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Hand Spinning News

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Welcome to another Hand Spinning News, in which we explore the spectrum from the sublime to the ridiculous; the clever, curious and creative.

Flax appears more than once this month, Josefin has lots of information about growing and processing it yourself, and Christiane has a story about a very well-preserved 80-year-old dowry chest of the stuff that she's sending around the world.

Other interesting fibres in this month's stories include raffia, banana and dogbane.

Read on for this month's round-up of news, views and reviews for spinners, knitters, crocheters, dyers and weavers.

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Photo right: Janette Budge. Cover photo by Soraya García on Unsplash



In the media

Herdwicks: The 'smiley' sheep that shaped the Lake District

Herdwicks: The 'smiley' sheep that shaped the Lake District

The BBC visited Jon and Jo Watson at Yew Tree Farm, near Coniston and interviewed them about the Herdwick breed, their farm and lifestyle.

Thirteen women wear one dress for 100 days in a row

Thirteen women wear one dress for 100 days in a row

There are a few interesting takeaways from this experiment (marketing exercise?) and the challenge is still open.

The brand wool& created the Rowena Swing Dress and the 100 Day Challenge. They sent dresses to the first fifty people who volunteered to attempt wearing the dress for a hundred days straight. Those who succeeded received a large shopping voucher.

This article gives the thoughts of some of the women who took part.

In particular, there were no rules about how frequently (or whether) to wash the dress. One volunteer wore the dress for 100 days straight without washing it. Others washed it infrequently or frequently.

Norfolk knitter recreates Queen's estate in wool

Norfolk knitter recreates Queen's estate in wool

Margaret Seaman's knitted Sandringham first went on display in February 2020.

During the lockdown, Margaret has done much more work on the piece and as I write this it's on display at the Makers' Showcase in Norwich. (Showcase ends 11 June.)

There are loads of worthwhile pictures here on the BBC News website.


Handspun stories

Berta's Flax Travels the World

Berta's flax travels the world

Christiane Seufferlein tells the story of the flax dowry chest. In parts of Austria it used to be tradition for a woman to bring a chest of flax and linen to the new home. In more recent times the custom became more symbolic.

Christiane found an 80-year-old chest full of remarkably well-preserved flax which belonged to a farmer's daughter called Berta.

She created a project called "Berta's Flax" in which she's giving away the flax to spinners all over the world.

Raffia Then and Now

Raffia Then and Now

Like me, you may associate raffia with chairs from the 70s.

Today's raffia yarns are not the same as the woody stuff that you remember. These biodegradable and vegan yarns can be woven and crocheted into bags, hats and home accessories.

There are two kinds of raffia, the 'true' fibres of the raffia palm tree, and the processed viscose version which is continuous and even.

This article is an introduction and leads to other articles about weaving and experimenting with the stuff.

The magic of: banana fibre

The magic of banana fibre

Following on beautifully is this short article about banana fibre. This DGY banana fibre doesn't consist of fibres straight from the plant, they're pulped and extruded, but they are vegan and sustainable.

There are quite a few tips and tricks here which will be applicable to other silky cellulose fibres.

Just felt it

Just felt it

Janelle says that "It's cool to be able to safely see the cross-section of woven fabric".

After weaving the wool yarn using her Cricket loom, which took no time to warp, throwing them in the washing machine (after some procrastination) she cut the woven fabric into square coasters.

Making resin Electric Eel Wheel Nano bobbins

Making resin Electric Eel Wheel Nano bobbins

Kathryn of Craft me Happy has made these stunning bobbins for her EEW e-spinner and here she documents the entire process and tools/materials used.

The rainbow effect through the clear bobbin-end was originally accidental, but she has made a sky/cloud look in these bobbins to intentionally create the effect.

The experimental flax patch

The experimental flax patch

1kvmlin is a scheme to allow anyone in the Västra Götaland region in Sweden to grow a square metre of flax with free seeds.

For several years running, Josefin has kept a small 'experimental' flax patch. She hasn't yet spun the resulting flax but is promising to spin it this summer.

This article contains a lot of information about growing and spinning flax, with 'further reading' links.

