Friday, February 19, 2010

Moving Closer to Self-Sufficient Knitting

Kinda like self-sufficient living, eh, just go with me on this...

I have a dream. Ok, I have many dreams...but one in particular is someday having our own farm with a sweet cow to milk (oh how I miss milking cows!), barn cats to drink the milk, chickens running all over, and most importantly sheep grazing in the fields. Ahhh, yes...sheep. Sheep that my girls can love and tend to, sheep that our dog can herd, and most importantly sheep that I can sheer to spin and weave their yarn into clothing and items for our home. It is a simple yet heavenly dream.

Before I can live this dream I need - well, money first and foremost, but I also need to learn how to do every step it takes from taking the wool off the sheep to having a finished item. Over the years I have been learning bit by bit. It does seem as though I am going somewhat backwards in the process as I learned to knit and dye yarn first, although one of my jobs was to care for the sheep when I was a volunteer at the Gentle Barn years before then so maybe I am not all that backwards...


My teacher's spinning books

Last month I moved ever so slightly closer to my dream by learning how to spin my own yarn out of cleaned and carded wool. My local yarn shop was hosting a series of spinning classes that went from the drop spindle to the spinning wheel. I started out with the drop spindle so that way I can teach K when she's a little older. Plus with money being such a huge issue for us right now and a drop spindle costing a LOT less than a spinning wheel, it was really the only way to go (maybe someday before we have our farm I can afford a wheel).


Some of my teacher's spindles set up and her lazy kate in the background

Using a drop spindle was nothing like I thought it would be. I admit I was a bit hesitant and wondered how I could have the patience to make yarn in such a manner but after just a half an hour of practicing I was completely hooked. It goes a lot faster than I envisioned and what a meditation it is! I could feel my stress melting away as each bit of fiber twisted down from my fingers to the spindle.

Now, as much as I was loving it, you could tell it was my first try. My yarn had so many lumps and bumps it looked like it was in a fight. My teacher told me that they would lessen over time with more and more practice. So what did I do after class? Practice! K really enjoyed watching me, so that made it even easier. I practiced on and off during the week, still with lots of lumps. Then when it came time for my next class, I tried a heavier spindle, took it a bit slower and to my surprise I had relatively even yarn!



You could see a huge difference between the yarn I worked on last week (the spindle to the back in the above picture) and the yarn I had just worked on that class (the spindle in front).


My funky two-ply yarn

So we took my yarn from the first class and the yarn I had just spun and then spun them together to make a two-ply yarn. It looks kind of crazy and I don't know what I would ever be able to knit out of it but I have a feeling I will be hanging on to it anyway.


My homemade lazy kate

I have to add that my teacher was amazing and she showed us so many ways to be frugal and save money with spinning our own yarn (which is one of the reasons why I wanted to learn how to do all of this in the first place - have you seen the price of nice yarn?! Eeeeeek!!!). She mentioned that spinning could become expensive, like any hobby if you go out and buy every little accessory and gadget, but really you don't need them. Just keep it simple - my kind of philosophy! She brought me in a shoe box and a couple of wooden dowels so I could have my own lazy kate to make two-ply yarn with at home. Just what I needed!



So, with all of that said: (and wow,that was a lot, guess thats what happens when I don't get the chance to post for while) I have found a new love, a new way to save money, and a new step towards my dream. Now off to the lovely little ball of pink roving waiting to be spun and knitted. Practice, practice, practice!

Wishing you all the sweetest of dreams!
Have a great weekend everyone!!

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40 comments:

britt said...

congratulations on learning to spin! let me tell you a little secret about getting a spinning wheel for cheap...ebay! i hate ebay BUT i got a louet spinning wheel sent to me from finland for $175. it was a $600 wheel!! it just needed cleaned! it works beautifully. so keep your eye out and maybe you can catch a good deal too.

Gae said...

Dear Nicole,
My dream is like yours. How I long for this type of lifestyle too.
I am wondering if you think it is possible to make a drop spindle?
I loved reading this post. I also like to save money and make as much as I can, otherwise I often can't have it.
Thank you for sharing this.
Blessings

Linda said...

Wow, wonderful spinning Nicole! It looks amazing! Aaah, I too would love a completely self-sustainable life with a cow in the barn... one day definately:) The lazy kate is awesome!
Warmly
Linda

cat said...

oh wonderful ni! where do you get your roving? and where did you get your spindle? lola would love to learn this!!!

xoxo

lavidalondon said...

I have similar sheepy, farming dreams! I just learned to use my drop spindle last weekend, and my yarn looks very much like your bumpy first try. Here's to improving!

Beth said...

Gandhi wanted everyone to spin everyday. The world would be a very peaceful place if we did. It is the most calming craft I know. love, Beth

waldorfmama said...

what a lovely dream, nicole! and what fun learning to spin. i've always wanted to try it, but never have. this may be the inspiration i needed. :) oh yes, and i can't wait to see what you make out of your handspun yarn!

