Spring image - varie coloured fleece

Preparation - for holidays and for fleece

Newsletter from handspinner.co.uk for July 2011

We're past midsummer, and so the nights are drawing in.... ok, I know the summer holidays have only just started and there's lots of Summer to go yet. Despite the holidays there still seems to be a whole lot of spinning going on. I can see that lots of folks are taking part in the Tour de Fleece (link to Ravery, requires login) so there'll be blogpicks from that in the next newsletter.

I know many spinners have also been washing, preparing and spinning this year's freshly-shorn fleece. So that's a thread running through this month's newsletter, in which as usual I compile a month's worth of spinning news, freebies, reviews, blogs and siliness.


News from around the web

Creating Colors: Project Spectrum 2011

Project Spectrum is an opportunity to celebrate or study a different colour or colour group every month.

Focussing on 'back to basics', this month Lolly continues her look at the 'additive' primaries with blue for the month of July.

This month she's said that she'd like to see pictures of blue skies. I've been able to add a couple of blue sky and water shots to the flickr pool, as well as my current sock project which is using trekking XXL 451 sock yarn, perfect for the sock pattern, and for project Spectrum, being a beautiful shade of dark blue with some very subtle shades of purple.

Check out the project's Flickr group for lots and lots of blue inspiration. If you're on Flickr, it's easy to join the group and add your own blue contribution.

There are also Facebook and Ravelry groups for chat and more information.

Project Spectrum Flickr photo pool
Project Spectrum Facebook group
Ravelry group

An Introduction to Spinning Wheels

SpinningDaily's latest free eBook is called An Introduction to Spinning Wheels: How to Choose and How to Use a Spinning Wheel + A Guide for Plying Yarn

If you've not already given your email address to SpinningDaily, you'll have to register with them to download the ebook, but if you're already using a spindle and thinking about getting a wheel, this is an excellent guide. Maggie Casey gives you an introduction to spinning using the wheel, Judith MacKenzie writes about plying, Dodie Rush adds to this with a tutorial about chain (navajo) plying and Rudy Amann names the parts and helps you to choose a suitable wheel.

Download the eBook

International bunny hop

One of the fibres I included in last month's pack was angora. Wild Fibers (their spelling) magazine have published this video which has a high 'aaaaah' factor, as well as fascinating footage of the bunnies and the fibre being processed.

The website contains some wonderful photography and more videos, so do explore that site while you're there.

Read the post

Knitting prank on film set

No apologies for this being a knitting item rather than spinning, it's very funny.

Knitting has undergone an image transformation, from unfashionable outsize cardy made by your granny to celebrity-led 'cool' status. I've so far not come across a celebrity who's taken up spinning (let me know if you know of one) but the growth of our craft has certainly followed closely behind knitting.

During filming of their new film, Tom Hanks played a prank on co-star and knitter Julia Roberts - he sent for needles and yarn from the local store and got the whole crew knitting when Julia walked in one morning.

The whole thing is captured on film - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU2juUJfwp4

From the blogosphere

Knitty's spinning Tuesdays

Did you know that Black Welsh Mountain sheep don't go grey as they age (lucky them!) or that the Romans brought the Cotswold breed to England? You can find sheepy factoids and some experimentaiton with a selection of wools in this series of blog posts from Knitty. It's good to read Jillian's thoughts on these fibres and see the results - locks of the fleece alongside a sample skein and knitted samples.

Cotswold and Black Welsh Mountain

Merino and Clun Forest

Angora, Romeldale and CVM

Leicester Longwool ( critically endangered, we learn)


Blogpick: Adventures in silk

In this absorbing post, Cecile of Ways of the Whorl takes us on a journey from spinning with a supported spindle, through some misadventures during plying to lace knitting with the plied yarn.

Read the post

Blogpick: Splendid new angora buck

In this lovely post we meet angora goat Linden Benjamin, new resident at this special Devon farm.

Angora goats produce mohair, one of the fibres I included in the June subscriber sample pack.

Read the post

Blogpick: Hot wheels

I love seeing knitting and spinning in public - but this could be one of the more extreme locations

Amy from Spinning Daily has been taking her wheel to the trackside at drag races for nearly ten years and spun while the cars roar by. Reactions range from funny looks to "that is SO COOL!"

