Friday, July 17, 2009

The Elastic Rebound Theory

Maybe I feel like being controversial for a change, but as I was sitting spinning some unbelieveably beautiful fiber (TWF "Delphiniums" on merino/tussah silk is iridescent, like Amazon butterflies) I recalled that I’d heard there was a controversy going around about pre-drafting fiber before spinning. I think (this is pure heresay) that someone said that pre-drafting is for sissies.

I don’t like to get worked up over spinning. In the first place, I spin to relax. But statements like this remind me of the elastic rebound grade school they ask you if you’ve even heard of the elastic rebound theory and when you say no they give you a wedgie and then let go, snapping you with your own underpants. Well, I feel the need to do some snapping. “Predrafting is for sissies” comes under the heading of all those other quasi-rules that may be appropriate in a small context but get taken way out of hand when repeated once the context is long gone. One of these beauties is “you can’t spin from the fold on a hand spindle”. When someone told me that I immediately picked up the spindle and spun from the fold. Good grief.

Truth is I rarely pre-draft fiber unless I have a specific reason to do so. There are as many ways to pre-draft as there are reasons to do it. To align colors or multiple strips of color, to get the fibers moving in a dyed top, to stretch the colorbands in a handpainted roving, to transform a batt into a roving to meld colors. It’s an invaluable tool to teach newbie spinners how fibers glide past each other. Most new spinners need a little help understanding this phenomenon. Once you get it...or should I say...once your hands get it, you’ve got it, and all of a sudden you are drafting automatically on your own.

Spinning is a tactile art. It’s kinesthetic. It’s all about the feel. Pre-drafting is part of that feel...pulling on a section of roving just long enough to feel the fibers let go of each other and align. How you draft, how you spin, it all shows up in the yarn. No two people can spin exactly alike no matter how their fiber is prepared, no matter how they work their hands. Once you do, you might as well be machines.

So let’s get real. All this hubbub begs the question, “Why do I spin?” Personally, I spin because I love yarn that looks and feels like it was handled by the human hand. Those of you who have knit with your own handspun know what I’m talking about. That fabric feels different than any other fabric, even one you’ve knitted from someone else’s handspun. It has your hands in the work, your very own hands. Your hands give the yarn and fabric life. I spin to feel that life.

Why do you spin?

Spin, Crochet, Knit at Harrisville Designs

There is still some room in my 3-day Spinning for Colorwork Knitting workshop at Harrisville Designs, Aug 10-12, 2009. This is a short version of my longer spin, dye, knit class Aug 3-7 without the dyeing portion of the workshop. We should really call it, spin, crochet, knit. We'll explore spinning both active singles and plied yarns from handpainted rovings by knitting and crocheting small motifs and arranging them in a free form composition. This is a great way to understand how to use handpaints, and an opportunity to just knit and crochet with little or no pattern and let the yarn show you where to go. Before long you'll be able to introduce the color sequences you want into your yarns, or just simply relish the language of the yarn. I'll provide instruction on colorwork techniques such as mosaic, intarsia and entrelac for those interested. You should be comfortable spinning at the wheel or spindle and know how to either knit or crochet or both (not required that you know both). The main purpose of this class is to provide an exciting and supportive environment for experimentation, exploration and understanding of spinning, crocheting and knitting with multicolored yarns. For more photos, see my pages at flickr and ravelry.