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Deb Robson and Tussah

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« The gray/grey "Suffolk" puzzle | Main | Thursday night spinning »

March 27, 2009


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The very first fleece I spun was a filthy Suffolk, full of briars and other VM, that I had begged to have from the owner. Spun it worsted and tight, and it became socks.

Sometimes beginning with lesser than best, and not knowing any better, one learns a lot,


I love the decisions that are made by experienced spinners. It's not working this way, my hands will try another approach. My mind will follow with a third solution... this meshes nicely with a long conversation I am having elsewhere about the increasing technicalization of spinning vocabulary. (see the most recent Spin-off and the number of different varieties of "long draw" described there...)

Instead of fixating on the technique's name or sticking to it doggedly, I think the experienced spinner will intuitively work towards the technique that works best with the fiber she has. You are doing just that!

Deb Robson

Isn't that true? I spun first with Dorset and Suffolk from meat flocks, because that was what we could get. I remember an "oatmeal colored" fine fleece I bought from a well-known grower whose ability to eliminate VM has *got* to have improved with the years. And there were the three Karakul fleeces, all bought at once, different colors--I learned so much! (Wove a rug.)

Right now, I'm wearing a not-very-well spun sweater of my own making that I wear every day. I forget I have it on. Other people notice it, ask if I made it, and I have to admit I also spun the yarn, and I look at it, and I think, "Yeesh," but then I also think that it's comfortable enough to wear every day and it's much better than a sweatshirt. I have it on now. . . .

Deb Robson

Joanne, the development of vocabulary and systematization in spinning reminds me of what has happened in knitting. SOME DAY spinning will get back to where knitting is getting now: is it working? are you happy? NO PROBLEM!

People give names to drafting techniques in an attempt to communicate through two-dimensional media--and I include computer screens in that two-dimensional clump, even with YouTube included. This was one of my major frustrations in editing the magazine: I had to put measurements and words in, in order to get the most information across through the available communication portal.

In part, I feel a bit responsible for the technical approach being taken now by many spinners, because we *did* move toward describing twists per inch and the like (useful, but not the be-all). My *favorite* way of describing a yarn was to print a photograph of it at full size. Which I endeavored to do every time it was possible. That way you can derive the TPI and WPI and twist angles if you want, or you can look at it and understand the construction without reducing to numbers: straight from eyes to fingers, without a detour through a calculator. (I do like calculators and math: they're just not essential here.)

Drafting styles are not mechanical. There are not neat dividing lines between them. They are fluid, like dancing. When someone says they used the XYZ draw and don't describe what it was, then, frankly, that's not helpful--and I don't want spinning to get to a point where spinners Must Master the Following Five Specific Drafting techniques (whatever they might be). That may happen. Then I hope it will all loosen up again.

Gee, you made me write another could-be-a-blog-post {grin}.

Linda Cunningham

Must Master the Following Five Specific Drafting techniques


I once looked at getting "accredited" as a "Spinner" and carefully examined the syllabus: one of the projects I would have had to submit for the first level was a collection of very specific differentially drafted and spun samples from a wide range of sheep breeds.

Needless to say, I figured I could spend my time and money (and finishing the programme was going to take a great deal of both) better elsewhere....

Deb Robson

And you could have a lot more fun.


As a self-taught neophyte spinner, I find myself shying away from all the techno-math. Spinning seems like such an organic process, that reducing it to TPI and WPI is intrusive and intimidating. I just want to enjoy turning wool into yarn. With each experience, I learn more. I look forward to the day when I'll have the body of knowledge to be able to make choices like you've just made with this particular wool.

Speaking of this particular wool, if the breed was more respected for its wool, would greater care have been taken with the shearing? When the product is perceived as having no value, no effort is made to preserve the value. Which results in a product with no value. Sad, really.

Deb Robson

Good for you, Gayle. The numbers and concepts can be *very* useful. For some people, though, they should be the seasoning and not the main course. Do you know Maggie Casey's new book on spinning from Interweave? If not, you might enjoy it.

Yes, if the breed is more respected for its wool, greater care would be taken and the wool would have more value. Sometimes breeders can make that shift; sometimes practical constraints keep them from doing so. It's not even appropriate for all breeders. I just hate seeing the wool of certain breeds denigrated when it can be useful in ways that other wools cannot--when we overlook a treasure because we're not accustomed to focusing on it.

Backing away from soapbox temporarily. . . .

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