Read the post

Blogpick: Say cheese

We've had lots of photos of shorn sheep but their camelid cousins, alpaca, are also shorn regularly. Here is a very cute collection of photos from Barnacre Alpacas

Read the post

And in this post, a new arrival with her freshly-shorn mum

Blogpick: Feeling sheepish

I was lucky enough to meet these girls recently and bring a selection of their Shetland fleeces back with me.

Read the post

The washed fleece is available at http://handspinner.co.uk/catalogue_scoured_washed_fleece_wool.html now, along with some Zwartbles. (also mentioned under New Items below).

Information about scouring fleece is available at http://handspinner.co.uk/scour_wash_fleece.html

Tour de Fleece

As mentioned in the introduction, the Tour de Fleece is in full effect as I write this. The idea is that you follow the Tour de France by spinning on the stage days and rest on the rest days. There are some additional challenges that tie in with the cycle tour too.

Plenty of spinners have been blogging, I'll do a full round-up next time, but here are a couple of my favourites from the first week:


I love the mosaic spinstar has made with her first week's photos: http://spinstarcreations.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/tour-de-fleece-2011/

News and articles from handspinner.co.uk

June offer

The response to last month's offer was quite overwhelming; getting those parcels out in my usual 24hrs simply wasn't possible. I think I've caught up now and the last handful are about to go out. I've emailed everyone concerned, so hopefully you've had that. If you asked and have heard nothing, please get in touch.

If you have received a sample pack, here are some thoughts about using them.

Some spin well on their own, some are more difficult. Angora in particular I've found very difficult to spin on its own, but it's not impossible, it doesn't seem to grip to itself, so use plenty of twist and very little take-up. There are many examples on the web of it being spun using spindle or wheel, even straight from the rabbit!

Alpaca is similar to wool, is said to be warmer and contains no lanolin, so may be good for those who can't touch lanolin. I sell prepared alpaca as sent with the sample pack, and I also have some raw alpaca fleece in various colours too. Mohair (confusingly from the angora goat) is also closely-related to wool and is silky and lustrous. Try spinning this one too with a light take-up - and not too much twist or it'll pack tight and hard.

The shorter, fluffier ones such as the cashmere may more successfully make a woollen yarn with longdraw. Again, the main message is use lots of twist, with a faster whorl to help you. Here's a lovely video on that subject http://www.youtube.com/user/Spindlicity#p/a/u/0/BCv0LtOOt0s

All of these fibres will mix with other fibres to lend their softness, and a combination like this might be a good option for the fibres that are more difficult to spin on their own - mixed with wool they'll then spin more like the wool that you're used to.

For example, I mix angora with wool. Also camel with wool and a little silk. I'm currently making a scarf from the camel/wool/silk mix - it makes a lovely yarn, it's 70% camel, so you get the softness, and the silk adds a little... silkiness!


If you're pleased with your results, I'd love to show some pictures here in a future newsletter showing off yarn that you make with these fibres. I'll send a little something in return for any photos.

Wide carder in use

By special request, I've taken some pictures of the new Ashford Wide Carder in use. I sold my own regular carder and replaced it with one of these and I've posted some photos and my thoughts after first couple of times I used it.

Read the post

New Items

Selvedge magazine, July/August 2011 issue (number 41)

Selvedge magazine is a special and collectable magazine, covering interior design and contemorary textile art.

A 'Coastal' issue with themed articles such as a breath of salt air: coastal-inspired fashion and shopping suggestions, straw hat industry in France, kelsch, blue alchemy, textiles in wind power and hang-gliding.

Read more about Selvedge magazine and preview this issue.

I also have Selvedge backnumbers 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40 in stock

Washed fleece

I have some lovely fleeces which I'm washing and selling by the 200g.

They include Shetland in various shades; light, dark, and one a beautiful mixture.

Zwartbles is a wonderful wool. As black as can be, it has a good crimp along its length and good staple length. The fleeces I have are mostly first-year, plus I have another from the same young ram as last year - he's now two years old.

Read more

If you have unwashed raw fleece, here's my article about washing (scouring) fleece and there's a podcast about washing separated locks in Yarnspinners Tales Podcast episode 59.

