Welcome welcome to the first extra in our book club! Please enjoy this review of The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson, along with a test spin of one of the yarns she explored, spun by me!
When I brought my spinning wheel to the Kentucky state fair as I volunteered at the Textile desk, I found some new friends. That was back in August (2022) and I was there with my quilt guild, the Louisville Nimble Thimbles. I got all set up and was spinning some gold colored wool for a headwarmer I was finishing. Very soon after I got all set up, a woman named Martha came and said, “Hi, I’m from the friendship Spinners fiber guild, and we are kidnapping you. You have now been adopted.” And a man from the guild picked up my wheel and carried it into their space (and I got permission to do my volunteer hours with them for the day ☺️). The ladies and gentlemen from the fiber guild welcomed me in and I had an amazing time demonstrating hand spinning with them that day. One of the members, Mary, even brought a great wheel for her demonstration and let me learn how to do it for a bit.
I left ready and excited for my first in-person meeting with them and was able to come to the December meeting retreat at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY. It was great to spend the whole day with the ladies and my Momma, and get to crafting together. Communities that craft together are really fun, and I highly recommend joining one. There are knitting groups that Stitch and Bitch, there are quilting circles, basket associations, and fiber guilds! So many friends out there, so many kindred spirits to fellowship with!
At the January Friendship Spinners meeting, there was a book purge, and I was able to take home a book I’ve been yearning over for a long while, The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson. I thought this book would just be about fancy and weird yarns, and it was, but I didn’t expect to also be learning so much about fiber prep and the fiber itself.
If you’re new to the world of handspun yarn, or yarn in general, you may just think of the craft store when you think of yarn. That and or crazy, old grandmas with a thousand cats and endless threads of complicated, embarrassing, and ultimately frivolous projects. No no no, that’s not what knitting is. Not crochet either.
Yarn, both machine-made and handspun, is made from fibers, be they acrylic or wool or a cellulose fiber or a plastic or a mix—a blend. I’m not even going to go into which is better for what or why, but today we are going to be talking about hand spinning, or hand making yarn. You can do this on any of the tools for spinning, including spindles, wheels, and e-spinners. And you can use any combination of techniques to make your own, unique yarns that you can use for whatever you want—knitting, weaving, necklaces, keep it as yarn and use it as a Hank-scarf, wrap it around a hat as a hat band, tie together sage bundles, or maybe you just want a pretty yarn ball for your stash. Just make yarn. Trust me, you’ll have fun. (Actually starting the yarn making journey is often sucky and rough and just frustrating. But stick with it! It’s rewarding, I know that!)
So I’ve been spinning for like three years now. I learned from a mentor, Joann, on a drop spindle, but was *frustrated* so I gave up for a little while. Armed with YouTube knowledge, I learned on an e-spinner, the Electric Eel Wheel Nano, because it was the cheapest spinning wheel available. I stumbled along at making extremely textured yarn (my goal, I love the “beehives” texture!) with an extremely small orifice hole (technical spinning wheel term). It didn’t fit! Then, one day, I picked up a different drop spindle (a Viscount Woodturning top whorl) and meditated upon drafting, and I got it. I found out how it worked. I won four ribbons at the 2021 Southern Animal Fiber Fair in Fletcher, NC. For Tour de Fleece 2022 I spun seven full skeins on my Ashford Kiwi 3 spinning wheel to get to learn and know a real wheel, and took that to the KY state fair, winning 7 ribbons. In October 2022, I took a class in fiber wash and prep for spinning (and had attended the UK Shearing School 2022 which is a whole story in itself), so I am DUG IN. Dug in like a tick to this wooly world of fiber. Ha ha ha, I still remember my first knitting experience at the Appalachian State Knitting Club with this lion’s homespun and some size 4 straight needles. Okay, okay, I’m not gonna tell my ENTIRE story now. This is a book review! Just gotta establish who I am in the fiber world.
Anyhow, I hadn’t had too many fiber book experiences before sitting down to read this one, so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought, yarn is yarn, ya know. A regular, consistent-thickness (weight) yarn is just a regular yarn. Sarah Anderson calls these “bread-and-butter yarns”. And she says this book goes from bread and butter to cake. Okay, well, how much is there to say about a simple yarn? Ohhhhh, the nuance. Even in usage—did you know you can spin your own embroidery floss?
Something I was embarrassed to realize was the difference between S and Z twist yarn. I knew one was one way and the other was the other direction. Duh an S slants to the right like the shape of an “S” and a “Z” slants right to left. So yeah, sometimes it’s good to read a book, folks.
