spinner spotlight

Spinner Spotlight :: Janet Gainer-Dewar

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 Janet, who I see on Ravelry in my friend activity as she uploads her beautiful yarns! We often comment on one another’s handspun and projects. As you may know, I am a huge advocate of knitting with our handspun yarns and Janet is always knitting away with her handspun. I hope you enjoy reading a bit of her story today!

Let’s hear from Janet:

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I work as a software engineer and spend most of my free time knitting and spinning (and am perpetually planning to get serious about weaving and quilting). For the last few years my husband and I have been moving around the country for his job, so I’ve been dragging my ever-growing stash of yarn, fiber, and spinning tools from state to state. We’re settling down permanently this summer, and I’m looking forward to having the time and space to work on larger, longer-term projects. Also hoping to finally get the giant Saxony spinning wheel of my dreams… not a practical possession when you move every year.

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I started spinning soon after I learned to knit, during college. I immediately loved knitting, and started reading lots of blogs focused on knitting and the larger fiber arts world. Learning to spin was a natural next step. I bought a wooden beginner’s spindle and found some cheap roving on eBay. I spent many hours that first summer spinning singles on my spindle, and produced a lot of terribly underplied yarn. By the end of the year, I had saved up the money to purchase my first wheel, a folding Lendrum. Since then I’ve cycled through several more wheels, and am currently using a Majacraft Suzie Pro.

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My favorite kind of yarn to make is fingering-weight sock yarn, usually 3-ply. I like it both because singles for 3-ply fingering-weight yarn are a relaxing default spinning weight for me, and because it’s so useful. I love to knit and wear socks from handspun yarn!

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I knit a lot of sweaters, and I’d love to knit more out of handspun. To do that, I want to improve my consistency and get back in the habit of spinning larger quantities of yarn.

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When I start a spinning project, I usually have a particular knitting project in mind for the yarn. I don’t think of the type of yarn I generally spin as a finished product, so I need to have a final end goal in my head for motivation. I’ll admit, though, that I rarely act on these plans. With the exception of sock yarn, my handspun stash hasn’t gotten much attention lately. So, though I tell myself stories about what I’m going to do with the yarn, right now spinning is mostly meditative for me. I enjoy sitting down and spinning for a few minutes at various times throughout the day. Getting yarn at the end is an added bonus.

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One thing I wish I had known earlier is that a balanced ply does NOT mean that your yarn acts balanced while plying. A lot of people hear that in a balanced yarn, the singles twist energy is offset by the ply twist energy – this is true! New spinners (including me for quite a while) often interpret this to mean that they should add ply twist until the yarn hangs straight when doubled, instead of twisting up on itself. This is wrong because twist energy goes dormant while the singles sit on the bobbin. If you do this, you’re adding enough plying twist to offset theactive twist energy in your singles, which is much less than the total twist energy that will be present after the yarn is soaked.  I see a lot of new spinners that are dissatisfied with how their yarn looks and feels – they think it doesn’t look like “real” yarn. Often this is because it’s underplied.

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A more reliable way to find the amount of twist needed for a balanced ply is to look at the individual fibers in your plied yarn. If they are running parallel to the yarn itself, the yarn is balanced. If they are tilting in the direction of the plying twist (usually S), the yarn is overplied. If they are tilting in the direction of the singles twist (usually Z), the yarn is underplied. This can be tough with the thick-and-thin yarns that beginners often spin. If the twist in the singles varies too much for this test, I say add plying twist until the yarn looks nice to you. You’ll learn over time, as you work with the finished yarn, how much is right.

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All that said, it’s important to keep in mind that a balanced yarn isn’t always the goal. I often deliberately overply my sock yarns, for added durability.

I can be found on Ravelry, where my username is loden.

Thank you to Janet for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little of her journey. Go check her out on Ravelry if you have not already!

Until next time,

-r. xo

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