Nostepinne - Rosewood

Also new are these gorgeous nostepinnes. A nostepinne is a simple tool for winding your skeins into centre-pull balls using a traditional technique.

Measures 11" / 28cm. Made by a small family firm in India. The 'oily polish' finish is a family secret. It has an exquisite shine and is waterproof.

Winding a centre-pull ball using a nostepinne

Hand-turned Nostepinnes

Events 2011 (get 'em in your diary now)

Fibre East

23 & 24 July 2011, Thurleigh, Bedfordshire

Fibre East is a new festival, giving those in the Eastern, Midlands and Southern Regions an opportunity to join in an event which aims to encourage and promote natural fibres.

Attractions include a stuffing station for 2012 Olympics cushions, a 'back to back' challenge, a sheep shearing show, exhibitors covering fleece to fabric; buying a fleece and having it processsed, weaving and dyeing, handspun and hand dyed yarns. A spinning wheel surgery, displays by guilds and unusual looms and fibre-craft equipment.

Fibre-East has its own Ravelry group: http://www.ravelry.com/groups/fibre-east-2011 and Twitter stream: http://twitter.com/FibreEast



20 & 21 August 2011, Bicton College, Nr. Exeter, Devon

There will be something here to interest all those fascinated by fibre, with as wide a range of activities as possible. Trade stands offering yarns, braids and cloth plus a full range of supporting craft equipment. Get acquainted with some of our fibre animals.

Tutors will be holding inspirational in-depth Workshops, taster sessions and Seminars. Additional features include an Exhibition by Bicton's Fibre Craft Students..


British Wool Weekend

3 & 4 September 2011, Hall 2, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate.

A showcase to promote all aspects of wool production in the UK and its many uses. This event will highlight a vast range of talented craftspeople and textile artists who use British wool and its by-products in their work.

You can now book at britishwool.net/

Selvedge is feeling blue - an indigo study day

06 September 13:30 - 17:30 Fenton House Hampstead

Join Selvedge at Fenton House in Hampstead, for an indigo study day beginning with the first UK screening of Mary Lance's feature-length documentary, a talk by renowned indigo expert Jenny Balfour PaulBlue Alchemy. Ian and Bernadette Howard, owners of Woad Inc will also be demonstrating woad dyeing in the beautiful gardens.


Courses and tuition

Please let me know if you are or you know a tutor with a calendar of events.

Dear Auntie Shiela

Here I do my best to help slightly fictional spinners / knitters in distress. This month a correspondent needs reassurance after a misadventure.

Dear Shiela

With the car at the garage, I thought I'd walk to guild, or at least my equivalent of walking any distance which is my mobility scooter.

My little folding wheel fastens to the back and so no problem there, I thought.

Unfortunately, it had broken its drive band, but thanks to some bungee cords, my bigger Traditional wheel fastened on a treat.

Getting through town was largely successful, but I do have a tendency to go onto autopilot and I must have been thinking about going to my daughters. Once onto a dual carriageway, you're not allowed to turn around, so I had no choice but to keep going.

The policeman did admit that it is allowed on the road and on the dual carriageway too, but I had to take issue with the his lecture about driving in "a safe and responsible manner". The wheel was shaking about a bit but it wasn't going to come loose.

Why do they let policemen who are barely out of school stop you for no reason? The whole thing made me late and grouchy.


A: keeping a few spare bits around will help to avoid you finding yourself in a difficult spot at an invconvenient time and I hope your car will be back on the road soon. In the mean time take care.


As usual, if you know anything spinning-related, please let me know.

Happy spinning!




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A range of fibre from wool to exotic and luxury fibre for spinning, dyeing, felting: wool, silk, alpaca, cashmere, mohair, camel, yak and angora ready to spin. Also raw fleece and colour bundles and original mixes

Spinning wheels

A range of Ashford Spinning Wheels, either delivered quickly to your door, or assembled and finished for free. Also my hand painted spinning wheels. I usually have some second hand spinning wheels too.

Magazines and cards

Why not add one or two to your order? These cards, hand made by Jules of 'Always with a Heart' feature a textured sheep. Perfect for your friends or for the spinner / knitter in your life. I now stock Selvedge magazine and Yarnmaker magazine.