By Amelia © August 16, 2019

Every specialty has its own vocabulary, but a word shared by many is "stable". It's an acronym:

"Stash Beyond Life Expectancy"

I knew I was STABLE with my fiber stash, but I'm a newly empty-nester and looking at spending part of the year in an RV to have some fun before my grandparent years (no hurry, kids!) The US has so much natural beauty to enjoy and I've not had much opportunity since family camping trips as a child - Camping as a parent is work, so thanks, mom &dad!

This upcoming long journey has me planning out what to take and revisiting my "stable" of fibers and yarns. In so doing, I found that I was not only stable, but likely STABLER - I had Stash Beyond Life Expectancy and Reincarnation! If skeins were horses, with my stash, beggars would ride (to borrow a pre-automobile metaphor).

The pre-sale stash (well, a corner of it...)

I cut my stash in half right away with a stash-busting and extra-tool-busting studio sale in my studio and on Facebook and Ravelry; my friends near and far helped with the redistribution and well-wishes for my journey - I may even have added a few stops as we circle the US, so look for some meet-ups along the way or let me know when your group meets and I will try to drop in when I'm near.

It took a hard dose of realism, and Netflix providing the Marie Kondo series, to get me to admit I had too much of both fiber and tools. It's been a blast rehoming fiber and tools - so much fun to see friends and make new ones as they found special treasures and spindles they've been wanting, and the messages of how I got them started with my book, Productive Spindling (available online from Bosworth Spindles while I am away from my own copies) or classes they took (and yes, I am still teaching! Happy to do a group or private lesson while I'm on the road if we can merge timeframe and location :-))

But I digress. Half my stash was still STABLE. I did some back-of-the-napkin math on how much stash I'd need for the trip. If I did a fair bit (okay, a lot) of spinning, cranking, knitting, crocheting, nalbinding, and weaving, I might have the following "output":

  • 2 pairs of socks/week on the sock machine
  • 1 scarf or tote a week on the rigid heddle
  • 1 crochet/knit/nalbound had per week on the hook or needles
  • 4 oz. cotton/week on the charka
  • 4 oz wool/week on the wheel or spindle

Now, that's likely at least double the output I'd be likely to produce since I plan to be hiking and exploring as well - and I'm bringing a ukulele so there should be some play time as well! But it's still a starting point, so let's work this through. If I assume a 40 week journey (it could be!) and 4 oz. per scarf/hat/socks, that works out to 60 pounds of fiber. So I started out with that all lined up in the hallway and the reality that it was too much, sunk in fairly quickly.

But there is a bit of a rethink I do need to do - the handspun will feed into the crochet, weaving, and cranking, so if I spin for a week and then use that fiber the next week, and don't overload myself, then I would have a fortnightly (that's 2 weeks) plan of:

  • 4 oz wool, spin then weave/crochet/crank
  • 4 oz cotton, spin then weave/crochet
  • 4 oz yarn to crank, weave or crochet (or nalbind!)

That feels more do-able, 8 ounces of spinning every 2 weeks and some commercial yarn so I don't feel pressured to spin everything. But to be completely honest with myself (and you!) even that may be overreaching, if I get distracted by sight-seeing, ukuleles, or writing ... but it feels right as a starting place.

So what does that reduce my number to? 12 oz times 20 fortnights = 15 pounds. Heck, that's very doable in the RV - my clothes probably weigh more!

The "finalists" in the trip-fiber selection.

When I did mail order and wool shows, I had a lady who showed up at Black Sheep Gathering each year to buy her wool for the year - so it is possible to avoid stable (and even lots of stash). I'm hoping my reset and time on the road will give me a different perspective on fiber acquisition and use.

The fiber going with me fits in this nice large (waterproof!) tub, which can ride on the back of the RV on the rack:

The tub, filled to capacity with fiber & yarn.

I'd be interested to hear if you are a "stasher" or have a more just-in-time fiber acquisition policy - let me know in the comments!


© August 16, 2019 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

Why should I care about twist?

By Amelia © July 15, 2016

My nephew is visiting, and amidst my studio spring cleaning, I found a NIB Duncan butterfly yo-yo, so of course I offered it to him. He knew exactly what it was and proceeded to rip open the package and give it a spin.

