Bellefeathers! 16 July 2008

Guess what! I'm going on vacation ... as posted on, I'll be out of town visiting our nation's capitol and my New Jersey in-laws, July 18-29. So orders made July 17-29 may not be seen until my return, and I'll be busy catching up on those and new orders until about August 30 7th or so ...

Traveller in TotePlease be patient as this is something I don't do too too often. It'll be a nice change, though you can rest assured that my traveling spindling is coming with me.

I'll leave the answer machine empty for messages, and the email folder cleaned up for emails. If you get lucky and hear from me while I'm away, please understand that all I can do is rely on memory for the shop inventory, and the robotic order packing unit hasn't quite fit the budget yet ...

Happy summer spinning everyone!!

- Amelia.

p.s. Stay updated -- subscribe to the whole blog for regular spinning tips and news, Fiber Mine for links to spinning tips I find on the internet, or Bellefeathers for the Bellefeathers newsletter (for Bellefeathers by email use this link). Thanks, and happy spinning, knitting, nalbinding, weaving, crocheting, felting, and more!

Which Lazy Kate?

By Amelia © July 7, 2008

A Lazy Kate is very handy for plying. Several wheels have built in kates, or come with kates to hold 2-3 bobbins. You can fashion your own lazy kate with knitting needles and a shoebox.

I own and use three kates, in addition to those on or with my wheels. My preference is for a tensioned lazy kate, so the bobbin doesn't over-run the plying and let the singles kink up before they reach my hand.

Full bobbin treeFirst, here's my Alexandra's Crafts bobbin tree – this is great because I put the tensioner on the bobbins I’m using and not the rest, and it “stores” six bobbins for me. This picture is of it folded against the wall, out of use. This kate mostly works with jumbo bobbins, but folded they may rub against each other, so I offset them when I fold it up. Bobbins are held horizontally, ensuring a side feed (very mandatory in plying, so you don’t wrap the post). I am now carrying these at The Bellwether, contact me for availability.

SpinOlution bobbins on KateSecond, is my Nancy’s Knit-Knacks Katie-A-Go-Go – great for spindle-fulls (slid onto straws) and it holds big bobbins ~ Majacraft bobbins, SpinOlution bobbins, plying bobbins. Tensioned, too, with an orifice for ensuring a side-feed. Picture here holding the (really big!) bobbins from the SpinOlution Mach 1. I got mine, well, from me, to be quite straightforward. Nancy’s Knit Knacks also sells them directly, and many fibery places carry them – all her tools are solidly made and very functional. This can be taken apart and put into a small denim zipped sack, great for your spinner's basket.

Clever Kate, pegs stored in baseThird, my Will Taylor JMM/Clever Kate, which has 3 pegs that are held at a 45-degree angle. This acts like a tension-string, without the string (woo-hoo!). I really enjoy this kate, as it’s great for putting thread bobbins on, too – on the Alexandra, thread bobbins tended to wrap the post (I haven’t tried thread bobbins on the NKK Kate). It also stores the pegs so it is almost flat when not in use. It’s great for plying with thread. I have had yarn wrap the post from bobbins once in a while, but if I make sure it’s side-feeding, that doesn’t happen. There are two other shots of it in my flickr. Got it at Carolina Homespun’s booth in the June NwRSA conference. A friend said she saw these and promptly put a door stopper under her Katie-A-Go-Go, to good effect. Yay! that means I now have 6 45-degree angle pegs, since I have one of those, too :-)

Ogle Design KateAnd in February, 2010, a new kate has arrived: the Ogle Designs Kate (on etsy). This is a folding-flat-for-storage kate that also fits 3 bobbins, holding them at an angle when open for use. A nice choice for those who want a flat package in their spinning tote, and a solid design for plying.

My take on kates is that it's good to look at a variety of kates (like wheels) and decide which features work for you or that you want.

The Nancy's Knit Knacks Kate has the plus that it all fits in a small package, fairly flat, and you get the zippered denim carry sack with it. That's cool because if you're a spindler, you can tuck a few straws in there as well.

