Category Archives: Spinning

Top 6 Reasons You Should Start Spinning On A Drop Spindle

You’ve seen beautiful handspun yarns.  You’ve lusted after the staggering variety of fibers and colors available to spinners.  You’ve gone to a local spin in or fiber fest and drooled over the fibers, longing to join in with the other spinners.

Spiinning on a Drop Spindle
Shooting Star Yarn Hand Painted Merino Top Huckleberry

But, you ask, isn’t spinning expensive?  Spinning wheels are big and cost a lot of money.  Your house is already overrun by yarn.  How can you justify adding spinning to your list of fiber obsessions…I mean, hobbies?

You know you want to, though.  You just can’t help yourself.

The good news is that spinning doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby to start.  A few ounces of top and a drop spindle are all you need, along with someone to show you how to do it.

Top 6 Reasons to Start Spinning On A Drop Spindle

Spinning on a drop spindle
Tiger Mountain Spindle
  1. Easy way to start spinning.  A spindle is essentially just a circular weight on a stick.  To start spinning, all you need is fiber, and a way to insert twist into the fiber.  A spindle is a very simple tool for doing just that.  You spin the spindle with your hand, and it inserts twist into the fiber connected to it.  There’s very little to it, and that allows you to focus on getting good at drafting the fiber, rather than concerning yourself with tension and treadling and orofices and bobbins.
  2. Easy to control.  Because a spindle is a tool, rather than a machine, it is easy to control how much twist is inserted into the fiber.  It’s quick and easy to start and stop.  A spinning wheel is a machine.  There’s more interference between you and the fiber when you use a machine (even a non-electric one), and more things that can break.
  3. Low cost investment to start.  Spindles can be really inexpensive and still high quality.  You can get a good spindle for around $20 or a kit complete with fiber for $40. It is certainly possible to spend a lot more money on spindles and fiber, but the point is that you don’t have to do that at any point in your spinning career.  You can get a spindle and spin the fluff from your aspirin bottle and be happy.  Probably you’ll want something nicer to spin, though.
  4. Portable.  Spindle spinning is extremely portable.  In some ways its even more portable than knitting.  It’s easy to stuff a wad of fiber and your spindle in your bag to take with you.  To keep it organized, you can keep it all in a Ziplock or splurge on something a little more fancy.  But, you don’t need as many notions or accessories as you do with knitting, and it’s much more difficult to lose a spindle than a knitting needle or crochet hook.
  5. You get to play with a greater variety of fibers.  If you knit or crochet, you’ve probably used wool, alpaca, cotton, and maybe another luxury fiber or two like silk or cashmere.  As a spinner, you get Corriedale, Polwarth, Merino, Bluefaced Leicester (BFL), Targhee, Shetland, Icelandic, Coopworth, and Babydoll Southdown.  And those are just the wool varieties I’ve pulled off the top of my head.  You also get to choose from Suri or Hucaya alpaca and luxury blends with things like baby camel and cashmere.  There’s milk fiber, corn fiber, bamboo viscose, Angelina fiber to add sparkle, and silk.  The possibilities are mind boggling.
  6. You get to make your own yarn.  Probably the best reason to start spinning is that you get to make your own yarn.  Imagine how cool it will feel when someone compliments your hat or fingerless mitts or sweater, and you can tell them that you knit it from yarn you spun yourself.  Plus, you’ll be invaluable in a zombie apocalypse.

Ready to start spinning?  Our next Beginning Spinning class is July 20, 1:00-3:00 pm.  Call the store to sign up and reserve your spot!

Already a spinner and want to make more spinning friends?  Come to our Open Spinning group the second Friday of every month at noon.

Do you spin?  Do you want to spin?  Tell us about your spinning in the comments!

Idaho Spin-In 2015 Recap

Each year on the last Saturday of March the Log Cabin Spinners host an annual Spin In at the Templin’s Red Lion Inn in Post Falls, Idaho.

Spin In 2015
Our booth at the Spin In

Every year is a little different, but there’s always a marketplace and a spinning area.  We hosted a booth featuring our spinning fiber and spindles and a few other fun things like our rigid heddle looms.

It’s always fun to check out the other vendors and see what everyone is interested in.  There are always farms with their raw fleeces, people selling yarn, and of course lots and lots of fiber.  Mohair, alpaca, different types of wool – you name it, it’s probably in the marketplace.  And lots of different preps – unprepped, roving, batts, and lots of handpainted braided top.

