spindle then (electric) wheel

I just finished this one in time to start on something for the Ravellenics 2021, which is a themed textile arts month meant to coincide with the Olympics. Which I’m not watching anyway, because I’d rather not give the eyeballs and mental attention to something that’s encouraged the insane & corrupt practices of the IOC, like holding the Olympics in the time of global pandemic. but uh, go Malaysia, hoping all the hard work from athletes gets them somewhere. 

a tupperware containing some fibre ready to spun, with a wooden and metal spinning bowl and a russian spindle on top of it
my spinning in progress

 Late last year, I splurged on my first (and only… for the moment) electric spinning wheel. I love spinning singles, but lord do I hate plying. The amount of time it takes, taking away available spindles that I could be using to spin more singles… you know how it is. Finally decided on the Electric Wheel Nano, because of the form factor, and quite frankly the price, even factoring that I had to wait for shipping from the US. And the experience of the shipping by US Post was really notable — unlike other places, the tracking number completely doesn’t transfer at all to the local mail system, unlike other countries I’ve ordered stuff from. Made me wonder if it’s related to Trump-era decision to leave the International Postal Union, or just your regular American inability to be part of any international administrative mechanism effectively (hello the pain of bank services). With the USA, either one is as good of an explanation as the other.

One of my Russian parcels seemed like it disappeared too, but apparently it really did take the long ocean route, because eventually once it was processed locally it reappeared in my tracker. This didn’t happen with the US Post one. 

What that meant was that the parcel effectively disappeared from my view the moment it was technically handed over to the local authorities. If Customs cleared it or not, I couldn’t know, and neither did Pos Malaysia people. Again, unusual, and extremely illuminating as to why DHL, FedEx, and the like can make a mint in US-related business. 

I really did write it off, until it reappeared again almost 2 months later. And I have to say, I’m not regretting the purchase at all. I really did manage to put on a dent on things to ply. Except then… I decided I hated the work of having to estimate the singles length for 2-ply yarn, and wanted to do chainplying on the Nano. Which was possible, but fiddly, especially on thin, highly energized laceweight yarn.

So this yarn had to go through a couple more steps, so I can both maintain tension, and maintain the length of my preferred chain loop (I’m not very tall, but it’s about the length of the full span of my toes to my upstretched arms and fingers). Doing the chaining (without the plying) on the drop spindle (that I guess became a sort of a distaff or nostepinne) was really the breakthrough for me. 

I also finally invested in a wooden umbrella swift, which gave better tension, even if it takes a while to set up and tighten all the joints. 

So in the end: 

  1. Spin on the russian spindle
  2. Chain-loop it off the russian spindle onto the drop spindle
  3. Wind the kop onto the swift, so I can wind it into a flat yarn cake using the winder.
  4. Ply it with the Nano.
wooden umbrella swift with yarn loaded on it, being wound on to a cake on the yarn winder clamped on the desk
my new setup with the new swift and new winder.

Evidently, I spun enough that I got a nice full fat bobbin on the Nano, which is about 41g of yarn. But I don’t know what’s the total length, I might need to do some estimates (if I bother). Using the swift was great, but as it always happens, the inevitable build up of the yarn affected the tension of the spokes, so I guess I’ll just have to go back to my PVC niddy-noddy to skein my yarns before I can wet finish them. The tension can be more uniform, and also I get to do a more accurate estimation of the yarn length. It just will take time and care, two things I don’t care to cultivate. 

The yarn itself is my own handcarded mix of angora, superfine merino (14.5 microns), and eri silk, from World of Wool. It’s not very textbook, how I card my fibre if you look at my IG video. For one thing, I basically make puffs or clouds rather than rolags,, but it worked out well enough. Soft, with a bit of shine. The airy woolen spin also gives each fibre a bit more grip in the construction, so it’s a bit more stable for a combo of fine wools and fibre of not uniform lengths. But it’s true that I’m eyeballing the fibre ratio, so I can’t even begin to guesstimate the % of each. All in all, t’s pretty good yarn, and well-balanced (which I’m very proud about, since I’m very agak-agak about things, if you can’t guess already). 

It’s also very delicate feeling kind of yarn, so should be good enough for a lace shawl, but I’ve been lowkey thinking of weaving a light but warm cape, and this isn’t warp thread candidate. So for Ravellenics, I’m itching to do 2 things:

  1. Not mix the fibres for the singles; and
  2. Make cable yarn.

We’ll see. I’ve already got started on the angora singles, and the rambouillet ones next. The other two I think should be the cashmere-merino batch I got as well as the thai silk i got from Tokyo.

And since this heatwave will persist up to September, maybe I’ll try solar dyeing with these two batches. Give my poor aging, aching hands a break (while I apply more minyak gamat).

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