It'll be February, then! It's been a cold winter and the evenings are still long, which makes for lots of spinning and knitting time, but there is still colour to provide inspiration if you can get out there. Here are some batts I made from two colours of merino and a little silk based on a picture I took of some frost and snowflakes on some moss. These batts and a link to the original photo are here:
Read on for this month's round-up of spinning news from handspinner.co.uk, the blogosphere and the world wide web...
Thank you to everyone who entered January's prize draw.
There were plenty of good suggestions and as a result... look out for wool dyes, more fibre, and the offer of free postage for orders over £30 will now be applied to carts which contain a mixture of items from both handknitter.co.uk and handspinner.co.uk
I found it very exciting when it came time to find out who'd won, as I've come to know many of the names on the list. I entered the information onto a spreadsheet and then used a random number generator to pick a row. The name that came out of the 'virtual hat' was SecretSheep and her prize is on its way to her.
Up for grabs this month are new copies of two of my favourite books.
In Sheep's Clothing by Nola Fournier and Jane Fournier is an A-Z of sheep breeds and the characteristics of their wool. It is definitive reference you'll want to keep close to hand. As soon as I'd flicked through it for the first time, I was in no doubt I had to have a copy on my shelf. It also contains expert advice on preparation, blending, carding, combing and plying.
If you know Amy King from her Spunky Eclectic blog, you'll know that her work is colourful and original. Her book Spin Control is suitable for new or experienced spinners looking to create useful as well as unique yarns.
Know your worsted from your woollen and be able to decide which is the right one to use. Know your top from your roving and whether to pre-draft. Be comfortable and knowledgeable about your wheel. Make soft, bulky singles, durable cabled yarns, tweedy yarns with rich texture and color and serviceable 3-ply that holds up to heavy use. This thorough resource will broaden your horizons.
This draw is open to anyone, just order anything from handspinner.co.uk during February. At the end of the month I'll have an order number picked at random.
I will still welcome comments and opinions via this page, but obviously the prize draw is now closed.
The Wild Carder is a smaller, lighter more portable drum carder with longer teeth and a built-in adjustable packer brush to deal with chunkier funkier materials and "added extras" to produce a thicker batt.
You can now add a packer brush to your big Ashford drum carder. This brush helps pack the carded fibres into the teeth of the large drum and allows more fibres to be carded and results in a thicker batt. It also helps control fine low crimp fibres. No holes to drill, it bolts on to Ashford fine and coarse drum carders.
Merino is very fine and beautifully soft - perfect for felting and spinning. Easy to spin into yarn of any weight. I have added four new 'pastel' colours; honey, ice, lavender and spearmint.
We touched on worsted vs woolen earlier in connection with Amy King's book. An article in the most recent Spin-Off magazine decides that there are seven different ways to draft your fibre, and the method you use will affect the characteristics of the finished yarn. I came across these Youtube videos from ruthmacgregor - the first shows long-draw from a rolag which will give a nice fluffy woolen yarn. I like the way that she starts her single-treadle wheel hands-free with a little kick from her foot.
The second shows a short-draw technique which makes a denser, smoother yarn.
This spinning wheel has ball-bearings, sliding hook flyer and ready-to-go out of the box. And it's made from a bicycle wheel!
Alternative, handcrafted, affordable. But US only. If anyone makes 'alternative' wheels in the UK, please let me know!
Even if an old wheel is in working order, it's often missing its spare bobbins, and in the absence of a standard bobbin size, it's not possible to buy additional ones 'off the shelf'.
Dorothy of Dot's Fibre to Fabric has written a post about her new bobbins for her antique wheel. It's a great post with lots of information and pictures, including a link to woodturner Mike Williams' website.
Monika has spun some beautiful yarn using hand-dyed BFL-Viscose-Bamboo. She "just sat down and knit" this amazing shawl without a pattern. The result is quite stunning.
I've really been enjoying this blog, which gives a fascinating insight into life on a Devon farm and in this post devonfinefibres talks about shearing time. It's a reminder of how much work goes into producing our raw material. The Bowmont breed is gaining a reputation among knitters. With a very cute picture too.
Another blog about raising sheep - I love this post in which patchworkfibres writes about the differences in her Jacobs' fleece and talks about the distribution of the nicest locks, britch wool and kemp
You can now buy acid wool dyes along with the Ashford Book of Dyeing - look out for my review of that book soon. I hope to shortly have silk, cashmere and other fibres available on the site.
As usual, if you know anything spinning-related, please let me know.
If you're reading this newsletter on the web and would like it delivered to your email inbox every month, just fill in your email address at handspinner.co.uk .