Spin In 2015
The marketplace.

The main feature of the event is the spinning area.  One section of the conference hall is reserved for the spinners to come and spin.  There are wheel spinners and spindle spinners.  They sit in large circles and smaller groupings and spend some or all of the day spinning.  It’s a great way to meet new people, learn more about spinning, and reconnect with other spinning friends.  We got to see some beautiful spinning wheels, and some beautiful spinning.

Spin In 2015
Lots of spinners
Spin In 2015
Spinners spinning.
Spin In 2015
Small group of spinners.

I didn’t bring my spindle with me this year.  I think next year I’ll make sure to bring it along and make time to sit and spin for a while.

I did wander around the marketplace quite a bit.  I got to meet some lovely fiber producers and see some tools I’d never seen in person.  One booth had a picker, and they were using it to prep fiber on site.  A picker is used to get out most of the vegetable matter and fluff the fibers from a clean fleece.  After it goes through the picker it is ready to be combed or carded.

Spin In 2015
The picker in use.

In one of the smaller rooms they had demonstrations of different types of wheels.  They even had a great wheel, which is also known as a walking wheel.

Spin In 2015
Great wheel demonstration.

The great wheel is a type of early spinning wheel.  It’s similar to the kind of spinning wheel you see in the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty.  On a great wheel you turn the wheel manually, which turns the spindle. You then have to wind the spun fiber around the spindle, much like you do with hand spindles.  Modern wheels use a treadle to turn the wheel and a flyer winds the spun fiber onto a bobbin.

I always enjoy the neat things available at the Spin In.  The marketplace is a great place to find fibers that you wouldn’t normally have in person access to.  And it’s always fun to see the fiber enthusiasts in the area gathered in one place.

If you’re local, did you make it to the Spin In?  What was your favorite part?  What other fiber festivals do you like to go to?

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Spinzilla 2014

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October will be here before you know it! We’re excited to be participating in the second annual Spinzilla week. Last year all the spinners combined to spin 1,373,175.06 yards of yarn. Our Alpaca Direct team spun more than 17,000 yards! All in one week!!!

Sign ups for participation start August 4, 2014  at 10 am Eastern time and continue until September 22, 2014. You can sign up here: Spinzilla registration

There is a $10 registration fee, paid to The National Needle Arts Association Spinning and Weaving Group. This fee is donated to the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP) which was founded in 2000 as a fiber arts program for at-risk students.

During the event, there will be prize drawings, specials offers and lots of fun. Find our team forums on the Spinzilla Ravlery page or you can find us also on the Friends of Alpaca Direct Spinzilla team thread. Please consider joining us for “A Monster of A Spinning Week”!! Spinzilla 2014!

 

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The Ranch to Alpaca Roving Journey

Each year we shear our alpacas and harvest their fiber to make into roving for our customers.  Our animals have been carefully chosen for their fiber quality, color and great personalities. As the summer heats up, it is important to remove the fiber so each alpaca can stay cool and comfortable.

Alpacas waiting to be shorn
Alpacas waiting to be shorn

During shearing we separate the fiber into 3 bags for each animal.  The blanket is the “1st” fiber, the neck and belly are “2nd’s” and the legs are “3rds” On our ranch, we process 1st and 2nds while using 3rds for felting and other craft projects. This means the softest, cleanest fibers are used to produce our rovings.

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The first step on the way to roving is called sorting where we inspect the each fleece, clean out debris  and properly classify the fiber with each animal.  We then skirt the fiber on  a skirting rack by laying each fiber on the rack and allowing hay and vegetation to fall through the rack.  We again inspect the fibers and bag and tag each skirted fiber based on the quality grade and name of the animal it came from.

Off To The Mill

We are fortunate to have a fiber processing mill just 15 minutes from our ranch and store. The mill is run by Karen Goodson of Fibers First and she is a long-time fiber enthusiast who does a great job turning our fleece into roving. Fibers First is a local, family run business here in Northern Idaho. Some of the machinery they are utilizing was manufactured at the turn of the 20th century!

Before the fiber can be fed into the machine it needs to be washed and dried to remove as much dirt and debris as possible. All the fiber is thoroughly cleaned, sometimes requiring two or more washes. Fibers First contracts with another local fiber producer to wash the fiber processed at the mill.

