Do You Have What It Takes To Make Superior Yarn?

Spoiler alert.
Handspinners please note.
If you’re not interested in making better yarn – leave now.
Click away.
Do not read the rest of this post.
Because what comes next will change the way you think about your handspun yarn.

What comes next is a not-so secret formula – written by Lee Raven and published in the Winter 1983 issue of Spin-Off Magazine.

Photo of Spinning Magazine from 1983
It’s both a how-to and a challenge.
It’s a simple equation – and it’s a doozy:

“Good Fibers + Skillful Control = Superior Yarn”

And by doozy I mean game changer.

Because if you read those words and think about how that statement applies to the yarn you make, you’ll start thinking about yarn differently (and not just your own yarn – you’ll probably think differently about commercial yarns, too).

So if you ignored the warning at the beginning of this post, be aware of the consequences.

Everything you know about fiber, yarn and spinning has undergone a subtle but undeniable alteration.

Your brain has begun to reorganize and re-frame all the information you’ve gathered about making yarn –  including what you do, how you do it and what you think about the end result.

You might not recognize the change right away.  But it will begin to show up in the questions you ask.  Questions you might not have asked yourself until now.

Questions like:

  • “What qualities define a good fiber?
  • Are the fibers I usually spin considered good fibers?
  • “What makes some spinning fibers good and others not so good?”
  • ” What do I need to know about fibers so I can tell if they’re good fibers or not?”
  • “What does skillful control mean?”
  • “What skills do I have and how can I modify what I already know?”
  • “What is it – exactly – that I’m supposed to control?”
  • “What skills and techniques can I practice to gain more control as I spin?

If you continue to seek answers to questions like these – and if you incorporate what you learn into the yarn you make, – you’ll know if you have what it takes to make superior yarn.

Let your questions – and your preferences – lead the way.

Maybe you’ve  been wondering how to change something about the yarn you spin – how to make it thicker, thinner, smoother, or more textured?.

Maybe you’d like to try spinning something different – something you’ve heard other spinners say is too hard, or too tricky or too expensive.

Maybe you want to weave with your handspun yarn.

Maybe you want to raise your own sheep but aren’t really sure what breed is best for your purposes.

Maybe you don’t give a rodent’s patootie what someone else thinks is “superior” – maybe you just want to be able to make whatever the heck kind of  yarn you want to make.

So what’s stopping you?
What do you need to know before you can move forward?
What part of that equation don’t you understand?
(I’ll tell you about some of the things I didn’t – and still don’t – understand in another post).
But right now – I gotta go look through a few more of my old Spin-Off magazines.


Open Studio Weekend, May 25 and 26, 2013

Logo used for Vermont Craft Council's Open Studio Weekend events

Looming on the horizon (pun intended) – Vermont’s Open Studio Weekend – is in its 21st year – and represents  long hours of hard work and preparation for everyone involved – especially the  dedicated board members and staff at the Vermont Crafts Council .  These folks deserve special thanks for attending to a myriad of details that go largely unnoticed. (You know who you are – thank you, thank you, – thank you!)

On Memorial Day weekend, visitors will come to our studios from all over Vermont, parts of New York,  New England, Canada and beyond. Craft and art enthusiasts show their support – and satisfy their curiosity – by making Open Studio Weekend part of their holiday plans.

Some people get a copy of the map and choose their route ahead of time – eager to see particular types of work,  and meet certain artisans.

Some people just hop in their cars and look for our strategically placed (?) yellow signs.

Photo of VT Open Studio sign

And some people see the signs – have no idea what it’s all about – but are brave, (curious? adventurous?) enough to come in and find out.

Whether you’re from “away” or just up the road the effort you  make to stop in, say hi, look around, ask questions and generally take an interest in what we do – that’s what it’s all about.

Open Studio Weekend is an opportunity to share our enthusiasm for craft and art – from both sides of the loom – or lathe, or quilting frame or easel or wheel or camera or kiln.

It’s when we explain a process and see someone’s face light up.  It’s when we hear people say  “I can’t believe you do that” or ” I never knew that’s what happened”.

It’s when we demonstrate our tools and equipment – and  (maybe, if it’s safe) let people try it for themselves.  It’s when someone says “I’ve always wanted to do that”  – and they can.

For some of us, getting ready for Open Studio Weekend means sending email to each of the 242 participants with reminders to:

  • pick up your materials
  • keep your dog(s) occupied elsewhere
  • weatherproof your signs
  • put your signs out just before the event (and take them down immediately after!)

It means spending money for ads in local papers and on public radio.

It means asking local shop owners for permission to put up posters and leave a few maps.

It means sending invitations to people on our contact lists, and maybe including a first look at what we’ll be offering in a special weekend sale.

It means cleaning up and clearing out – to make a space that’s “visitor-friendly”.

It means having examples of our work available to bring outside and show to someone in their car if they’re unable to come into the studio space.

It means a lot.
I think it means there are a lot of people who care about art and craft.

People with a profound belief in the value of craft and art education.
People who are willing to actively support events like Open Studio Weekend.
People who are willing to show up.

I gotta go get ready.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio