Monday, August 19, 2013

At a standstill

Judith MacKenzie always says that if you're concerned about time, perhaps working with textiles isn't right for you.  I understand this logic and most of the time am willing to accept that it takes time to knit a sweater, or spin a skein of yarn, or wash a fleece, or prepare fiber for spinning.  It takes time to weave a cloth - heck, it takes time just to warp a loom! - and it takes time to crochet a shawl or sew a dress.  I get that instant gratification does not exist in the textile world and if we want good results, we have to be willing to invest a significant amount of time to our craft.  But I'm here to tell you that last night at 10:10pm (I know this because it's when I looked up at my clock in desperation), I thought that thing that people in our world should never think.  I thought, "When is this going to be over?!"  Now, this isn't the first time that a project has lasted longer than I might wish it to, but with spinning I run into the problem that I can't just start a new project to take the edge off.  With knitting, if I'm really not feeling the project I'm working on, I may cast on something quick like a hat or fingerless mitts before returning to the original project.  Spinning is different because I only have one wheel and although it's possible to just put on a new bobbin and spin something else for a while, I prefer not to do that because I'm afraid that upon returning to the current project, I wouldn't be able to get the wheel settings just right to continue spinning the same yarn.  And it's not just the wheel settings that I'm concerned about, it's my settings as well.  A few weeks ago a friend on Ravelry asked me for my opinion on knitting multiple projects at the same time and, to my surprise, I was quite opinionated about the subject.  I won't get into that right now (much), but one of my concerns when switching from project to project in knitting is that my tension will change.  If I switch from knitting a lace shawl to a worsted-weight sweater to socks, I make tiny changes in the way that I hold and tension my yarn and it works different muscles.  If, for example, I knit on a lace shawl for several days and then decide I want to knit a bulky hat, that's going to feel really weird to my hands until I get adjusted.  I have several pairs of not-quite-the-same-size mittens to prove this fact.  The same goes for spinning.  It's not just the wheel that needs to be adjusted when I start a different project.  I need to adjust myself as well - how I hold the fiber, how I draft the fiber, how quickly I treadle, etc.  Normally I don't feel so strongly about this, but my current spinning project did take a bit of trial and error to figure out exactly what needed to be done (to myself and to the wheel) to produce the yarn that I'm looking for.

The yarn that I'm looking for is laceweight and I'm here to tell you that it takes forever to spin, or at least that's how it feels.  The fiber itself is a treat to work with, but I think I've reached the point with this project at which I need a break.  I'm almost halfway done, but it took a long time to get here.

That little bit in my hand is what's left of the first 2oz. and I predict that it will take at least 6 hours to get that spun up.  Maybe I just need to look at my time to production ratio a bit differently.  It's easy for me to look from my fiber to the clock and conclude that although I've spun for an hour and a half, no noticeable difference has been made (which is exactly what happened last night).  But if I look at the yardage that I spun in that time, it's obvious that something did indeed happen, it's just not as easily measured visually as watching my fiber not change for hours on end.  It's not my wheel's fault and it's not my fault and there's not really anything I can do about it.  It's simply that spinning laceweight just takes time.

The resulting 2-ply is actually quite nice.  After a wash it's surprisingly springy and because it's an 80/20 BFL/silk blend, it shimmers in the sun.  I do really love the yarn and don't hate the process, it's just that I'm anxious to move on to the next spinning project.  At this point I keep going back and forth about what do to.  I could stop after I finish these 2oz. knowing that I have enough singles spun to produce hundreds and hundreds of yards of lace yarn or I could charge ahead and spin the other two ounces and get enough yarn to knit, well, anything that my heart desires.  Stopping now would be somewhat limiting, but it would also mean that I could start something else on my wheel, which is always exciting.  What would you do?  I suppose I could also set this bobbin aside with some samples to remind myself of exactly what I'm aiming for and hope I can reproduce it.  Why is it that the least important decision I could possibly make is the one causing me so much stress?


  1. That is exactly why I choose to not spin laceweight. For me, spinning isn't all about the process. That cathartic feeling can only get me through so many ounces (and may the wool Gods help me if it's just cream/natural wool...that causes me to walk a very fine line between sanity and insanity). It's not just about making the yarn. It's about what I make WITH the yarn...which cannot be accomplished if I spend so much time spinning it that I have developed a tic that scares small children when they cross my path. Nope. No more laceweight for me...that's what the commercial companies are for. I've always loved a pair of handspun, hand knit socks more than a shawl anyway.

  2. It's looking great!

    (Keep on truckin', dude!) ;-)

  3. Push on through and finish that fiber. If you don't do it now, when will you get back to it? The only thing worse than an overflowing stash is stash that is half done...

  4. The wave of self doubt is crashing over us all! There must be something in the air, something causing us such angst. Maybe it's the change in the seasons (it's coming, like it or not) but it's palpable at the moment. We just need to break through and stay strong. Your spinning is glorious. Enjoy the next step.

  5. Wow, that lace weight looks incredible! The lack of satisfaction will pass, if it gets really oppressive, pull out your spindles and give those a whirl (or whorl, if you can stand the pun.)

    I recently put 4 of my wip's in time out within a day - at which point I started to consider if it was me. . .

  6. "Heheheh... you know, it'll take just as long to knit that stuff up."

    Now that I'm done feeding your despair, let me play devil's advocate for a moment and argue that perhaps the very thing you need is to switch projects more often. When I was learning to play recorder it was difficult to switch between soprano, alto, and tenor; the fingerings are pretty much the same, but the notes are different. And then there's the spacing between the fingers. It was confusing and it felt unnatural. But after a while of switching between the instruments, I found that each developed its own unique feel, and it seems more second nature - or did, when I was still playing a lot.

  7. Oh, and that stuff ain't laceweight- it's thread. You're a beast.