Only to be sadly disappointed because it has been sitting on the shelf for too long. The string's twist had re-formed itself, and so when spun, the string will unwind, but then the yo-yo spins at the end of the string rather than rewinding back up.

A yo-yo string looks like a very tight 2-ply but is actually a folded cable — a 3-yard length of regular cotton string is taken, twist is added (a lot of twist!), and then it is folded on itself so that it cable-plies, with a fold at one end. That fold is really important, as it is then opened up a little and the yo-yo's middle pole is put there. That's right, your standard yo-yo is operating on a specially twisted piece of string. Each one has to be made for the yo-yo, since each one has to have that fold.

But any yarn left wrapped tightly on something long enough will lose its twist, and that's what's happened to this yo-yo string. The center portion no longer wants to be twisted on itself, so the yo-yo doesn't try to wrap itself up again once it reaches the end of its string on the unwind.

I plan to recuperate this yo-yo string the same way I wake up dormant twist in singles after plying: warm water. I want to see what it takes: warm water, or hot water, or even possibly steam.

Twist is always important to me in my spinning, and this little yo-yo string exhibits exactly what I caution new students about: dormant twist. When singles sit on your bobbin or spindle for even a weekend, the plying has to take that into account. You can use warm water to figure out what a balanced ply looks like, and then ply your yarn to match that sample. I talk about this further on several posts on this blog.

And, if that doesn't work, then I will make a new yo-yo string from a cone of non-mercerized 10/2 weaving cotton. After all, there's gotta be a spindle or wheel around here somewhere ...

© July 15, 2016 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

What's a Dealgan?

By Amelia © July 2, 2016

One of the things I really love about spindling is that there always seems to be more to learn. I came across yet-another-new-to-me spindle type recently, the Dealgan. So, what's a Dealgan? It's an 18th century Scottish spindle. A little piece of wood, really, about 5-6" long with a knob at the skinny end and a bulb at the far end, with a flat bottom and an X cut into that flat bottom.

My first contact was the information provided by Lois Swales of Missing Spindle, who posts about them on her blog, sells reproductions on etsy, and has several handy YouTube videos for exploring this historic spindle. She's been out for a while, though, so I looked to NiddyNoddyUK (also on etsy) for one.

Now, if you've looked into spindle shape at all ... Okay, if you haven't go and read Which Spindle Spins the Best? on this blog, I can wait. So, now you know that you want rim weighting and a skinny shaft - neither of which are evident on the Dalgean. It won't spin for a long time, and generally won't go that fast with a flick, so it's best suited to spinning in limited space (seated, perhaps) and medium thickness of yarn. I've been experimenting with lap spindle techniques and drop spindle techniques, and funnily enough I seem to get the most speed by twirling it from below with all my fingers, rather than trying to flick the shaft with my thumb and index finger. I plan to keep exploring, and look forward to trying out plying.

Why this shape and size, then? Portability, durability, utility. All are possible. It's one sturdy piece, so it can be dropped, tucked away, or even thrown with little chance of harm coming to it. It forces you to wind a sturdy ball similar to that wound on a nostepinne, and the conical shape means you can pop the ball off when you are done.

That reminds me of a very interesting question asked on an Ask The Belwether post on Facebook: why wind a plying ball if the yarn comes off your Turkish (and Dealgan!) spindle as a ball? Two reasons, really: one, you can deal with singles management separately from plying this way; two, you can use speed plying techniques such as the Andean hand-roll with a Turkish, Dalgean, or other bottom-whorl spindle, or a kick-ply with a top-whorl. Yes, I was tickled pink to find out that Scottish plying is also done from a two-strand ball.

The other spindle the Dealgan reminds me of is the little Victorian silk spindle Bette Hochberg drew in her book Handspindles, made popular by Hatchtown, Will Taylor, and my own Natalie spindle. Those are one-piece spindles with their mass at the top. It's funny the way spindle shapes keep showing up in different places. I always remember that the goal of these tools is the same: creating yarn for textiles.

The Dealgan is clearly a historical spindle. I find it an interesting spindle to explore, and am sure that it will enrich my spindle-life as I experiment with it and find what it can and can't do. And, at a pinch, I may even re-explore one of the early Spindlers' threads on spinning with Mexican cocoa frothers and honey dippers.