Jennifer said...

How exciting, that is so fantastic when you can achieve your dreams on a budget. I'm so thrilled for you, your yarn looks great.

denise said...

we have country dreams too. i've been learning to drop spin for a bit here as well, slowwwwwly getting better. we have an angora bunny and i'm learning to hand spin her fur too. can't wait to see your future projects! :)

Melissa said...

yay for spinning! I'm not sure you would have the patience to drop spindle if you had used a spinning wheel first, so you are definately doing that in the right order. I kind of just jumped into spinning about 5 years ago after wanting to learn for so long. I bought the best wheel I could, $800. yes they are pricey, but I chose one for beauty as well as function, and I have never regretted it. It's such a wonderful thing to spin your own yarn. If you have any questions, just email me. I have done the entire sheep to garment thing, so know the processes ;o)

Kelly and Kelly said...

I'd love to see more as you do more. And I hope your dream comes true. This is all so neat to see.

Anonymous said...

Gae, yes it's very possible to make a drop spindle. There are lots of instructions online; just search "making a drop spindle" and you should come up with quite a few! Jennifer

gardenmama said...

Such a beautiful and inspiring post Nicole! We share this very same dream : ) xo

Joy said...

Very cool! I have the same dream, at least for sheep/knitting. I still need to figure out my spinning wheel! I love seeing your progress on the drop spindle. It gives me hope! Great job, Nicole! :)

momma rae said...

do you visit my friend sarah's blog, farmama? she shared a lovely story *from sheep to sweater* about how she went through the whole process (found in her sidebar). for this sweater, she sent the wool off to the mill to be cleaned and carded, but she is now taking this on herself, too. such an inspiration!

good for you for learning to spin! i was recently gifted a drop spindle and need to figure out how to use it. i hadn't even thought of finding a class at a yarn shop (silly of me, i know). thanks for lighting the fire for me! ;)

Hanna said...

Love it! I just bought a drop spindle on sale from our local yarn store (that is closing shop. Sad.)
Do you have a good source for roving? I wonder if the roving from East Earl Woolen Mills would work...
I would like a couple sheep someday, too. We already have the chickens and pigs. The Cow? Well I cow-sit and handmilk for a friend. Payment comes in the form of milk and cheese. Cows are ALOT of commitment, and I don't think I see one living on our homestead... unless it's going into the freezer... but who knows maybe when 3 small people aren't needing so much of their mama, you never know!

Holly Days Closet said...

As my Mom use to say How do you get to Carnegie Hall practice, practice, practice. I would love to learn how to spin. Good luck on your spinning.
Holly

Jessicah Win said...

Love your beginner spinning! I learnt to spin on a wheel, and have never learnt the spindle. I think I would be too impatient now! Looking forward to seeing more of your spinning adventures!

Nadja Magdalena said...

We are just getting into that dream ourselves. We have two beautiful Jersey cows and a flock of egg-layers, barn cats and a goat. We raise our own grass-fed beef and pork, too. Hoping to add to that a decent garden, bees and maybe some sheep in the future, although I have too many hobbies already and might just like to trade wool for honey or candles or some arrangement like that!

I love these old-timey crafts--I love how they allow one time to think and rest...

Your blog is so much fun to visit. You are always up to something wonderful. I need to know how to make those little folks in the eggs!

Catherine said...

That is so exciting! I have the cows, the chickens, the sheep... but I don't know how to spin... Too bad were not neighbors! I am planning on taking a class soon! It's so exciting to make your own yarn!

Mary said...

Oh, you have no idea how much I want a little milking cow... and the barn cat just makes it all the more picture perfect to dream about... Yay for you for learning to spin! I took a class a while back, but didnt have the patience to persists (someday, someday...). I just got a crackup from thinking of all of these wooden inventions that have the titles like lazy kate and lazy susan, etc. I was just picturing some pioneer carpenter inventing these things and naming them after his wife (insert carpenter grumblings about why his wife cant just hold both yarns herself to ply... ) haha! Or maybe it is just funny to me because I am a bit sleep deprived! :)

KnitterMama said...

Oh I have those dreams too but it sounds like you have more experience with farm living than me (I have only milked a cow a handful of times but I want to more). I have never learned to spin but it is on my list... You might know of this already but there is a great group of spinners that meet at the Portland Public Library (the downtown branch) with their wheels--I think on a Sunday?. They are wonderful and it looked like so much fun!

Heather said...

Learning to spin was so meditative, and I try and return to often, especially during certain times. What I find most amazing, is that spinning really makes me much more connected to the process of knitting and cloth making, than knitting does. Very strange.
Happy weekend :)

jeckabee said...

