etc, but somehow I lost track of everything fibery and am only now regaining it . . . Although equally my mom herself is not so much of a fiber person–she used to cross-stitch and sew, but ever since she’s no longer a stay-at-home mom mostly she makes commemorative samplers and doesn’t finish them. And of course cross-stitch and sewing does not make for that great of a stash to raid. But I am rambling. And the point is: kids like your son (& me, if it comes to it) who are really good at patterns in their head ought to actually do crafts, and I really wish I had.

  21. So, here’s my question: If I want to get good at spinning, should I work on a pound or two of one fiber till I can make a decent three-ply of a certain size from it, or should I flit like a vagabond butterfly from fiber to fiber, 2-ply to 3-ply to singles, an ounce here, a pound there, whatever, till … till I don’t know when actually. What I’m trying to ask is, how does one get good at spinning in general?

  22. here are a couple of spindle questions:

    1) how can i join several spindles-full of singles together, assuming that i don’t want to make knots?

    2) if i’m spinning, for example, a hand-dyed top, and can’t fit the fiber on one spindle, but i want to preserve the color sequence: is there an easier way to attach the beginning of the second spindle-full to the end of the first spindle-full, that doesn’t involve winding off multiple times (to get the ends i want to join available)?

    hope these questions make sense…thank you, abby!

  23. He’s a goner. He has fiber in his blood. Well, I probably shouldn’t gloat so soon but…. gloat, gloat. 🙂

    Yay for parties! What do you think of the Mach 1?

  24. Denny has tons of quivet?

  25. That is one cool kid?

    (I wanted it to be a question :-P)

  26. Your son is too cool! Will you post his weaving creations?

    I too would love further information about long draw when spinning.

  27. i LOVE his pot holders! we used to have one of those stashed away in the front closet. it was in the rainy day bag, and any rainy day i’d run to get it. i can’t wait to see what he comes up with on his tapestry loom!

    so i have questions for the Q&A:
    -long draw….how? hahaha
    -how does your treadle speed effect your finished yarn? how about with plying? are there times where a slow treadle is totally worth it?
    -wheels. how did you choose your wheel? which wheel do you find you use most? regular wheel maintenance tips?
    -spinning sock yarn: best fibers? best plying method?
    -letting your singles rest. is that something you NEED to do? when do you need to do that? before plying?

    i’m sure i’ll come up with more! hahaha

  28. Allllll riiiiiight!! I’ve been needing a supplier for the famous “potholder loom” potholders since my kids grew up (and the Rugrat is still a bit young at 18 months. Maybe.) My stash is getting low, and heaven forbid that I should go get store-bought ones! Tell Eduardo I’ll buy some of his if they are made of all cotton (’cause sometimes you accidentally get polyester loops, and they melt.)

  29. I’m trying to do some research on e-spinners. Where can I find information on all the different brands, and how they differ? Why did you decide on the Roberta (as I’m guessing you did your research before getting that one)?

    I dito the asker who wondered when you know the spindle is full.

    And do you have any opinions on hook vs no-hook on spindles? I’ve never tried the half-notch, can you go through the steps?

    Love your posts, as always.

  30. I was wondering if u could possibly put compm fibers and their adtributes

  31. sorry about the spelling

  32. Is there any difference between Elm Row and just four repeats of the elm leaf pattern in the Barbara Walker Treasury? (The second one.) I’m curious.

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