Once the fiber is dry it is run through the picking machine to agitate the fiber and remove more debris caught in the fibers.  It is then blown into a room where if forms a fluffy pile of alpaca with the extra debris settling on the ground below the picker.   The picker used at the mill is a Davis Furber and was made in 1940.

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Feeding raw fiber into the picker

 

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Fluffy Alpaca Fiber after going through the Picker

 

The clean fiber is then fed through a carder. The carder is a Davis Furber and is two machines hooked together.  The front half was made in 1919 and the back half was made 1911.  This is heavy duty machinery and Karen depends on her husband and son to keep this amazing system running smoothly. When parts occasionally fail Karen and her team need to fashion their own parts and repairs to keep the  machines running. This mill is a piece of living history!

 

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Combing the fiber

The pin drafter is a Warner and Swassey machine and is monitored closely while the fiber is fed through the process. The process is closely monitored by hand and each batch is kept separate in these barrels and tagged with the fiber type and animal’s name.

 

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Feeding the pin drafter machine
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Guiding roving as it comes out of the pin drafter
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Pin Drafted Roving Ready To Be Spun

Once the yarn is pin drafted, the mill can spin it into yarn.

 

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Spinning machine making yarn
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Spinning yarn onto a spindle

With our fleece we chose to stop the process at the roving stage to allow handspinners the opportunity to spin the fiber into the yarn of their choice.  Through the entire process we keep each animal’s fleece separate so the roving carries the unique qualities of the specific alpaca for that year.   When our customers purchase the roving,  we can provide a photo of the animal so they can see where the roving originated.  Often times our customers will create a unique hand-made scarf or sweater and include a picture of the alpaca when presenting it has a gift.

 

Annabelle Roving
Annabelle Roving

 

Boomer Roving
Boomer Roving

This is an amazing opportunity to grow fiber, process it locally and the end product can proudly be labeled “Grown and processed in Northern Idaho, USA”.  We are so pleased to offer these beautiful, luxurious alpaca rovings on a limited availability basis. Each alpaca is sheared just once per year, so the supply is limited. If you see something you just can’t wait to spin…better get it quickly!

 

 

Honoring the one who took on the World’s Hardest Job for you

Kjirstine Prickett

By Kjirstine Prickett

Customer Service Manager at Alpaca Direct

 

 

Senior Pictures: My Grandmother 1946 and me in 1991

Senior Pictures: My Grandmother 1946 and me in 1991

 

That’s my Grandma. Her senior picture, taken around 1946. That’s my senior picture next to it, taken in 1991. The photographer who took my picture had never seen the photo of my grandmother.  Astounding, isn’t it?

Each of us has someone in our life who slowed the pursuit of their own interests, career, or plans to take on what has been called “The World’s Hardest Job”.  You’ve probably seen the viral video where a man pretends to interview candidates and their look of disbelief as he lists the requirements, tasks and rewards associated with the job he is offering. Many of the candidates describe it as “inhumane”, or “Illegal” and none of them look as if they are willing to accept the terms he offers. He then makes the big reveal. “It’s motherhood”, he says.

I’ve been blessed to have my mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law, and several other women in my life. My mom was a full-time, stay at home mom, and the amount of time she invested in my life is huge. I am forever grateful for the things she taught me… the biggest one being that she taught me to love learning. “Go get a book about it, “ she would say. (Pre-internet days, of course!)  Because of her I can teach myself almost anything. Spinning, knitting, tatting.

And then there’s my Grandma. She taught me the value of family, heritage, and hospitality. She took time to learn and teach all of us the crafts and foods of our Scandinavian heritage. (She was awarded “Norwegian of the year” from her Sons of Norway chapter one year.  Her family is German and she married a Norwegian).  She taught me that things made by hand are precious. Her home was always open to all of us, to her large extended family from North Dakota and the even more extended family from Canada and Norway. Around her table, I met family I would never have known otherwise. She made every holiday…every holiday, an event for us. That’s why she is so close to my heart every Mother’s Day. My grandma doesn’t notice holidays anymore. She’s losing her battle with Alzheimers. But I haven’t forgotten the things she invested in my life.