The relationship between bobbin tube diameter and brake tension

The relationship between bobbin tube diameter and brake tension

Earlier we saw Craftmehappy's self-made bobbins. She deliberately went for a narrower tube than the standard EEW bobbins in order to gain capacity.

However, she has noticed that the narrower the bobbin tube, the more frequently she has to adjust tension, and also that the tension is a little erratic. (Obviously the diameter of the bobbin centre increases as it fills).

She verified EEW maker Maurice's claim that a smaller tube increases the need for frequent tension adjustments, and plotted a graph showing bobbin diameter and the need for tension adjustment.

Tour de Fleece 2021

Tour de Fleece 2021

The Tour de Fleece runs in parallel with the Tour de France bicycle race. It's all about challenging yourself and spinning while the bicycle wheels spin.

Some choose to prep and spin during the tour, Guzzisue is keeping it simple, using the opportunity to reduce some stash, and preparing ahead of time.

The Pursuit of Love

The Pursuit of Love

Congratulations to Jenn of fibreworkshop.

This shot is from a BBC drama. While she was knitting these items, Jenn did hint that she was working on something secret and special.

She used John Arbon's Falklands/Corriedale 'Yarndelic' which is available in yarn and top.

Magnus Drudik wheel

Magnus Drudik wheel

This very interesting-looking wheel was made by Magnus Drudik in 1999.

The design is clever, it allows you to change bobbins without removing the drive band.

The design lives on thanks to McTavish Wheels.

Thank you to sheilamcl for adding so much detail to her photograph.

Åsen wool

Åsen wool

This is a fabulous post if you're interested in Sweedish breeds. Josefin writes in detail about the wool characteristics, and colours of the Åsen fleece. She samples it and links to eight other breed studies that she has written.

Spinning the Structure of Life with Paleotechnics

Spinning the structure of life with Paleotechnics

"The ability to make string and make fire are two of the earliest things our ancestors were able to come up with by at least 300,000 years ago" says Tamara Wilder of Paleotechnics.

She discusses the collection and use of Dogbane, which is on par with hemp and flax for its quality, making it one of the top three fibres worldwide.

Sheepish Mittens

Sheepish mittens

Although this is an Instagram post, quixario has provided a blog-quantity of information.

These mittens are made from raw fleece, a Lincoln / Merino and a Karakul / Jacob. She scoured the fleece and hand combed because they contained a lot of VM.

The pattern is Sheepish Mittens by JudyKavanagh.

quixario has made these as part of "one yarn one outfit" (OYOO) which is a very intriguing concept.

Lenticular crochet code

Lenticular crochet code

Congratulations to Anuradha Reddy for this wonderful project, which she made as part of her Internet of Towels project, also related to Towel Day (May 25) which celebrates the work of Douglas Adams.

The QR code contains a message. It is possible to read it using your phone / pad if you use Anuradha's picture of the tilted towel. (It's actually a link to a tutorial page which has yet to be populated as I write).

To further obscure the message, it's made using a 'lenticular crochet' technique and needs to be tilted at 45 degrees before your device will be able to read the code.


Colour inspiration

When little needs saying except 'beautiful colour'

Fun with rolags

Fun with rolags

This post features much blending board > rolag/puni > finished yarn progression.

There are four very different colour blends in this post, and Janelle comments that "the blending possibilities are truly endless".

Third member of the triple fade

Third member of the triple fade

The purple and blue here is softened by the orange and brown. Krisztina's fibre is polwarth and is Navajo plied.

Struggling through the process

Struggling through the process

Looking at Nanette Wake's other work, I think the pool of blue in the gorgeous bowl may be resin inlay.

reeneevee says that the learning curve for supported versus drop spindles is steep, but that this blue/grey fibre is helping.



The relatively small amount of purple makes this blue/green base shimmer.

Thanks to threadbender for sharing.



Wool pickers

Wool pickers

A wool picker is a less-common tool but it does have a specific use.

The 1764 Shepherdess demonstrates her two different wool pickers and the plans that are available in the book "The Handspinner's Guide to Selling"

Tips and tutorials

Cleaning handcards, blending boards and drum carders

Cleaning handcards, blending boards and drum carders

I'm grateful to Jillian for this tip. Cleaning hand or drum carders thoroughly is important if you've been carding something dark and want to card something light.

