Dear Spinning Circle,
Each month, I release Spinning Purls, which is the teaching content that those who are Patrons of the community enjoy! Released on the first Thursday of each month is an accompanying PDF download for those Co-Executive Producers of the show – it is an opportunity to read what is coming in the Spinning Purls Vlog for the month, see extra photos and often, charts, tables and graphics to accompany the content for the month.
At the same time, this year, we were studying the sheep breed, Radnor! Katrina Stewart of Crafty Jaks Boutique had created an amazing study for us to engage in for the year – she really outdid herself this year!
The Wool n’ Spinning Community took this study by storm and I had the pleasure of sharing many of your yarns, projects and makes on the podcast throughout the year, including Seussarian socks, combination spun and plied yarns, beautiful chain-ply and more.
I took my time with this study, starting slow and figuring out what I wanted to do with it. There were a few guiding principles – I wanted to maximise yardage for something woven and showcase the two analogous colourways as best as possible. From September 2022 – December 2022, I wrote and recorded Spinning Purls about my journey through this study, including information about the Welsh breed, mostly isolated in it’s breeding program for many generations due to geographical location, spinning this yarn and finally, weaving beatuiful overshot scarves.
Here is an excerpt from December’s Spinning Purls:
Spinning Purls (December 2022): Wrapping Up!
Final Reflections on the Project
Overall, this was a massive project. It became more meaningful to me as I worked through the yarn and sampling because I felt really invested in the outcome. I’d spent hours working on the yarn, looking for ways to really showcase the colours, yarns and discuss the process with you guys. When I started working on the singles back in January of this year, I felt really worried about what I might do with this study to really showcase the yarns well. Would I do it justice? Did I have the time and energy to delve into a really complicated project? There has been so much I’ve been learning in the world of weaving, working through projects and samples for my Master Weaver that I had hoped to further build on that knowledge. But how? What?
Ultimately what held me back was the roadblock of actually combining these two colours in one project. The reason is that due to the potentiation of the two colours next to each other was just too much. These are not colours I would be naturally drawn to in a store, off a rack. The red-coral is too bright for me – it’s not a great colour on me, particularly next to my skin and hair. The blue is quite bright as well – I tend to be drawn to navy and grey-blues.
As I began sampling, I felt I really unlocked myself. Rebecca discussed on a recent episode of The Wool Circle about her sampling process but more specifically, she discussed how to actually approach a sample. She had a really good point that we often talk about ‘oh, just sample it’ when we are giving advice to one another, especially in the community when we interact on Slack or through the virtual groups. Sometimes, though, we don’t really know where to start and we know that we need to sample but we aren’t sure where to start that process. In many ways, this was how I was feeling about the project phase of this project. I had the yarn … but what to do with it? There were a few things I thought about here that helped me make some decisions to move forward.
First, I knew that I had a light, airy yarn. The woollen nature of the singles spun from the carded batt meant that this yarn was fluffy, sproingy and light. It wasn’t going to feel heavy and dense. The worsted-spun sample from the combed top was also quite light, again from both the nature of the spinning and the characteristics of the wool itself. I had lightly smoothed as I spun, leaving much of the air in the yarn, rather than smoothing for a denser, sleek yarn. The Radnor would not have been suited to that type of spinning unless I were to make socks, dense outerwear or a hardy toque – and even then, I think I’d want the warmth that the air left in the yarn creates!
Second, the analogous colourways meant I could create without worry about the clashing of pattern with yarn. Often what we are worried about when we are choosing patterns to knit or weave with our handspun is the clashing of pattern or texture with visual interest in the yarn, ie. colour. It’s not the colours themselves that pose the problem – remember, colour is just colour. It can be neutral or vibrant or muted or clashing or neon or any number of things – it’s the amount of visual intensity or interest that it creates that competes for our eye in the final product. We post pattern links in the channel on Slack called #handspun-pattern-reflections to share with others in the community links, blog posts, patterns and more that we think would ‘work for our handspun’. When we take a step back and ask ourselves what that really means, a quick scroll through that thread will help you hone in on what is meant! Basically, it is patterns that make the yarn itself the centre-piece and the yarn itself can be in varied colours that may or may not repeat. I’ve noticed that often the patterns are showcased against the backdrop of a neutral like grey or cream, and there may or may not be a repeating pattern. What is not present is a very strong textured pattern like cables or visuals. Instead, the eye is able to land on and travel across the piece which is harmonious because there is little competing with the visual intensity of the yarn itself, even if the yarn is neutral or muted in nature. Here, though, I didn’t have to worry about that and that actually took a certain amount of pressure off that I usually feel when choosing patterns to use with my handspun with varying degrees of success.
Third, I have to admit that selfishly, I wanted to weave something. I had done a woven blanket in our Masham study on the rigid heddle with a modicum of success – I’ll explain in a moment – but I hadn’t done a woven thing from the Breed & Colour Study since. The Masham blanket was a lesson in what not to do on a rigid heddle and left me really craving the freedom of shaft-loom weaving. The blanket was the last thing I wove on my rigid heddle before selling it to a dear friend. It was woven at 10 ends and 10 picks per inch, which fulled beautifully after I was able to weave it. There were a few problems with the yarn – it was under-spun, had an amazing halo and woven like a mohair blankie – so the entire process was a headache and a half! The finished blanket is amazing and I’m glad I persevered – it actually hangs off a chair in the office to remind me daily about persevering when things get hard – but it was challenging to say the least.
For those who are newer to the space and missed all the Masham study, I’ve linked all the vlogs and PDFS for you. As well, I have been slowly unlocking some of these old videos and PDF downloads for you to enjoy since it’s getting to be years that this stuff was released – I hope you enjoy it!
- How I Spin (Part III – VLOG): Masham (Mar 2019) – Weaving
- How I Spin (Part III – PDF): Masham (Mar 2019) – Weaving
- How I Spin (Part II – VLOG): Masham (Feb 2019) – White & Black
- How I Spin (Part II – PDF): Masham (Feb 2019) – White & Black
- How I Spin (Part I – VLOG): Masham (Jan 2019) – control colourway
- How I Spin (Part I – PDF): Masham (Jan 2019) – control colourway
It’s hard to believe that content is 3 years old but it’s no less pertinent now – lessons were learned!
And fourth, while I had wanted to weave a Turned Twill stole, I had major reservations because of the whole competing visual interests and woven pattern discussion from a moment ago. I decided to use some of the warp left on my table loom to weave up some samples and see – just see – if my thoughts about an overshot something might work out. As I rewatched Season 6, Episode 4 of Jane Stafford’s Online Guild for some research for my own overshot samples for my Master Weaver certificate, I decided to begin to think in terms of a project. What could I make that would showcase the yarn and leave me with something I would be excited to wear? Better yet, what could I make that I wouldn’t be upset to make two and compare the final results? The answer was to follow someone else’s pattern, specifically Jane Stafford’s, and use what genius was already out there to weave up two stoles. How could I resist this modern graphic taken from an old source that I happened to have here at home? Of course I had to try it on for size and see what I thought.
Remember that Co-Executive Producers see their names in the show credits at the end of each podcast episode on the Live Stream and The Wool Circle!
If you are curious about what other Spinning Purls content you would have access to with joining, please have a look here. It’s pretty comprehansive! And of course, the major reason to join is the amazing community you would be accessing, which mostly takes place over on Slack. I hope to ‘see’ you over there!