Over seven and a half years ago, I went to SPA with my best Boston girls and learned to spin. That was February 2006 (the blog post is here). Not only was it one of the most wonderful weekends away with my friends I've ever had (it really, really was), but learning to spin was really a game changer for me. I LOVE to spin. I've loved learning about wheels, learning how to ply, learning how to choose a fleece, learning what fibers I love to spin and how I like to prep before I spin: all of it.
I bought my first wheel at Massachusetts Sheep & Wool in May of 2006 and finally bought my Lendrum a couple years later. I've been spinning since then - sometimes more, sometimes less, but since I learned to spin I have always included "spinner" in the list of terms I use to identify myself.
Like many others, my spinning time has become more limited as other obligations (for me, primarily work/work travel) have taken more and more of my time. I still spin (I try to spend at least an hour or so spinning each weekend, with mixed results) but not nearly as much or as often I would like to.
Almost since I started spinning I've belonged to a fiber club and I have loved that experience. Getting a few ounces of fiber each month has been a treat, but it also became something of a burden. I always spin my club fiber first. Okay - we need a short aside here:
Unsurprisingly to anyone that knows me, I have rules about spinning just like I have rules about everything. Because I could spin nothing but what's in my stash and have enough to keep me busy for years, I've implemented a rule for how much fiber I can buy over the course of the year.
Here are the rules:
- I can buy half as much as what I spin (in ounces)
- Fiber club is exempted because I pay for that each month
- Fiber club gets spun before anything else (because I'm paying for it each month and I'm trying to curate a fiber stash that will be filled with nothing but fiber I am absolutely in love with and in my head this totally makes sense).
This means that if (exempting fiber club) I spin 16 ounces, I have 8 ounces available to purchase on whatever fiber I like. I don't worry about the cost - that isn't the point - I focus on the amount and quality of new fiber I'm bringing into the house. And if I have only spun 16 ounces, then it isn't likely that I need to buy 32 MORE ounces, right? (Yes, I realize that I'll need to re-think the rules if and when I ever end up with no more fiber in the house to spin.)
In practical terms, I've bought less fiber (except for the monthly club) but I've pretty much only spun club fiber for the past few years.
Because of this club, I've spun fibers and colors and color combinations that I wouldn't have chosen on my own and there's a lot of value in that. Each time I pull out a club fiber selection, I think about how I want to spin it, how I want to ply it and what I think it will become.
Unfortunately, it's rare that the fiber I turn into yarn ever actually does become something other than yarn (except around the Holidays when I knit cowls and fingerless mitts a plenty).
Finally, as much as I have enjoyed the fiber club, I've canceled my subscription. I realized that what I want to spin has changed as the amount of time I have to spin has decreased. As much as I do love spinning for spinning's sake, I want to spin the fiber that will turn into yarn that I know I will knit with. I want to spin enough for larger projects (a CustomFit sweater, for example) and I'll never do it unless I make a decision to spend the time I have spinning deliberately.
Oh yeah - I entered two projects into the Fresno County Fair this year. My handspun fingerless mitts took first place.
This handspun took second place. :) This is a Serio Batt designed specifically for the Knit Addiction. My most favorite LYS ever.
The projects I've been dreaming about spinning yarn for are ones that simply require more deliberation, time, effort and yardage than I can get out of a fiber club subscription. Although I am proud of the yarn I've produced from fiber club fibers because I know that they've made me a better, more thoughtful spinner, the yarn I am most proud of having created is...different. More substantial, perhaps.
I have about 800 yards of this fiber, spun from a small fleece I purchased at the MA Sheep & Wool festival in 2007. It's a gorgeous chocolately-grey light worsted weight yarn and it feels soft and sproingy and I. am. so. proud. of. it.
This is a lighter grey yarn I finished this year - it's enough for a small shawl. I've been so bad at record keeping the last year or so that I can't even tell you what kind of wool this is or where I bought it.
My goal is to finish the last of my fiber club fibers by the end of this year and then to move into 2014 with a plan for deliberate spinning for specific projects. I plan on gifting a lot of my current handspun to friends I think will enjoy it and potentially to a women's prison that has a knitting group if they'll use it. I don't want this handspun to languish for years if it can be put to good use.
I'm also hoping that I'll make a dent enough in my current stash to be able to buy something lovely at Stitches West in February without the psychic weight of unknit handspun and unspun fiber club fiber. I also want to tackle at least one if not two of the larger fleeces that I've accumulated over the years. I've got a lovely chocolate brown fleece (also purchased at the 2007 MA Sheep & Wool festival) that I've got my eye on right now that's about 2.5 lbs - totally doable.
I absolutely love spinning and everything about it. I love the people who brought me to spinning, I love the memories I have of spinning with friends, I love the fact that I've met people here in the Central Valley who love spinning too. Spinning, for me, is a soul-satisfying endeavor and I want to carry that through to every part of the process.
Also? I'm eyeing a few more categories to enter in the Fair next year. I want more ribbons.