Isn't Ravelry an amazing crafting tool? Up until a month ago I didn't even realize that there was such a thing as Russian Spindles, and I had not considered trying supported spindling either. I was happy with my suspended spindles and my wheel... Then I learned of this "other" method of spinning... and how this method might be the most appropriate way for me to spin lace weight yarns from my Fuzzybutt's baby coat... I was fatally intrigued! And then I discovered Orenburg lace.... *faints from Gorgeous lace!*
This: (see above) is my new Gripping Yarn Russian Spindle! (laying on a bed of Plucked Angora that I bought a long time ago, and was still too afraid to touch!) I found out about Lisa Chan's spindle creations on a Ravelry forum for Spindle-Candy. I learned that for fine lace weight yarns that the supported spinning method was the best way to go, and that shorter fine fibers, even more slippery fibers worked well with this method too. I have a growing pile of very soft combings from the Rutti-bunny, which I would like to use to make something light and soft and airy. His fur is such a soft silvery grey... I know some people say that the baby coat is not really great for spinning, but I don't want to waste it either.
So. Having learned all of this... I decided I needed to try this! Enter Lisa: Spindle creator and Spinner Extraordinaire! Custom spindles, turned specifically for the buyer, from whatever specified wood the spinner wants and the artisan has in stock, and then mailed out in as little as 2 weeks! I couldn't believe it! Her wood selection was extensive, and each one was so beautiful I could hardly choose. I settled on a basic and practical Walnut in a mid range weight. Lisa was quick to communicate by email, and the finished spindle was sent out in a snap!
The day it arrived in my mailbox... I couldn't possibly wait to get all the way home before tearing it open! The long skinny box was too much to resist! She also included a pretty sample of Merino fiber to practice with. (I spun it as soon as I got home... sorry folks no photos!) I didn't have a proper spindle "bowl" so I've been using a little Pyrex finger bowl. I know it isn't traditional, but it works for now :)
But there isn't a hook on that sucker? Marky, understandably was a little skeptical that one could create yarn with this "stick"... but I got right to it... sitting cross legged on the floor with the spindle standing in the bowl, and me basically standing on my head trying to see everything and catch the knack. Lisa's spindling videos on YouTube are very clear and easy to follow. It's clear from watching her handle these puppies - Not only does she make a fine instrument... she obviously knows what she's doing too!
Basically, by standing the spindle in the bowl, this means that the thread being created can be very fine, as it doesn't have to be able to support the weight of the spindle itself. Also, as the yarn builds up on the spindle shaft, it doesn't matter that it gets heavier... because the weight of the spindle here is basically irrelevant.
To make the yarn, you spin the top of the spindle shaft with a flick of the fingers, which in turn adds twist to the fibers and creates a thread... which is then wound onto the shaft for safe keeping. I actually find this method fairly fast, even for very fine threads. It is methodical and relaxing. Flick, draft, flick draft, flick draft, wind. repeat.
I breezed through the first fiber that came with the spindle... then I "handy plied" it back onto itself to make the lightest softest 2-ply I've ever made. (Again, too excited to wait and take a photograph of either the spindle, singles, or finished yarn.... at least I'm consistent!) Since I have also become intrigued with Russian Lace - specifically Orenburg Down Shawls - I also ordered the Gossamer Webs Design Book, which conveniently arrived in the mailbox just a few days after the spindle.
I started to knit the basic sample that is the first pattern in the book.... I love the sideways construction of the lacy points... and the way that the scarves/shawls are knit in one piece with stitches grafted and picked up to maintain the continuity of the design. I love the geometric patterns... mouse prints, strawberries, fish eyes, pine trees, and scalloped borders.
I also love the gossamer, ethereal, almost floating texture of these shawls. A well made Orenburg shawl (large in size too) can be pulled through a wedding ring. I'm not sure how long it will take me to make fine beautiful yarns like that... but first things first! here is what my sample looks like knit up. Sadly I ran out of "thread" just before the finish line... but it still gives me an idea what the yarn would look like knitted, and how the basic construction methods fit together. I had hoped to wet block, but I can't do that to an unfinished swatch I guess :( Better luck next time!
I love the lacy little points... so much that here we go again:
The swatch was knit on a 2.5 mm Knit Picks Fixed Circular, since I think all of my DPNS are tied up in one pair of socks or another. Apparently Orenburg lace is usually knit on straight needles... I will need to find some!
Since the first spindle photos were taken, I have about 0.5 ounces of that Angora (an oatmeal shade... and so so soft and light) built up into a nice cop of singles. The center is starting to bulge and grow with each session... I will remember to take photos this time. I promise! I plan on plying this with some natural silk - I have some natural colored hankies that I think will compliment the angora very well, providing some more strength to my fine little thread, and also lending some shine!
How do you say "I love this thing" in Russian? I Love this Thing!