The Will Taylor Clever Kate has the plus of the 45 degree rod angle and that it stores the rods on the base; it's not flat when stowed, though, as the 45 degree angle is accomplished with pieces of wood that add to the profile of the board.

The Ogle Designs Kate stows the rods in the board and also uses a hinge to get the angle, so it folds flat - a nice, clean design. It uses a rod along the floor to help keep it in place, and works nicely that way. There's a bit of a bounce on the hinge with heavy bobbins on the kate, so for pure useability, the Will Taylor would be my slight preference.

All three fit wide bobbins like Majacraft & Mach II, I forget if you can get 3 Ashford Bulkys on the NKK or not but you can get 3 Mach bobbins on it. And the one I didn't mention -- the Alexandra Crafts Horizontal -- is a different style; its plus is that it can be a bobbin storage solution as well, it's easy to tote with bobbins on it; but it doesn't become a single flat board like the other three.

Oh -- another difference to note is that the NKK is a neat little square that fits in pretty much any spare corner; the WT and Ogle are likely to "stick out" a bit, being a rectangular shape, 3-bobbins-in-a-row style vs. NKK's organizing them on a square.

In terms of history, the NKK came out first, then the WT CK, then the AC Horizontal, and most recently the Ogle Designs -- so clearly folks are trying to introduce improved products into the market, pondering what they can change to make a more effective kate while potentially losing features of the older ones.

Happy Kate shopping!

For related posts, see:

Why is my plying thread tangling? for a great thread management tip.

How can I control the bobbins on my non-tensioned lazy kate?


What's your favorite Lazy Kate? Let me know, I'm always looking for great tools!

© July 7, 2008 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at Updated 25 February 2010.

What do you teach in Color Whirl?

California Coast - handspun merino nautilusColor Whirl is a fun, colorful class that will give you new tricks for your fiber paintbox!

Spinning can be on a wheel or spindle; to get the most out of the class, you should be able to spin a consistent single and ply.

Next session: at A Dropped Stitch in Sequim, February 2009.

Please bring: wheel or spindles, 3 empty bobbins, Lazy Kate, ball-winder or nostepinne, niddy-noddy. I'll provide handouts, fiber, and plenty of chit-chat ;-)

We cover:
  • Candystripe
  • Faux Cable
  • Self-striping ... singles, Navajo-ply and two-ply methods
  • Fractal plying
  • Neutral effects ... black, white, grey, brown, and the perfect neutral
  • Nub yarn
  • Color texture ... coils, snarls, beehives; great with nub singles

Along the way we'll talk about color selection, space-dyeing roving, carding, and more!

To read more on color in spinning, I most heartily recommend Color in Spinning by Deb Menz. And a new one, The Painted Skein, is in the works by Janel Laidman. Techniques from those, Intertwined by Lexi Boeger, Mabel Ross’ Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners (once again out of print, darn it!), and the video Spinning and Plying Textured Yarns by Patsy Zawitowski are featured in this class!

A Spindler's Bibliography

By Amelia © July 2, 2008.

Well, I am thinking about writing a book on spindling. Okay, so I'm actively writing already. Here is a list of those who have walked that path before me, for those interested in reading more about spindling while I'm putting fingers to keyboard and pencil to sketchpad.

I can't guarantee you can find all these books -- many are out of print, they were out of print and second-hand when I got them ~ the rarest was a surprise gift! Ah the sweetness of the human spirit. But they are all on my bookshelf amidst the myriad more-than-spindle or other-than-spindle books, well-thumbed and referred to on my path to becoming the spindler I am today.
  • The Akha Spindle Workshop by Wendy Whelan. A great pamphlet on spinning in the traditional way with the Akha spindle. No date, mine was purchased in 2003 from Gemini Fibres.

  • Gossamer Webs: The History and Techniques of Orenburg Lace Shawls by Galina Khmeleva and Carol R. Noble has a section on Russian spindling, including their interesting plying method, from spindle to plying disc.

