I’m happy to announce a new feature on KnittingtheStash: Spinners Speak! I’ll feature hand spinners here: their stories of spinning, tips and tricks, and hopefully–a little bit of inspiration. This is a great opportunity to learn from the folks who have been doing this a little–or a lot–longer than me. I hope you find some humor, some cheer leading, and some new information! I’ll do my best to find new hand spinners each week and will feature them here on Wednesdays. If you are a hand spinner (young or old, new or experienced), I would love to hear from you! Click the “About” tab (above) to get in touch.
For this inaugural post, I asked Judy Hogan of ToeBeans to share some of her wisdom and good cheer. I met Judy through the Fiber Artist’s Marketplace on Facebook. She was selling some lovely Falkland handspun that I couldn’t resist–you all know me well enough by now: new breed specific yarn? Yes, please! And Judy had the perfect 100 yard hank, so I went for it. And, oh my, is it beautiful. I have been dreaming of how I will use this to make something small and perfect–and so soft! Judy’s shop is up on Etsy–info and links are at the end of the interview. So without further ado, here’s Judy . . .
How did you catch the spinning bug?
Actually, I started out weaving. I moved back to Michigan at the beginning of 2013 and made a stop at Baker’s Studio in Allegan, Michigan. Well I found out looms weren’t all gigantic. And I was hooked. I started out weaving and was so in love with the fiber arts I decided to spin as well. Since spinning looks like one of those things that anyone can do, I rushed out and bought the first wheel I came across. A used Ashford Kiwi. I absolutely hated that thing!! I couldn’t spin anything on it. So I sold it and went back to Baker’s where Deb was so helpful and let me use a Schacht Ladybug, and I actually spun on it. I still felt I was a weaver who spun, but having to have surgery in October, and a knee replacement in March, I couldn’t weave, so I was doing more spinning. And, like it or not, I got better at it.
What kinds of fiber do you spin most and why? If you spin a variety, tell us about it!
I spin a wide variety of fibers. I have found my favorites to be Cormo and Corriedale. Both nice soft fibers. I like to spin anything with angora (bunny hair) in it. It develops such a lovely bloom after it’s washed to set the fiber. I like to experiment with combining different fibers, even using tencel to ply with. I try to keep my mind open about what may work with something else.
Do you process your own fleeces? If so, any tips or tricks to share?
This again is one of those things that just looks like anyone can do it. I had goats when I first started spinning. AHA, I’m going to grow my own fiber and process it!!! So away I went and bought some fiber goats. And all the equipment needed to process fiber. Then I bought raw fiber. And then someone gave me bags of llama. All of a sudden I had so many garbage bags filled with fiber waiting to be processed I was just overwhelmed. And I couldn’t even walk around my looms. So I had to decide what I wanted to do. I sold all of my equipment and got rid of most of my raw fleece. I buy processed fiber that is ready to be spun. I also decided I didn’t want to get into dying, so I do buy already dyed rovings. I also like to do natural colored rovings. That allows for my customers to buy something that has been handspun and they can dye it themselves. I do have some BFL fleeces that I’m going to work on processing this summer. I want to spin them up into a yarn I can use to weave a floor rug for my home.
What’s your best piece of advice for new spinners?
Don’t be afraid!!! There are many ways to spin. There are those who are so talented with a drop spindle. Others prefer a spinning wheel. And still others use an e-spinner (electric spinner, you don’t have to treadle). They all have their specific uses. I did go to an e-spinner because a knee replacement isn’t conducive to treadling!! But I will go back to my Ladybug. Try out wheels before you buy one. There are those who can more than likely spin on any piece of equipment, but I think for most of us there is a bit of a learning curve. After I had been spinning a bit my husband told me he could tell I was improving. I asked him how he knew and he told me I wasn’t cursing nearly as much!!
What is on your wheel/spindle at the moment?
Right now I’m working a lovely merino in a natural color. I don’t usually have more than one fiber going at a time. I like to finish with one before I begin another one.
If you knit/crochet/weave, what projects do you have in the works?
I’m going to get into my shop this week and work on the two shaft rug loom and get some new rugs done for Farmers Market. That is where I do most of my selling. It will depend on how well my knee has healed. I may only be able to start with weaving for an hour and then taking a break. But it’s time to get back to the looms. When plying yarn there always seems to be a bit more on one bobbin, so I have all these leftovers that may be a few yards or several yards. I started to leave them on an extra bobbin and them combine them with the next fiber, no matter what it was. So I end up with these bizarre yarns. I use them to make hats. And if I only get a few rows, I just grab the next color in the bag and continue on. Now I have a bunch of “crazy” hats that are all handspun, wool yarns, but are extremely colorful and fun. I always have one of those to work on.
What is your dream yarn? What kinds of yarn do you sell?
I have several fibers I really like. I love alpaca and llama. From the right animal the fiber is just luscious. So soft and so easy to spin. I also like the Cormo and the Corriedale. I do Falkland, cheviot, BFL (Blue Faced Leicester), Jacob, angora, mohair, and I did spin some hemp. And if I spin it, it’s going to be for sale!
How can interested buyers get in touch with you?
I have an etsy store which is www.etsy.com/shop/toebeans; I have yarn there. I can also be reached at email@example.com
I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via the “About” tab (above)