Too Much Ravelry Reading

Ravelry is absolutely wonderful – IF I could stop spending massive amounts of time reading all the cool information there. Today I was perusing, as usual, the spinning sites and got to thinking about finishing singles. This is something that came up several times at my CT workshop. It seems that several folks were plunging their singles in hot water, then plunging them in cold water, then thwacking them against the deck railings to finish them. WHAT??? Well, after several people told me that they do it this way, I started asking questions and the answer I got most often was “because Judith says to do it that way.” Don’t get me wrong, I really, really, really admire Judith McKenzie McCuin. In fact, I have been chasing her all over the country, keeping up with her teaching schedule in the hopes that she will be giving a workshop close enough for me to attend. I’m sure that any class she teaches will be a wonderland of information. HOWEVER…. why go to all that work when you can finish singles more simply and still get great, useable singles to make into a fabulous project? If I were going to weave with my singles, I would be tempted to finish them Judith’s way. They should end up slightly felted and would probably better withstand all the banging about that accompanies weaving. I don’t usually weave with my singles, though, I knit with them or crochet with them. For that, I simply soak them thoroughly in whatever temperature water comes from the tap, spin the water out in the spin cycle of the washer, pop my hands around the inside of the hank to straighten it out, and hang the hank from the kitchen cabinet knobs to dry. If there is a bit too much twist, I might hang a dishcloth over the hank to keep it a bit straighter, though not anything heavy because I want the elasticity to stay in the singles.

This brings me to Spin Off Magazine. Again, I have great admiration for the information that is so generously given in that magazine. I have learned a great deal from reading it every quarter and often wish that it would be published more frequently. HOWEVER…. if all I want to do is replicate a hat that is made from two-ply yarn spun to equal a worsted weight yarn, do I really need to know how many twists or bumps per inch I need to have? I would go mad trying to stop and start my wheel to keep track of my twists per inch. I spin for the relaxation of it and to see what happens IF…. My classes have all come from my experiments of what would happen IF I did such and such. I am the eternally curious spinner. I’m not saying not to take such things into consideration if it matters to you, just that there is no Spinning Police (SP) that will come and take your spindle or wheel away if you don’t happen to know off the top of your head what your twist count is.

Another thing I noticed in CT – there were a LOT of spinners there, so it was easier to notice things – was that many spinners would get in some kind of spinning or plying bind, the wheel or the fiber would be getting out of control, and they STILL KEPT TREADLING!!! There is no rule, law, or Spinning Police motto that says “Once you begin treadling on a spinning wheel, you can never stop the wheel until you finish spinning/plying.” Nope. I checked. No such thing. If the spinning is getting away from you, STOP TREADLING!!! When I noticed this most was when I was teaching Navajo-plying. I was amazed at the first-time Navajo-pliers who felt they had to keep the wheel going and ended up with the most awful mess. From my perspective, learning to Navajo-ply is best done with the wheel working almost not at all. I showed a few folks how to do it with minimal wheel involvement and the sighs of relief should have been heard all the way to Georgia.

So what is the point of all this? K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Spinner! Yes, if you are learning a new technique, learn it properly. Yes, if you are going for your COE in Handspinning, count those twists per inch. If, however, you are spinning for the joy of it and what you are doing is getting the results you want, keep doing what you are doing in the simplest possible way. Spinning has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years. To finish cotton, do you think the ancient Egyptians boiled it after wrapping it around a pvc pipe with holes drilled in it? There were no pvc pipes!!! Folks did what worked in the simplest possible way to get the end product they wanted and needed to use in their finished weaving, netting, whatever. BTW, I’m not big on adding more heat to my Georgia home, so I usually finish my cotton by boiling it in the microwave in a Corning Ware casserole dish. It’s simple, easy, takes little time, doesn’t heat up the house, and gets me back to the spinning wheel in record time.

What quick and easy tips and tricks do you use with your spinning? Or are you doing something with your spinning that has you constantly saying, “There has to be a better way.”? Let’s hear it for simplicity!



  1. July 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm


    I edited Spin-Off for a lot of years. I *never* count my own twists per inch. I spin a bit of yarn. I test it. If I like it, I keep doing the same thing until I’m done. If not, I change part of what I’m doing. I do measure wraps per inch from time to time.

    When conveying information through printed media, it can be extremely helpful to describe yarns thoroughly. There’s a lot to learn from studying yarns in detail and with a variety of measurements.

    When I was working with Spin-Off, I endeavored to have photos that showed the yarns at full size. It wasn’t always possible, but that was certainly my goal, and it’s the thing I miss most in current issues of the magazine. If you can SEE and FEEL the yarn, you don’t actually need all the numbers. Printed pages can get half that information across, with photos printed at 100 percent.

    The numbers, in my opinion, just work hard to make up for the limitations of the communication medium.

    I may be very fortunate in having learned to spin before there were very many print resources. Elsie Davenport was my primary guide (yes, in print, and amazingly thorough information, but not numbers-oriented). Spin-Off didn’t exist yet.

    Sometimes I’m very concerned that the analytical and competitive aspects that flavor the craft in this decade may put off some folks who would love it. (While I have judged spinning competitions when the organizers have been hard up for someone to fill that role, I prefer to pay attention to the creative process, rather than the product(s).)

    Even when I was editing the magazine, I always spun for pleasure and relaxation. I still do. And I make yarn that I love using.

    Curiosity: yes. Simple. Good.

  2. July 28, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks for your great insight into the Spin-Off method. It is so helpful to hear from an insider, though I know you have gone on to other things now. I’m glad to hear that you don’t count your twists, either. YES! And I agree that the technicality of the written word can be rather off-putting to those who might like to just try it for fun. Even my beginning spinning students get confused after taking a class and then reading Spin-Off. I teach them that it is supposed to be fun, but the magazine gets so technical that they become overwhelmed and begin to think they aren’t “working” hard enough at it. I get them back on the fun thoughts while explaining that they can get to the technical parts as they go along. I’m all about fun in spinning. Thanks again!

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