Another thing she illustrated (or rather, showed in a direct photo) was the difference between a woolen and a worsted spun yarn in the fabric they make. Well it’s a yarn, doesn’t it just make fabric. Uh, yeah, but it looks different. I knew that I personally like spinning a woolen type yarn better than worsted. But I learned that I like the look of a worsted fabric much more. Interesting… very interesting…
I learned the difference between Rolags and Punis, I just thought the puni was a mini rolag. Turns out, along those lines, a puni is for shorter staple-length of the fibers, corresponding to type of wool (ie a merino rolag, an angora puni?…)
I learned for prepping this super special fiber I have, I should comb it (to get the fibers straight for a worsted spin.) a woolen spin would felt the fiber. And along with the combing, most fibers you would then Diz it into “pencil roving” but this fiber would felt, so I’d just go from direct floof when spinning.
This book really made me feel more confident and hopeful in my own skills as I prepare to start the fiber arts supplies part of my homesteading business. I want to sell fiber prepped for spinning one day, and this book helped.
One thing I tested out in my test spin from this book was my joins. I learned I have, indeed, been doing them “right”, and I felt even more confident with them on this first spin after reading. Learning about things I currently doing, or was already doing I’d really interesting. I learned that how I currently ply right now is what is resulting in my “candy stripe” effect and “spiral yarn” effects. It has to do with the tension you hold on the yarn leaving your hand as you ply it. Well, well.
Another thing I learned from the beautiful images in this book was that again, I thought a regular, bread-and-butter-looking yarn was just that. Nope, a three ply rather than a two ply, gives a noticeable “pop” to lace knitting. I, personally, love knitting lace, so does this matter to me? Well, I’m definitely gonna go look at my stuff now.
Then, I found what I was looking for. Didn’t even know I was looking for it. Flame yarn. And beaded yarn. Ooooooo. Beaded flame yarn? Yes!! Please!! Okay, so I decided I’d do a test spin for this review. Beaded flame yarn. (The yarn turned into a wild, undefinable, art yarn, but this was the starting inspiration.) ((Also, it ended up not being a “flame” yarn, but I WILL have to test that too…..))
This book just kept going. Halfway in I had learned wayyyy more than I thought I would. Different in topic, different in that I didn’t even know a lot of this mattered. I didn’t even know you could DO opposing plies. Like, why would you even want to? Isn’t that like, against the rules or something?
Some of the things I learned, I didn’t even know you could control or make an impact on. Things like how socks wear out and rip up. You’re gonna adore any sock you make, your creations are precious. Can you imagine them wearing out? Nightmare. Well, sadly, it’s a realistic nightmare. Fortunately, yarn type matters, and you can make it work for yourself. Even if you’re not making the yarn yourself. Buy one of the types that are durable. If you learn, okay, a single ply lace is fragile, you now know, okay, don’t use that for socks, okay, good plan.
I learned so much from the amazing pictures in this book. Why use bouclé, I have always wondered. Well, apparently in weaving, bouclé yarn gives off a verarfeldur-esque look. Will I be trying this on my rigid heddle? Um, I think I feel the bouclé hanging on my wall vibrating, so yes, yes, I’ll be getting to that soon. The Bouclé section in general fascinated me. This is something I want to experiment with in the future—two-color, slub, double, and knit dense in a garter stitch.
I was surprised that I found a yarn I wasn’t attracted to, cabled and crepe yarn. They just don’t interest me now. Hope that changes after I try more of what does already interest me. Same with the chain ply. Interesting that that is a more durable yarn, though.
And finally, the beloved “beehives”. Oh, my heart sings. She didn’t mention “seashells” but it’s okay. I’ll just have to demonstrate that myself eventually!
10/10 would recommend for your fiber arts journey. Knitters, crocheters, fiber preppy people, weavers, and most of all spinners! Read this book! Share it with your friends, radically make these activities mainstream. And try it out.
I tried my own hand at a beaded yarn after I finished this book. Two single plies done on my drop spindle, beads added to one ply, plied on my spinning wheel with a sparkle string auto-wrapped. Lessons learned (the amethyst beads were not fun to go through the orifice hole on my spinning wheel) and success had! I ended up loving my yarn, and I hope you do too. Inspiration all around! Blessings blessings, AugustLee
Beaded Yarn, Book Review Test Spin
Welcome to book club 2023! This year I have selected 14 books (one for each month, an extra, and a partially read one I will finish) to review for you as I read through them. Feel free to read along if you’d like and leave all the comments you’d like whether you’re reading along or just reading my posts! Stay tuned for extras and fun! Blessings, August Lee
Sacred Actions by Dana O’Driscoll
How to be a Good Creature by ash Montgomery
Cord Magic by Brandy Williams
Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
Beauty by Natalie Carnes
World of Wonders by Aimee Nezuhkumatathil
The Wisdom of Birch, Oak, and Yew by Penny Billington
Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics by Dennis Klocek
American Georgics edited by Hagenstein, Gregg, and Donahue
Maddaddam by Margaret Atwoodd
Our Only World by Wendell Berry
The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- Feb 4 2023 Sacred Actions section 1
- Feb 6 2023 The Spinners Book of Yarn Designs, BC Extra