This month, the new Winter 2010 Spin-Off magazine came out. If you open it up, right at the top of the inside page, is a photo that gives me goosebumps:
That’s my shawl! The article about its creation is my very first published piece in Spin-Off, and even though my work has appeared in many other Interweave mags, Spin-Off is special to me, and I am thrilled.
The shawl is knit out of 2-ply handspun: one ply of qiviut, one ply of silk. The singles were done on spindles; then plied on my Lendrum wheel.
I’ve been asked to post a photo of the shawl spread out flat, as there isn’t one in the magazine. The light this week isn’t the best, so I took a few different photos, each of which shows off something different about the shawl. None of these pics is anywhere near as glorious as Joe Coca’s photos in the magazine; he and Ann Swanson, the photostylist, always make magic happen somehow!
You can click on the photos to get a bigger version:
The top section has a stitch pattern that I modified so it resembles the face of a musk ox (complete with downward curving horns); the lower section has a prairie flower motif.
The complete pattern and charts are in the magazine. Also included is how I cleaned and processed the (very) raw qiviut fuzz, straight off the bushes of Northern Canada.
I’ve been asked a lot questions about the article, so I thought instead of answering them individually over and over, I’d post the answers here.
How long did it take you to spin the singles on spindles? I spun 4-6 hours a day, most days, for a couple of months. I didn’t keep track of the total hours, because I didn’t want to scare myself!
What did you do to prevent hand/wrist injuries during all that spinning? I normally spend at least 2-3 hours a day doing some sort of craft work, just as part of my job. Spinning for the shawl was a bit more intense than my usual schedule, however, so I made sure to take frequent breaks. I also did stretching exercises several times throughout the day.
What made it take that long to spin? Was it spinning super-fine yarn that took so long, or the short staple length, or ?? I’ve never compared my spinning speed to other spinners, so I don’t really know if I am a slow spinner or a fast spinner. I spin more yardage per week on spindles than I do on wheels, as I find it more challenging to do the mental “settling” necessary to get myself to sit at one of my wheels. My default yarn on a spindle is fairly fine; the singles I spun for this project were twice the wraps per inch of my usual yarn, so that did take a fair bit of effort to maintain consistency. The short staple of the qiviut was a definite challenge at first, but over time my fingers grew used to letting in the twist at the proper moment. I think the main factor that slowed things down was the ongoing battle with guard hairs: I was constantly finding yet another prickly bit I had to pick out of the fibre/yarn before I was satisfied with it.
Did you consider using a supported spindle, as fine cashmere and silk are traditionally spun on those? No, I never did. I don’t have much skill with a supported spindle, mainly because of nerve damage in my hands. I had to re-learn spindle-spinning a couple of years ago due to an injury (thank you, Abby!), switching which hand did what to make the most of the mobility I have. I am extremely proficient at thigh-roll spinning; however, due to lack of feeling in my index finger and thumb, I have trouble twirling any sort of spindle. At some point, I’ll sit down and figure out a workaround for my abilities vis-a-vis supported spinning. But as far as this project went, I had no trouble getting a superfine lace yarn on my lightweight drop spindles.
Why did you ply on a wheel? Why not use a plying ball and a spindle? For me, it’s faster to ply on a wheel, and at this stage of the project, every moment counted! Also, I really enjoy plying on a wheel. In addition, I find that for certain sorts of yarns, I can get more consistent results plying on a wheel. To be honest, I really wanted to do the entire project, plying included, on spindles, but I also knew my limitations at that point.
I was really fortunate to be able to work on this project, and I send out a heartfelt thank-you to Amy Clarke Moore, Jason Reid, Ann Swanson, Joe Coca, and the rest of the Spin-Off team for doing such an amazing job of showing off the yarns and the shawl itself. Thank you, Spin-Off!
And a grateful bow as well to this fellow:
If you have more questions, leave them in the comments and I can answer you in future posts.