Congrats on your spinning endeavors! It's so much fun...I've always wanted to learn to spin and felt I had a knack for it if I ever got to try it. Finally about a year ago I took a day class, spun on a drop spindle and then got to try several different wheels. That's it, I was in love. Bought a wheel (majacraft rose from New Zealand) and a few Phatfiber boxes and was on my way. Wish I had a good fiber source locally I could get myhands one and need a good class or tutorial to learn to ply. Books and your tube only go so far....

Jeckabee said...

Congrats on your spinning endeavors! It's so much fun...I've always wanted to learn to spin and felt I had a knack for it if I ever got to try it. Finally about a year ago I took a day class, spun on a drop spindle and then got to try several different wheels. That's it, I was in love. Bought a wheel (majacraft rose from New Zealand) and a few Phatfiber boxes and was on my way. Wish I had a good fiber source locally I could get myhands one and need a good class or tutorial to learn to ply. Books and your tube only go so far....

Dianne MacDonald said...

Many years ago I was where you are now. I had three small boys and wanted to experience being as self-sufficient as possible. My boys are grown and I now have grandchildren, plus I have my dream of being a shepherd. It's a way of life I can recommend. There is nothing better than your own handspun yarn, from your own flock of sheep.)

renee ~ heirloom seasons said...

Now you will be spinning some beautiful yarns I'm sure! We got drop spindles as our family christmas gift. Jason and I both are in love with the process. It's been a while since we have picked it up though, need to get back to it soon.
We have lots of the same dreams :)

Andrea said...

Yes! Its the best right? I enjoy the process of spinning as much as the product. Your first yarns look absolutely lovely!!

Nicole said...

wow - this just gave me a new appreciation for my yarn stash!

Mamawild said...

Nicole, that's great! : ) I remember my first try at spinning, it was horribly lumpy. My teacher said that after some practice I couldn't make it that way again on purpose! You'll get the hang of it. : ) We'll dream this dream together.

Annie said...

looks like fun! My new years resolution is to learn to spin. I've got a drop spindle and some fiber and I'm just waiting until I get a chance to visit with my local fiber guild for some lessons.

Angela Mobley said...

Nicole, i am so glad you are spinning! You are right, you don't need a lot of bells and whistles to spin...the spinning wheel did not come about until about 1500-1600, so drop spindles were just fine thank you very much through much of human history.
i LOVE spinning and watchout...people LOVE to see someone spinning. It's magical.

healing hillary said...

spinning...i am planning to take a class this spring. have my little drop spindle and roving all ready. i also have some grease wool that we can wash and dye and spin. we are working up to it all here as well.

love that my vision is similar. although i want some alpacas too :).

love friend!

karah said...

That's awesome! I have wanted to learn how to spin for awhile but I knew a wheel would be to expensive right now and drop spindles were hard to learn on. I think I am going to have to give it a try now.

Heidi Margit said...

I encourage your dream, and knowing that you have a worthwhile goal, I know that one day, you'll achieve it! (and I will still visit you online;-) )

I have been wanting to spin too, with a wooden spindle just like in your pictures, but somehow I cannot find out how exactly it works. I know I will one day!

I hold sheep dear as well, as chicken and cats and a little cow! Lovely. Maybe add a small goat and/or a donkey? Or geese, definately geese!

Keep working on your dreams, I know you'll get there one day! In the meantime, tell your children all about them!

Loving regards,
Heidi Margit

nicola@which name? said...

beautiful. i have said before, but each time i see such independence with spinning, it makes me think of my mom's days as a weaver.
nicola
http://whichname.blogspot.com

Nicole Spring said...

Thank you everyone! I loveto see that a lot of share similar dreams. It just seems so peaceful, doesn't it?!

I got my roving from the lovely Rose at http://www.etsy.com/shop/gossamerrose Her store is only a 10 min drive or so from my house which I am loving!! I bought the spindle from my teacher it's made by Schacht. It was inexpensive but is really nice.

I am going to have to keep my eye out for a good spining wheel deal, thank you for letting me know they can be found!!

My teacher told me you can easily make your own spindles, there is even a way to make one out of a regular old cd and a woodendowel. She said the only issue with making your own is getting it balanced properly.

I do have to say, I wish that everyone could hand milk a cow at least once in their life, it really is it's own meditation, as well. I can hear the milk hitting the bucket as I type this... heavenly!!

m moon said...

I spin with unclean wool right off the sheep....that is the way I was taught it is definatly cheaper then the roving and totally easy after you get used to it

nicole said...

hi, nicole. we share in your family's dreams. I have recently began to spin using a drop spindle, and am loving the entire process. I was recently thumbing through some fiber books, and found an example for an homemade handspindle made from a knitting needle and an apple or potato. also, to save on buying yarn - have you tried pulling out yarn from a thrifted sweater? I tried this once and it worked well.

blessings, nicole

nicole said...

please forgive the typing errors in my previous comment. I was awfully sleepy when I wrote it. ;)

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