The brushes sold for the purpose (which may even be included with the drum carder) often don't do the job, they don't reach all the way down to the 'cloth'. These tools will reach those fibres without risk of damaging the cloth.

A quick web search for "hairbrush cleaner" turns up loads of options for the type of brush that Jillian suggests.


NZ inventor creates world's first boat made from wool

NZ inventor creates world's first boat made from wool

In "that sounds ridiculous" news, a New Zealand inventor has created the world's first boat made from wool.

As you'd expect, this boat isn't knitted from wool yarn, but pellets of a product that he's developed called Keravos, which is a combination of acid derived from corn starch and wool. It takes advantage of the keratin in coarse wool which is strong and lightweight



Maureen: (Standing up to her knees in water) It's a heavy dew this morning

If you like Yvonne, click the image to find her page, you can use next and previous to explore more cartoons.

Keeping this wheel spinning

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Using the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter

Using the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter

This gadget is a yarn counter. Not a new idea but a new product. It's made by Maurice of the Electric Eel Wheel (EEW).

As I write this, the yarn counter is on Kickstarter with 17 days to go, so there may be time to back the project when you read this.

Craftmehappy has been thinking of and trying many uses for the counter, including putting it between your yarn and knitting to keep track of your yardage as you knit.


Sometimes just a picture is enough

Epic Jacket

Epic Jacket

Barbara Daiker set out to challenge herself and the result is amazing.

The pattern is by Sarah Howard, the handspun yarn is cabled and the weave is plain with random sequence of the three colours. The article doesn't mention the buttons but they do appear to be Dorset buttons made from the same yarn.

There are many more details in this page courtesy of Spin Off magazine.

Handspun socks

Handspun socks

Thread Head Joanne casually dropped these handspun socks in at the end of a post, almost as an afterthought, but I think the deserve higher billing.

The graduation from yellow to blue, opposites on the colour wheel, gives a dramatic effect. You can almost see green in between the yellow and blue but it's not as obvious as I'd have expected.

I like the use of the yellow for the contrasting heel flap.

What was my problem

What was my problem

Daryl is proud of this piece. She says that "this really complex looking thing is done on a straight draw in carpet warp on four shafts. Really. This is not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination"


Free patterns and projects

A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.

Alpaca Merino Super Soft Socks

Alpaca Merino Super Soft Socks by Melanie Smith

Melanie says that Ashford Alpaca Merino blend makes a wonderful yarn for socks. It's easy to spin, soft and warm. This pattern has a very interesting stitch pattern.

She suggests that a 3 ply yarn will wear better than a 2-ply and fingering weight. Aim for a 16-18 wpi finished yarn.

Summer's End Shawl

Summer's End Shawl by Jill Zielinski

This asymmetrical triangular shawl is knit on the bias and features multiple stitch patterns.

It uses 885 yards of 4 ply (14 wpi) yarn in three colours.

The Smoke & Mirrors Cowl

The Smoke and Mirrors Cowl

This project is presented as a knit-a-long with a competition, but the pattern is freely available and I do like the way it looks.

You need just 262 yd (240m) of DK (double knit) or light worsted weight yarn in three different colours, which makes it ideal for a hand spinning project. There's a lot of advice on this page about choosing suitable colours with the help of the colour wheel and a little colour theory.


More pattern suggestions

Ixia by Susanna IC

Ixia by Susanna IC

If you're a taller girl like me, this longer summer tee will appeal.

The pattern suggests cotton, but choose a yarn for a nice drape. The body is plain stockinette, with lace detail for interest and flattering waist shaping.

The pattern is automatically discounted until June 21.


But is it art...?



All that remains is for me to thank everyone who blogs, writes articles or posts pictures on the subject of spinning, knitting, crochet or weaving. This newsletter wouldn't exist without them.

If you enjoy Hand Spinning News, please do share a link to by email or on social media with anyone who may be interested. Obviously this full version is a benefit to you as a paying subscriber. An edited version of this particular issue will be mailed to free subscribers and visible at towards the end of the month.

It's always good to hear from readers for any reason (or no reason!)

Happy spinning!

- Editor / curator

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