Jan 5, 2008

Why I Spin My Own Yarn

There are all kinds of reasons for wanting to spin your own yarn. I spin for one purpose alone. There definitely are a lot of side-effects of spinning that I greatly value but, my purpose in spinning boils down to the simple fact that there is no other reasonable way to get the yarn I want made to the specifications I need.

Probably now more than ever before you can buy some of the most fantastic mill spun yarns you'd ever hope to see. Certainly you can get by without spinning your own yarn but, unless you own a mill that caters to your every whim, or have hired a personal spinster who twists fiber to you bidding you will always be limited to only what is available. If you develop the skills to spin what you want then the creative control you have over any fiber project increases 100%!

Owning a spinning wheel, and knowing how to use it is like owning a miniature yarn mill that caters to your every whim. (And, a spinning wheel is a great deal more affordable.) True, I've invested a good sum of money in hand spinning equipment and fiber. A person can buy a lot of yarn for the price of a quality wheel alone. The investment in fiber studio equipment is somewhat like setting up and supplying yourself with a personal kitchen if you enjoy gourmet dining. It would make no sense to have a good gas stove, a refrigerator, copper pots and pans etc. if you never ever eat or if you only enjoy fast food. I have a voracious appetite for high quality yarn. (Since I think of yarn as the food of my project work I'll continue with this metaphor).

If I know I want to eat gourmet food all the rest of my days then I need to either spend a great deal of money on fine dining or learn to cook well. In the long run dining out is going to cost me much more and my choices will forever be limited to what is on the menu and the hours of operation. I'll also have little control over portion size. (Ever buy a whole skein of yarn when you only needed a yard or two of a specific color? Did you get the exact color you wanted?) What if I'm in the mood for just one of a very unique Italian egg roll at 4:00 a.m.? If I couldn't make it myself I would constantly have to settle for something other than what I really want in my work.

By the way, while I admit I'm a yarn snob I am anything but a connoisseur of good food. Like most addicts I get so lost in my substance of choice (wool) that I forget to eat altogether. When hunger does intervene I grab whatever is edible, quick and easy. Sad really, but honest.

Jan 4, 2008

When Duty Calls

Sometimes real life interferes with the ability to pursue one's obsession. Here I'm speaking of my weekend ahead and the fact that all time is accounted for elsewhere. (Any fiber-related activity will have to occur in stolen moments.) I wish I could give the whole day to a project I have brewing but, to do so this weekend would be wrong.

There are people in the world who have such a powerful single-mindedness for their specific passion that absolutely nothing else ever takes priority over it. You read about these people on occasion. They are admired greatly in their fields, considered masters of their crafts and often either live completely alone or have family who've been terribly neglected having been forced to sacrifice too much of their own dreams.

This brings us to an important rule: If you wish to avoid an uncomfortable family intervention never allow your fiber addiction to cause those who genuinely support you to become resentful. Sometimes you simply have to rip yourself away from your obsession to focus with true sincerity elsewhere. (I recommend a quick rip like you would use in pulling off a band-aid.)

Jan 3, 2008

Slippery Slope

Well, it was all downhill from there. And, like other kinds of addicts I rationalize the crazy decisions that I make around my "need" to delve deeper and deeper into this fiber Odyssey. Ex: I have good reason for keeping every one of the 5 spinning wheels I "need". Furthermore, I have my husband thoroughly convinced as well. (We do not speak of the elephant in the room.)
Allow me to digress a moment...
There are two things you must do in order to normalize and maintain your addiction:
  1. Your spouse must be convinced beyond all doubt that your behavior is actually a delightful and unique aspect of the wonderfulness of you! This is not an easy task when he's tripping over fleeces while holding his arms out straight so you can wind a skein. If he falls in love with a project you must not sell that project. If he expresses curiosity about whether or not it is possible to hand spin dryer lint or pill bottle cotton you must humor him and spin it, ply it, and knit him an egg cozy from it! Keep him intrigued or take your chances that he'll wake up, smell the coffee and realize he's been cocooned in wool.
  2. Convince yourself that nothing is wrong. The best way to do this is to make sure that most of your friends are fellow addicts. Join a fiber guild. Surround yourself with other people who use their crock pots to dye wool and their salad spinners to wring out fiber. I personally know 3 people who have a second microwave used solely for heat-setting acid dyes.

Now here's the rub. You can convince your spouse that you're normal, you can surround yourself with fellow addicts, but good luck tricking your children. They learn early on that none of their friends have drum carders vice-clamped onto the dining table. They look around in the orthodontist's office and see that no one else's mother is twirling a drop spindle. (They have no use for lint-spun egg cozies.) All you can do is lay low. Best advice here, try to be "cool" once in a while. (It can happen.) Heck, look at me I'M BLOGGING. Well, time is up. The microwave just told me the Corriedale is color set.


Hi, My name's Teresa Clayton, The Treadler, and I'm addicted to wool. It's been 3 days since I last used fiber. No, I admit I'm not being truthful here. There's a little bit of wool stuck to my shirt right now. (Well, this isn't true either, it's alpaca.) Anyway, it's been zero days since I last used fiber.

My story's one you've heard time and again. I was raised in a house where fiber abuse ran rampant and was subsequently normalized. (It was no big deal to see a myriad of knitting needles lying about.) As a youngster I thought everyone's mother drove like a fiend to sales and held their children hostage in yarn departments for hours as dye lots were compared, money exchanged, and great stashes of 3-ply accumulated. I remember these yarn-runs well because many of mum's skein haunts did not have public restroom facilities. Time stood still.

As a young adult it was obvious that I'd inherited this addictive gene. For the most part my siblings came away unscathed whereas I upped the ante and took it all a bit farther than my mother before me. No longer satisfied with mill-spun yarn I resorted to mixing my own concoctions. I enjoyed having control over the concentrated levels of alpaca, angora and whatever other fiber I could lay my hands on to stir into the woollen mix. Great batts of fiber! Pandora's box was then opened wide.