  • The Handspindle ... Not Just For Demonstrations Anymore by Paula J Vester (2002). A good pamphlet to learn with, nice photographs and concise text.

  • A Handspindle Treasury: 20 Years of Spinning Wisdom from Spin-Off Magazine by Interweave Press (2000). Selected articles on spindling from the first 20 years of Spin-Off. Covers quite a few spindle tips like quills for top whorls, as well as methods for Tahkli, Akha, Russian, and Navajo. A nice diverse collection.

  • Handspindles by Bette Hochberg (1977,1980). The most amazing range of spindles from history, and in use today. It inspired a whole generation of wood-turners urged on by spindlers to re-create the Victorian Silk Spindle for one!

  • Hand Spinning Cotton by Olive and Harry Linder (1977). Covers almost all the tools to spin cotton -- Support spindle, bottom whorl spindle, top whorl spindle, Navajo spindle, Charka, Great Wheel, and spinning wheel. (No mention of Akhas, though). Punis, natural dyes, and use of cotton yarns. Very concisely thorough.

  • How Nikki Shared Her Coat: The Story of a Happy Dog Who Kept Her Family Warm by Detta Juusola (1994) a children's story with notes on collecting and spinning dog fur (factual part overlaps Yes, It's Made from My Dog's Fur, same author).

  • Introducing Spindle Spinning by Mike Halsey (1982) from scouring fleece, picking open locks to spin, to all the bottom whorling you can handle, singles and plies. Great sketches, thorough treatment of the material. Love the fact that it's clearly photocopies of typewritten pages, too -- can't beat that typeface!

  • Learn to Spin Cotton from Cotton Clouds. Support spindle instructions included in their learn to spin cotton kit. Nicely written. No date provided, I purchased mine in 2002.

  • Learn to Spin Cotton into Thread A nicely diagrammed pamphlet of support spindle instructions, included in a kit purchased about 2002-2003.

  • Learn to Spin Silk on a Top-Whorl Spindle by Ruth MacGregor (2002). A nice book on choosing a top-whorl spindle suitable for silk, silk types, and managing silk while spinning and plying.

  • Learn to Spin With a Turkish Drop Spindle by Wanda Jenkins (2004, 2008 with a DVD). Clearly written text and thorough photos walk you through learning to spin with a Turkish spindle. Includes the author's own wind-on for a great flat-bottomed ball of yarn. As of 2008, sold with a DVD too!

  • Navajo Weaving Way: The Path from Fleece to Rug by Noel Bennett & Tiana Bighorse (1997) has a nice section on Navajo spindle spinning (26 pages on the topic, from fleece to yarn).

  • Russian Drop Spindle from Peace Fleece. A short note about this spindle (a Turkish variant, not a Russian Lace spindle) was included with the spindle. A nice little spindle, I enjoy mine! No date, purchased in 2002.

  • Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot by Handweaver's Guild of America has spindling articles from time to time. I think they may have reprinted a collection too, but I didn't find that book on my shelf for compiling this list (darn it!)

  • Simple Spinning on Sticks and Spindles by Lionel Jacobson (1977). Gets you spindling from zero to the bottom whorl spindle in no time. Plenty of sketches and rich in 1970's style. Touches on using the bottom whorl as a support spindle, too!

  • Spin It: Making Yarn from Scratch by Lee Raven (2003) a nice adaptation with new, color photographs, of the spindling portions of Lee Raven's earlier learn-to-spin book, Hands on Spinning (1987). Covers hand carding, has some nice small handspun knitting projects in it, too.

  • Spin Yarn on A Spindle by Detta Juusola (1994) a more thorough writeup of spindling, still touching on collecting dog fur (which, granted, you are more likely to have on hand than a sheep in your back yard, if you're a city dweller!) Features her signature potato spindle and hangar niddy-noddy.

  • Spin-Off Magazine by Interweave Press, in particular the Spring 1995 issue with its focus on Hand Spindles. Many other issues before, after, and since the 2000 Handspindle Treasury collection, of past articles also touch on spindling topics (or at least have great ads! get your hands on a current copy to find out who peddles spindles online or in your area).

