The Handspinner Spotlight is an opportunity for me to share with all of you some of the amazing handspinners out there in our community. It is an opportunity to see some of their work, as well as start to get to know a little bit about who they are and what brought them to spinning.
This month I have the pleasure to introduce Catrina, who many of you will know as iamcatreading on Instagram. I personally feel very inspired by Catrina’s yarn and knitted handspun projects when they pop up in my feeds in both Ravelry and Instagram. Recently, Catrina and I have been sharing our love of spinning through email so I have had the pleasure of getting to know her a little better over the last month. I am so impressed by her excitement about spinning, the world of colour and knitting with her handspun. Also, we are both married to ‘fun dad’s’ so we have a lot in common! I hope you enjoy reading a piece of her story as much as I did.
Let’s hear from Catrina ::
I’m a quiet, loyal and dependable introvert who does best working behind the scenes (I work half-time as a pathologist). I’m married to an extroverted “fun dad” and I try to go along with most of his schemes for the benefit of my two boys, aged 12 and 10. They seem to be a nice blend of their parents, enjoying the outdoors as well as video games. I grew up in northern California, where my siblings still live, but my heart has been stolen by North Carolina, where I have called home for the last 15 years. I started knitting in 2006 after my quilter sister-in-law gifted me with a “learn to knit” kit. Not long after, I found Ravelry and fell in love with hand-dyed yarns. I am mostly an accessory knitter, and would definitely classify myself as a knitter who spins, rather than the other way around. I am determined to expand my knitterly horizons this year and challenge myself with new techniques!
I am probably the most active in the Plucky Knitters group on Ravelry. Through that group, I met Amanda (wannabe), Sarah (sarie26) and Ceylan (ceylangul) and was exposed to their handspun. I fell in love immediately with knitting their handspun, and was grateful they took custom orders. But over time, I realized I wanted to be able to spin for myself. In 2010, I found a local yarn shop that offered spinning lessons. The teacher was Mary Ann Pagano of Three Waters Farm. I really appreciated that these lessons started on a spindle, but then quickly moved to using the wheel. By the end of the series of lessons, I bought my first wheel–a Schacht Ladybug. Things moved pretty quickly from there, and I moved to spinning on a Lendrum DT in April 2011, and then I opened up an Etsy shop selling my yarn in 2012 (called koneko handspun–koneko means “kitten” in Japanese, and I was trying to combine my name and my Japanese heritage). The shop was fun to stock, but I decided to close it September 2015 so that I could focus on spinning and knitting more for myself.
I consider myself fairly limited in spinning knowledge and skill as I really narrowed my focus early on to spinning worsted yarns with softer wools, using short backward draw. I am pretty sensitive to wools, so I tend to spin Merino or Polwarth and their blends. I am a bit of a magpie, too, attracted to really bright and colorful fiber. If I don’t think too much about what project I’m spinning for, I will likely end up with my “default” yarn, a DK to worsted weight 2-ply. I also tend to spin for small projects, usually not more than 4 ounces of a particular colorway. If I’m spinning a silk blend, I will likely spin a fingering weight single.
As I mentioned, my skills are quite narrow in scope. I would love to learn how to spin in a more woolen-fashion to generate more loft in my yarns. I would also love to work toward a sweater spin in a natural wool. Finally, I would love to learn how to embroider this year, and want to try spinning variously dyed silk into my own embroidery floss.
I usually allow the fiber to dictate how I will spin it. I have a tendency to be attracted to really bright, multicolored braids dyed on merino and Polwarth combed top. I generally only spin 4 oz at a time, so I try and think of what potential one-skein project the resulting handspun would be useful for: fingering and sport skeins I think of for socks, shawls and cowls, while heavier weight yarns I think of for hats, mitts and the like. A few years back, I wrote about my approach to splitting the fiber of colorful braids in a post in the Nest Fiber Studio group here.
There are no absolutes in learning to spin—you have to follow what feels right for you, whether that be how you hold the fiber or draft or treadle. There is no one right wool to start with—again, it’s what you can be most comfortable spinning. Other pieces of advice I was given when I first started that I found useful: 1) allow yourself 2 pounds of fiber to practice with—it’ll likely take that long for you to get the hang of things; 2) don’t judge your handspun in hank form—whatever imperfections you perceive, will likely be imperceptible once knit up, and 3) knit with your handspun early in the process—you will learn more about whether things need to be adjusted by knitting with the yarn. Plus, you will likely progress quickly and might not want to knit with your early hanks at that point!
I don’t consider myself a technical spinner, but here are some specifics for those who are interested: I am a low-twist spinner, spinning all of my yarns on the largest whorl (6:1), one treadle per draft, and just vary the amount I draft out depending on the desired thickness of the single and the type of fiber I am spinning. I ply on the middle whorl, and treadle until it looks like yarn, usually about 4 treadles or so before feeding onto the Woolee Winder bobbin. As far as dividing the fiber goes, I tend not to split much and do not pre-draft. I find I like knitting with handspun that changes color at a slow pace, if that makes sense.
For more from Catrina, you can check out her Ravelry notebook as CatReading, or find her on Instagram as iamcatreading.
Thank you so much, Catrina, for your thoughtful responses and participation!
Until next time,