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 ...

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© 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?

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© 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!

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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.

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© 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.

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

Do you have muddy tips?

By Amelia © June 20, 2016

I was recently asked how to deal with muddy tips in a fleece, and having been through a few fleeces, I had this advice:
My favorite "tough fleece" cleaner is Louet's FiberMaster [I bought lots of this; if you can't find any, Unicorn Power Scour is good, too]. I don't use it for just any fleece -- most fleeces come clean with either self-fermenting cleaning or a milder cleaner like Sodium Laurel Sulfate. SLS is the primary ingredient in cheap shampoo, and sold on its own in feed stores, in the horse aisles.

I had a particularly dirty/gummy Targhee fleece a few years ago, and FiberMaster didn't work, so I thought I'd step it up and try some Borax and detergent. Bad idea -- that combination was very pH basic, and it not only ate the finish off my new granite sink, it also broke the fleece. Lots of fluffy clean locks (it did clean it!) that now break when you tug on them. Sigh. The fleece now lives in my "what not to do" samples on fleece washing.

So now I am back to my older tricks for muddy tips, which include trying these, in order of difficulty/time involved:

If I need to get it done quickly, I'll try to pre-soak it overnight in tepid water and then use Louet FiberMaster to wash it. I've discussed this type of fleece washing before in "How do I wash raw fleece?"

If I have time, I will use the suint washing method, letting it sit in its own water for several days. I discussed this process on some fleeces before in "Slow Wool".

If neither of those work, I know I'm going to need to rewash the fleece, so I sample a couple of solutions:

1) put a few locks in a sink of hot soapy water, put on my extra-hot-water-protection gloves, and rub the tips while they are submerged. This usually works, but involves alot of under-water rubbing, which takes time, as each lock is rubbed on its own.  When you keep them all submerged, and don't over-agitate, this is unlikely to cause matting.

2) once it's dry, pick open the fiber, with a wool picker. These are beasts, so you might ask around before you run out and buy one. Your guild or a fiber friend may have one you can try. This is usually pretty effective at opening up the tips after the first wash. Once it's all picked open, I will re-pick any that didn't open, or flick-card them open if there aren't too many, and rewash the fleece to get out that now-accessible dirt.

3) once it's dry, flick the dirty ends. This is time intensive as it, like the first, is done lock-by-lock. However, it will open the ends, and will also show you if the tips are weak. I often find that muddy tips are also weak tips. All that weather weakened their ability to shed the muck, and that seems correlated to their strength. Like the second method, you will need to re-wash the fleece after doing this, to remove the dirt that remains on the individual fibers.


Beth Smith (author of The Spinner's Book of Fleece, fiber artist, author and teacher) recently posted about fleece washing, she has some good tips on fleece washing (sorry for the pun!), and consistently gets good results: "Wool Scouring - Simple and Mostly Quick".

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© June 20, 2016 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/