  • Spin-Spin by Heidi of My Paper Crane (no date, mine was purchased in 2006). Covers top whorl spindling, a little ungrammatical at times ... very current voice, I found it an interesting reflection on what the internet has done to open spindling to a wider audience.

  • Spindle Spinning (Needle Crafts 13 from Search Press) by Patricia Baines (1984). This was the surprise gift! I'd heard of it but couldn't find it on eBay, alibris, or elsewhere. A nice, easy read geared to teaching the reader to spin primarily on a bottom whorl spindle, with mention of Hip Spindles (see Handspindle Treasury for an article on the topic of Lapland/Icelandic spindles) and support spindles as well.

  • Spindle Spinning Cotton by Patricia Baines (1994). A great pamphlet on the topic from picked cotton, making punis, to support spindles. Practical and clear. Also a useful discussion of charka spinning.

  • Spindle Spinning: From Novice to Expert by Connie Delaney (1998). Covers top whorl, bottom whorl, a note on Turkish, tahklis, and Navajo spindles. Connie Delaney also has pamphlets on Akhas, Russian, and Balkan spindles -- get them to round out her book. (available on Her earlier pamphlet, Drop Spindling (1995), is completely covered in the book.

  • Spindling: The Basics by Amelia Garripoli (2003). For beginning spindlers, how to spin on a top whorl spindle, with troubleshooting tips and further projects in fleece preparation and dyeing. (See, I said I'd been writing! This one is self-published and would be used in the first section of the new book.)

  • Spinning in the Old Way: How (and Why) To Make Your Own Yarn With A High-Whorl Handspindle by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts (2006). I see this book as mostly supplanting her former (1998) book on the topic, High Whorling. Covers high whorl spindles, with a mention of Salish (looks like a Navajo in the drawings) and Akha spindles. Covers fiber processing as well.

  • Spinning With A Drop Spindle by Carol Cassidy-Fayer (1997). Covers top and bottom whorl spindles. Not many drawings, but her website has some additional useful photos.

  • Spinning with a drop spindle by Christine Thresh (1971). A bottom whorl spindling instruction book from raw fleece through plying.

  • Spinning With a Turkish Drop Spindle by Martha Moore (1996). Came with the Valkyrie Turkish spindle. A brief instruction pamphlet covering how to spindle in minimal words (very concise!) including winding on, that great mystery of Turkish spindles.

  • Using a Navaho-Type Spindle (sic) by Jan Symonds (1997) Covers the basic technique for spinning singles on a Navajo spindle. Great illustrations!

  • Yes, It's Made From My Dog's Fur! by Detta Juusola (1995). Covers fiber collection, preparation, and spinning from dog fur. Yay for our woofy friends!

Often, learn to spin kits are sold with the Interweave pamphlets on spindling singles (Low Tech, High Satisfaction) or with handwritten pamphlets on spindling singles on the type of spindle in the kit (top whorl or bottom whorl). Of the ones I've purchased, generally I find them readable and reasonably understandable -- enough to get you started with singles, and itching to move on to plying.

Most books of wheel spinning may touch on spindling; The Spinner's Companion, for example, mentions spindle types. And The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning has several sections on spindle types, use, and even construction (tahkli, top whorl, bottom whorl, Akha (Thai), Navajo (Southwestern)). And any book on fiber processing, textile history, and fiber types is as helpful to a spindler as it is to a wheel spinner.

Your learning need not stop at the printed work -- there are also a ton of on-line resources and forums for spindlers.

Did I miss a Spindle-focused book? please let me know -- there's room for more on my bookshelf, always!

You know, it's amazing I am even writing a spindling book, given the richness of the list above. Well, the hunt for a publisher is underway ... if you know of one wanting to publish a book that is a modern take on spindling, do let me know!

Guess what? The book (Productive Spindling) is now available! Buy it from me (I'll sign it!) or look for it in your local yarn store.
posted 2 July 2008 at Added book links, 8 January 2009 and 27 April 2010.