Palette Cleanser … and Value …

Weird title today … but you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

After my last couple of spins, I needed a palette cleanser. I needed a quick less intensive spin AND I needed to see if I could still spin thick so I picked a Polwarth blend to try and accomplish this goal. It wasn’t as easy as I thought! You see, my brain, hands and feet seemed like collectively, they’d forgotten how to spin thick! What in the world?!!!!!

I’ve been spinning thin so long it’s like my faculties forgot how to spin thicker, so I decided to do a little experiment! A few years ago, I received this braid from a friend. I’ve been trying to use fiber exclusively from my stash so I took it out to play around with.

My goals were to spin thick intentionally, do some barberpole colorplay and spin without over-twisting. My first efforts proved interesting — while I did spin thick and got the barberpole placement I was looking for, the fiber was horrifically over-twisted. The likes of which I haven’t seen since my early days of spinning. I stopped spinning on that bobbin then split the remaining fiber into 2. The fiber on the bobbin is so over twisted, I didn’t even wind it off.

Then I tried again …

With the second fiber bump, I was able to spin thicker, not my most consistent spin but with faster uptake and slower treadling, I did it.

The third bump was even better, although the yarn weight turned out to be worsted/aran weight. It was much more consistent, I got the barberpoling I wanted, and there were no over-spun, squiggly bits!

Overall, the experiment was successful (see project notes here) but it seems like for some, tenacity, education and expertise isn’t worth the cost. Let me explain …

I posted this skein and the experiment on instagram. Last week, I received a text message from someone I know indicating that she would like to purchase some of my handspun. She asked me to send her some pics of my recent spins so she could tell me which she was interested in. She was interested in this bulky spin. I gave her the specs on the skein in terms of weight and yardage but there seemed to be some disconnect. According to her, she wanted to purchase skeins for someone who is a knitter and that person wanted to knit a sleeveless sweater. I saw where this convo was heading and was transparent. No, I don’t have a sweater quantity of this skein. No, I can’t estimate how much you would need, your knitter needs to look at her pattern then tell me what weight and yardage she needs. No, I can’t immediately serve you up 6 skeins of some undetermined yarn weight and yardage. And no, although she might have convinced you that she really wants handspun, your knitter has to be willing to pay at least $50 per skein for this work. Handspun doesn’t mean cheaper, actually, it costs more than even a custom dye job. I even offered that alternative: I’m a pretty decent dyer, if your knitter likes the colorway, I’m willing to mix a custom dye color for her but that’ll amount to $28 per skein. After providing this information, the conversation dissolved into multiple reasons why we couldn’t connect on the phone to discuss final details once I was done with my 9 to 5 job.

Why am I writing about this?

I feel the need to because most non crafters continually underestimate the skill and effort it takes to create anything that is not mass produced and the cost factors to be considered when pricing these items. The initial fiber was a gift, but if the purchaser bought it at the going rate for a polwarth silk blend, at the low end that’s a minimum base of $25. It took me about 4 hours to spin, test, ply and if I use the awful $7.25 an hour minimum wage benchmark (U.S.), the skeins already amount to a pre-profit base of $54.

I’m not one for price gouging, but this thing we do — the skeins we spin, the gifts we weave, knit, crochet, the macrame projects we make, the project markers we create, the projects bags we sew — they have value and value far beyond the mass consumed offerings from large corporations. We are not machines and all these items we make, especially the gifts are truly, truly labors of love. Love of the craft and love for the recipients. So to have someone want a handspun skein for the same price as a mass produced skein is a bit of an insult and rather disrespectful.

Don’t let anyone undervalue the work you do, even if you have to walk away from a sale.

Spinning In The Time Of COVID

Regardless of spiritual, political or social affiliation, I doubt that there is anyone who will forget the year 2020. In addition to worldwide social and political change, COVID changed our lives in ways that we never imagined and I hope once it’s been contained that we will never have to experience anything like it again.

In addition to dealing with all the pandemic brought, I moved, transitioned the group I work for currently to fully remote operations and I had to deal with (initially mysterious) life threatening health issues (thank God I’m okay now but still being monitored). So 2020 is definitely NOT a year I’ll ever forget.

I did not knit or crochet a stitch. The only thing I had energy for was spinning and even that was not on a consistent basis. I love knit socks but haven’t even finished my first pair, so I thought, while the chaos of 2020 was going on, that maybe the thing to get me knitting socks was if I spun sock yarn. I think maybe the day I thought to do this I might have been loopy from meds because your girl here thought spinning 3-ply sock yarn WAS the thing she should do. Silly, silly me! LOL!

Clearly I didn’t think of fiber properties, the blend I used has bamboo in it and while that would actually make for some cool socks on hot summer days, the fiber combo — Targhee, silk and bamboo — has more drape and less elasticity that socks need. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would even hit the mark, I just picked a braid I liked from my stash and went at it.

The evolution of this spin in pictures:

Project Details:

  • Fiber weight: braid was 5.7 ozs.
  • Dyer: Inglenook Fibers
  • Colorway: Lion’s Mane from the 2020 Narnia series
  • Fiber Composition: Targhee, silk, bamboo
  • Fiber Attributes: top with use of commercial dyes
  • Spun and plied on Lendrum DT
  • Single Spun: with Z twist
  • Plied: with S twist
  • First Pass:1683 yds of singles
  • Skein Finish: 3- plied
  • Skein weight: light fingering
  • Wraps per inch (WPI): 18
  • Final Skein Total: 561 yds of 3 ply yarn
  • Finished Object: for Tour De Fleece 2021

The singles for this project were spun at thread size so plying took longer than i expected it to. It felt like no matter how much I plied, the bobbins looked the same size. LOL! Altogether, plying took about 9 hours before I got to the end of the first bobbin. Once that happened, I joined the remaining yarn from the other two bobbins and chain plied them together to make a three ply mini. I haven’t calculated grist and all that yet, not even sure I will. The only thing I’ve thought of now is that I should find a shawl pattern to show off this spin brilliantly instead of using it for socks.

To say that I am immensely proud of this spin is an understatement. Spinning, and even plying it forced me to slow down. It helped me focus on making my joins as neat as possible, I had a number of breaks during plying, I aced that too, you can’t tell from looking at the skein where any of them are. The project itself has made me aware that I *can* be a more intentional spinner. I set a goal and even though I was winging it on this first pass, I met my goal and am now equipped to do this again.

This skein also represents being able to do hard things during really tough circumstances and I can’t think of a better takeaway from the year that was 2020.