Next, though, I plan to spend some more time spinning on rocks. No, really. I've done it before but want to give it a more serious go this time, fill a rock or two and then ply. It's something I recommend to my classes: don't give up on a tool or technique until you've tried at least a spindle-full, plied, with it. And I didn't follow through with my rock spinning, even through I did enjoy it. Definitely worth revisiting.

What's the oddest spindle you've spun with? perhaps we will explore some of my odder spindles, in future posts. Until then, here's another one to consider: Can You Spin a Sheep?

© July 2, 2016 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

What's it like to shoot a video?

By Amelia © June 29, 2016

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that there are now two more spindle videos available to spindle afficionados around the globe. These two are special for me - because I'm the one in them! Woot!


That button above will take you to Interweave's store, where you can find "Supported Spindle Spinning with Amelia Garripoli" and "Spinning on a Turkish Spindle with Amelia Garripoli". Yep, that's me - my name in lights, Ma! It is available as a DVD and as a Video Download.

Yes, I do get royalties on purchases; and they also showed me how to sign up as an affiliate, so any Interweave purchase you make through the link above gets me a percentage also. How cool is that?

But, back to the original question. What was it like? Exhilarating. Excruciating. Extreme. I've actually been in front of a camera quite a bit, but there was a room of students at the time (my other job since 2014, as faculty at a local community college). However, this time, it was different. In my head, it was different. I haven't quite nailed down the reason (care to conjecture - I'm open to ideas of the cause). My thought was that the DVD is somehow more permanent than taping a class that will be gone once final exams are completed. The equipment was definitely quite a bit more extreme than my webcam setup at the college. Impressively so. And the studio was definitely more polished than our classrooms - state of the art equipment, but no interior decorating in sight, on campus.

The crew at F&W/Interweave was wonderful - Jill, Leslie, Anne, the camera guy (Oh, I am bad at names!), the makeup lady, and the chocolate lady - very supportive, helpful, and wonderful to work with. I was impressed at how quickly things got resolved when we had to nail down a video timeline, how well they edited my course outlines to make them flow for the recordings, and how smoothly the day went. I felt valued, and was thrilled to be putting some of my knowledge into this medium. I pick up bits and pieces here and there, put them together into cohesive ideas and methods, and love sharing them with others. That's why I teach - I don't want what I learn to end with me.


© June 29, 2016 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

What's it like to teach?

By Amelia © June 24, 2016

I've been around for a while now — I think you all know that, I know that I know that, for sure. I've often thought about writing about teaching, what it's like, how I prepare, that sort of thing. I think all teachers go there at some point.

But I got to thinking about the other side — what's it like to sit in a student's chair.

>> Did you remember to prepare and bring what was requested?

>> Did you get enough sleep and food to be ready to pick up some new skills?

You see, I've been there too. I've forgotten to bring my stuff, I've come tired/hungry/upset/angry/late. It's a very frustrating position to be in as a student, and believe me, your teacher knows it.

So part of what I do as a teacher is always bring things to make it better. Bandaids are good — real ones, and figurative ones. I do consider it my responsibility to help folks' wheels stop squeaking (oil, screw drivers, allen wrenches) or rig up a temporary drive band or brake band (hemp twine and elastic hair bands), and a whole second wheel just in case someone's totally implodes or, they forgot — but they made it to class, and that's a start.

And for my spindle classes, I have collected the best of the best so that I can help students succeed. Learning to spin on a spindle someone gave you, or you found in an attic, is often frustrating. I know I don't give away my best spindles, and I see that in new students too — the spindle they were gifted I wouldn't give my meanest aunt. (I only have one aunt, and she's really cool, actually. Worth a Golding or three, if you ask me.) So my Turkish classes run on Jenkins Woodworking's Swans, my beginner top whorl classes run on my own Bellwether Spindle, and my Exotic spindling classes run on Bosworth featherweights and Forrester Akhas (sadly, no longer made). Do other spindles compare to those? Sure. And I'm always happy to see a student with a good spindle, I encourage them to use it and even compare it to the ones I've brought so they can understand what they have is good. I'm especially thrilled to see a spindle I don't have yet ... my students help me find treasures at the same time as I show them my own spindle-loves.

So before I head to a show, I get my sleep, eat my meals, and make my lists — to be a good teacher and a good student.

© June 24, 2016 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/