Take time this Mother’s Day to honor the person in your life who made a difference,  who steered you to where you are, the one who gave you the skills and resources you need to live. It’s not always your mom. But there’s someone who took on that role for you. Get them flowers, cook them a meal, give them a hug, buy them a gift.

And if you’re a mom, thanks for taking on the World’s Hardest Job.  We’re all at different stages. I have a child in each High, Middle, and Elementary school. My challenges are balancing schedules and carpools. My sister is anticipating the birth of a longed-for second child this fall. She’s juggling much-needed rest for her hardworking body with caring for a toddler. My mom has an empty nest and is learning to live in that newer aspect of life. But we’re all moms. We all know what it is to live the World’s Hardest Job.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

My own rainbow

Dyeing in the Kitchen

Koolaid and Easter Egg dye. Inexpensive, brightly colored…perfect for dyeing wool.

With the sun shining today, I decided to pull out the dye pots and have some fun.

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Here’s some of my stash that I thought might work.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in dyeing, I used Google liberally to look up instructions and directions. On the stove top, I dyed 12 ounces of Targhee roving with  “Ghoul Berry”(blackberry) Koolaid.

 

 

Dye pot on the stove
Dye pot on the stove

I decided not to pre soak it, but added it to the dye pot dry. I was hoping for a mottled look. It didn’t quite come out as I hoped, but I am hoping it will spin up nicely. I may also re-dye it, because a dye disaster is never the end. You can always dye it again!

Targhee roving, dyed with Koolaid, drying
Targhee roving, dyed with Koolaid, drying

I also had my roaster pan going, for painted yarns. I used Easter egg dye for these. After I mixed the dye, I put plastic wrap on the counter and laid out the pre-soaked roving and yarns.

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Grey wool/alpaca painted with purple egg dye.

After each one was painted, I secured the plastic.

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Handspun Targhee yarn, dyed with egg dye and koolaid

They steamed about 45 minutes in the roaster.

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I took them out and cooled them to room temperature before rinsing, spinning the water out, and hanging them to dry.

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I used the dip dye/jar method for this yarn, also with egg dye.

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Handspun Targhee, dyed with egg dye

I steamed it in a stock pot, on a rack. When the color was right, I sat them on the counter to cool to room temperature too.

After lots of rinsing and spinning out, I hung them to dry out side.

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Handspun yarns, dyed with koolaid and egg dye. Completely non-toxic and easy!
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Wool/alpaca roving painted with purple egg dye.

 

I also put some handspun grey yarn to soak and then put it in the crockpot with koolaid:

Soak yarn before dyeing, about 20 minutes.
Soak yarn before dyeing, about 20 minutes.

I placed the damp yarn in the crock pot and gently poured hot dye over it, making sure the fiber was completely covered.

Crockpot set on high.
Crockpot set on high.

Let it cook until the dye is exhausted, or you get the color you want.

Natural grey and brown wool, dyed with Blue Raspberry Lemonade Koolaid
Natural grey and brown wool, dyed with Blue Raspberry Lemonade Koolaid

I used the same technique for some Suri Locks. These I contained in an onion bag, but soaked and poured the same.

Suri alpaca locks, dyed with Lime Koolaid
Suri alpaca locks, dyed with Lime Koolaid
The dye studio
The dye studio

This was a great one day project that yielded some wonderful colorways.  Now on to making some knitted creations with my hand dyed yarns!

 

 

It All Started with a Scarf

I have an addiction. I’ve hinted at in another post, but I’ll just admit, I can’t say no to Malabrigo yarn. It’s soft and squishy and the colorways are amazing.

This project started as a one skein scarf I knitted last summer. All the family was over for the Fourth of July, kids swimming, family visiting…I was knitting :-) Just a little scarf called “Feliz Navidad”knit from Malabrigo Rios

Feliz Navidad Scarf knit from Malabrigo Rios
Feliz Navidad Scarf knit from Malabrigo Rios

 

My mom noticed my knitting. “That’s pretty. Did you  spin it?” was the innocent beginning to a conversation that ended with “Sure, I can knit you a sweater.”

The Malabrigo addiction must be catching, because she wanted the Arco Iris colorway. We searched Ravelry for a pattern she liked and settled on “Water and Stone” by Vera Valimaki. It’s a sport weight pattern, so happily most the Malabrigo colors are repeated in all their yarn lines, and I was able to order it in Arroyo. Then I waited. And waited…because as with many hand made things, Malabrigo can take a while to be finished. But good things come to those who wait, right?

