Spinning Dyed Fibers

I’ve been watching through Spinning Dyed Fibers with Felicia from SweetGeorgia lately (if you’re interested in the class, heres a link to take it at a discount). SweetGeorgia fiber is amazing. The colours are so pure and unashamed and the fiber itself is such a pleasure to spin up. Last night while out running I remembered a partial braid hiding in the storage closet which I promptly spun up when I got home, but more on that in a bit.

When I saw that this class was on Craftsy, I knew I had to watch through it. I love color and spinning, they are probably two of my favorite things. It does not disappoint. I know Felicia as an amazing yarn dyer. We carry some of her stuff at the store and it’s just gorgeous and never fails to make us ooh when we open the box. What I did not know is that she is really knowledgeable about spinning. I didn’t expect to have as many spinning epiphanies watching, but there were for sure a few. Like the way she ties her leader for n-plying, and pretty much the entire Mix & Match lesson. I usually approach dyed fibre as-is, maybe splitting it into two to ply it, but I don’t generally get much more involved than that. Now it’s all I want to do, split and spin and combine and all that. And honestly, I had never thought much about combining different colorways of fiber together, but that lesson makes it look like the bees knees. Surprisingly, I am not a major fiber stasher, so I need to wait for some to really experiment. But when I remembered that I had some SweetGeorgia Merino & Silk (in Maple) hiding away, I knew I had to tackle the fractal spinning lesson.

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See, I’d thought about fractal spinning before. Started reading a few articles even. But they all started off with too much math theory and made it seem a lot more than it was. So I was prepared for a doozy of a lesson. While I was really great at math when I was younger, going to art school let that part of me slide. Instead I was surprised at how simple it was to create such a fun effect. So I split up the 70g of Maple I had into all the parts and made the pretty nests and spun and plied it up into this fun very barber pole-y (which is an effect I for one, love) yarn. Which still needs to be set. And there is enough for mittens!

The setup of the class is pretty nice too, you can submit questions to be answered. There are printouts with all sorts of related class info. The videos themselves start by focusing on general spinning knowledge, such as the difference between woollen and worsted spin, different fiber preparations and some really great stuff on color theory. But seriously, the Mix & Match class is worth the price alone. Felicia focuses on not making mud and getting the most out of your hand dyed fiber and not getting mud. But the focus isn’t just on preserving bright colors, she does some amazing work taking a super bright colorway and subduing it while maintaining the richness of the individual colors. And the part on combining differently dyed fibers, it’s some pretty awesome stuff.

This class really made me want to focus on the craft of spinning. I generally spin really crazy yarns with all sorts of junk and stuff all over the place, but watching the colors combine and the yarns that were made brought me to realize that I need to focus on my technique. I put the abstract before the realism and don’t have a good enough foundation to truly abstract reality if that makes any sense. And if it doesn’t, its like painting a Picasso before you can draw a good figure. Which you might think you can do, but you can’t, and if you think you can your’re a jerk who probably says it whenever you get the chance. Anyways.

I asked Felicia a couple of questions. At the yarn store, I am often asked advice. And being behind the counter of a yarn store, the askee expects that I am an expert of sorts and have a skill level greater than their own. There’s been a bit of a resurgance in spinning lately, and I get asked what advice I have for beginner spinners. Which comes down to “just do it” because I am a jumping in sort of person. Then I realize that the kind of person who would ask me this is not a just do it kind of person and I have to figure out how to answer them better. So I asked Felicia what advice she would give to new spinners.

To beginner spinners, I would say two things: 1) be patient with yourself… it’s a new skill that requires the sensitivity of your hands to judge twist and tension and it takes time to develop. Spend 10 or 15 minutes a day, every day, sitting at your wheel and getting that feel. Give yourself a goal of spinning every day for 30 days and you will improve by leaps and bounds. 2) try everything! Try different fibres — everything from coarse wools to silks to man-made fibers and everything in between. Try working with colours you don’t like and working them in with things you do like. Try wheel spinning and spindle spinning (drop, supported, or other) and see what you like best. You won’t know until you try it!

Which is way better than the answer I usually give, and I should probably have on an index card somewhere.

I also asked her what she tended to spin, more solid or more varigated colors.

When I spin, I tend to spin to relax and for fun, so I lean towards the variegated colours. It gives me the opportunity to watch colours migrate and shift between my hands and it keeps my attention. I usually spin just a couple ounces here and there of a particular colour, so I have lots of random skeins of handspun. Not usually enough to make a full garment. I think if I was more project-oriented, I would look at spinning more subtle colourways or blend my variegated colours more to make something I would enjoy wearing, but personally I just don’t have the attention span to spin enough for a sweater. Maybe that should be my personal goal for the Tour de Fleece next year.

It’s a pretty awesome class. Especially if you buy gorgeous hand dyed fibers and don’t quite know how to get the desired yarn you want out of them. I know I am going to have to do a lot of experimenting now.