Friday, 1 April 2016

Therapeutic crafting - yet more new skills!

One rainy day in February, the decision was made to get out of the house after weeks and weeks of not doing anything or seeing anyone. The sportscar club in which the entire Pinhouse household is member, was having the annual Icetrack Day on the fields of a farm belonging to the very woman that gifted me that humongous haul of vintage patterns last year.

I left the driving to the Mr, and all the other car enthusiasts, and slipped away for tea inside with Hilde. She is a wonderfully soothing person to be with, she is also a multi-talent doing most crafts imaginable to man. And best of all, she loves to share. We talked for hours, drank gallons of tea and best of all, she taught me how to spin wool!

Looking back, I definitely have a tendency to do a whole array of different things. It would seem I have not one hobby, but rather my hobby is to learn new skills. This is both a blessing and a curse. Learning new things is very rewarding, useful, and good for the brain. On the other hand, it can be a little restless, and I never loose myself in one thing, to master it. Maybe if I specialized in something, that something would end up being my profession. But in a world of wonderful and diverse crafts, how do you choose only one? No, I don't see that happening at all :) I don't have that kind of self control.

But back to the spinning! I have always loved wool. It is a wonderful material, and has so many uses. It is also in it self natural, and poses little environmental threat. Which for me, is a big deal. (I don't use acrylic yarns. It is basically plastic, that ends up as micro plastic particles in the food chain and poses enormous threats to the worlds oceans. So, avoid if possible.)

Spinning wool into yarn really is a simple process. Twisting fibres together to form a long strand, and that is it. The fun starts when you start spinning different fibres, plying the threads together, and seeing the uniqueness unfold. There are no set rules (well, very few), you can spin the yarn however you like. And then there is dying fibres, and your yarn turns into an explosion of color! The possibilities are endless.

All you need to get started, really.

I went home from my day with Hilde, totally energized. She sent me home with a drop spindle and a small bag of wool fibre, and I was sold! I spun that bag of wool in a matter of days, and just HAD to have more.

Fibres for spinning comes in a wide variety of options, everything from raw unwashed felts straight off the sheep (or other hairy animals like rabbits, goats, camels etc) to ready-to-spin, pre-carded and pre-dyed rolls of clean fluffy stuff. Being a person who like to learn as much as possible and also save a penny, I opted for the raw stuff straight from the barn, and in the mail came a huge box of grey and white sheep-smelling stuff! Oh the bliss!

Raw wool from two different breeds of sheep.

10 kg of wool is A LOT. It all had to be sorted roughly by color, the shorter bits had to be discarded, and any plant material removed. Then the wool needs to be soaked to remove dirt (poo and pee) and excess oils, then dried and carded by hand.

Clean wool ready for carding,
using hand carders (generously lent to me by Cille!)

Once cleaned and carded into fluffy fibres, the spinning can begin. When first starting out, the only objection is to make something that holds together. It gets uneven in thickness and somewhat wonky, (aka novelty yarn) but all normal. After a bit of practice, the thread gets thin and even, and the thought of beautiful garments made from your own fine yarn emerges in ones brain. To make this yarn, one have to spin two (or more) individual threads that are plied together. The only rule in spinning is that each thread must be twisted in the same direction (say, clockwise) and then plied the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction the get the strands of the yarn to lay together. All else is up to you.

My first balls of 2-ply (novelty) yarn.
First attempt at knitting my own yarn.

My first balls of yarn filled me with pride, but putting it to use (knitting) made me aware of how differences in thickness affected the finished product. I tried to make the small balls into a headband thingy, but when I came to ball #3 it was just too bulky.  Changing needles midway was no option, but all this was part of the learning. In the end, there was no headband, but I got some practice cabling before frogging it.

I concentrated on spinning thin, and soon I was making skeins of uniform yarn for my project.

Next time, I'll show you what this wool eventually got turned into. I'll tell you, getting back to creating things again was good for my soul. I am glad I allowed myself to let go of the pressure of doing the right things, and just doing something that makes me happy.

There is a lot of therapy in creativity.


  1. Impressive work, you certainly pick up new skills very fast! I'm sorry you haven't been feeling well lately, but it's a good sign that you can enjoy crafting again. I sometimes feel guilty spending so much time on my sewing (and everything that comes with it), but it's one of the few activities that really takes my mind off things. Very curious to see what you've created with your homespun yarn!

    1. Thank you Iris :) I feel guilty alot too. But why? Crafting and sewing is productive (as opposed to watching TV), but maybe it's because it makes us a little "unapproachable"..? Or that crafting something pretty isn't useful? No that can't be it :) I say, we keep doing it regardless. It obviously is good for the health:)

  2. Wow! When I was a little girl, pre-school I think but cannot be sure, my granny used to make her own yarn and I thought one would have to keep at it for years to make nice, even, fine yarn, but look at those hanks in the bottom picture! They look perfect :) Now I feel like giving it a go!

    Good to see you're crafting again, it really is good for the soul :) Hugs!

    1. Thanks Suna :) Well, Hilde let me try her spinning wheel, but I had to abandon the pedalling bit pretty quickly :D She had to turn the wheel while I sorted the hand and wool coordination, so I seriously doubt my yarn would look very nice had I spun it on a wheel. A spindle is low tech and you have a lot more control, but it takes a lot more time though.

      You should totally give it a try, it is frikkin' awesome! (and very addictive!)

  3. Hello there. :)

    I totally agree with you about wanting to learn new skills. I suppose my hobby is 'textiles' as I can't stick to just dressmaking, or quilting, or knitting, or weaving etc!!! I find learning a new skills is a great distraction from life's worries. I look forward to seeing what you learn next. :)

    1. Hello Hoffi! Why on earth would anyone stick to just one craft, when there are so many gorgeous things to make :) Skills rock, and I know you've got them too!

  4. This is fantastic! You spin out some gorgeous wool there!! Hilde sounds like a wonderful friend and I love reading about all your hobbies :D

    1. Thanks you Kristin :) Hilde is awesome, I just wish we lived closer so I could pester her daily :D