Finally in late November the yarn arrived and I cast on. It’s still a work in progress-

Sweater knit from Malabrigo Rios
Sweater knit from Malabrigo Rios
Sweater knit from Malabrigo Rios
Sweater knit from Malabrigo Rios

 

Should I rabbit trail on how much I like the addi Turbo Lace needles? I’ll save that for another post. Because I also love Chiagoo and Kollage needles and this is a post about Malabrigo.

Earlier this week, this arrived in the warehouse:

Malabrigo Nube Persia
Malabrigo Nube Persia

 

It’s soft and stunning roving dyed by Malabrigo. This colorway- “Persia” is going with me this weekend to spindle spin.

Is there a support group for Malabrigo addicts? I belong to Malabrigo Junkies on Ravelry . It’s not really helping :-)

Local Fiber Artist Love!

Recently Alpaca Direct has teamed up with Shooting Yarns, a local fiber artist here in Northern Idaho.  Susan Schroeder has an amazing sense of color and design. Her hand painted colorways are unique and inspiring.

 

I’ll let Susan tell you about herself-

Susan and Susie Q
Susan and Susie Q

Shooting Yarn

“Shooting Yarn is located at The Rusty Spur Ranch in Rathdrum, ID, where we have a small heard of Angora Goats guarded by our llama, Suzie Q, who try and ignore the quacking, clucking, barking and meowing of the other residents.

I began to knit many years ago because my husband told me I needed to find something different to do than reading in the truck, because I would get annoyed when he interrupted me to talk.  He soon found out that interrupting a knitter is just as bad as interrupting a reader….  I had attempted to learn to crochet from my mom, but it was a total bomb.  So I thought I’d try knitting, and after a lot of cussing and dropped stitches, I did it!  Knitting led to handspinning,  because boy was that handspun pretty and I have this thing about doing it myself…. Which of course led to dyeing, because I love color.  Then a drumcarder to make batts.  And then I had to pay for all this!  I gave my job the boot in spring of 2012 and fiber is now my full-time passion!  I hope you love fiber as much as I do, and happy spinning!”

 

Kelley’s Treasure is an exclusive colorway Susan created just for Alpaca Direct! It’s available in three fiber options:

Merino Roving

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Merino Tencel Roving

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Panda Sock

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All of the Shooting Yarns colorways are beautiful and versatile. Find some color inspiration and support an Indie yarn dyer.   You can view these yarns and many other hand dye yarns on our website at www.AlpacaDirect.com.

 

Spinzilla is coming!

We are excited to announce that we will be fielding a team for Spinzilla! This year is the inaugural Spinzilla event. The primary goal of Spinzilla is to spin the most yarn. Each team will attempt to spin as much yarn as possible within the week of October 7-13, 2013. Organizers also hope to raise awareness of handspinning, increase the confidence of individual spinners, and establish a spinning component within the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP).

The Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP) was founded in 1997 by Marilyn North and Bonnie Lively as a fiber arts program for at-risk students. In 2000, TNNA (The National Needlearts Association) and the Craft Yarn Council created the Helping Hands Foundation. The Helping Hands Foundation administers NAMP which has grown steadily since its creation in 2002. Visit the NAMP website for a more thorough account of their history.

Join our team here. Registration opens August 15, 2013 and runs through September 23, 2013. There is a $10 participation fee. Our team is allowed a maximum of 25 members.

Spin time begins at midnight EST on Monday, October 7 and ends at midnight EST on Sunday, October 13. In between these dates, spin, spin spin! Registered spinners must submit a photograph of their yarn and how much yardage was spun by midnight EST on Wednesday, October 15 to their team captain.  The winning team will be announced on Friday, October 18th! A Spinzilla Trophy will be awarded to the most yardage spun by a team. Each member of the winning team will receive a prize. All Spinzilla participants will be entered into a drawing for product gift certificates.

You can also join the Spinzilla Ravelry Group, there is a discussion board dedicated to Team Alpaca Direct. Also find Spinzilla on Pinterest and facebook. I will be serving as team captain, so if there is anything I can do to help you get going, or any questions I can answer, please email me at kjirstine@alpacadirect.com.

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