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1 In Insight

Xiane’s Story: how I became elbow deep in wool

cat on knitted blankey

I smile more when spinning when the sun's not in my eyes.

I smile more when spinning when the sun's not in my eyes.


How did I become a Fiber Artist?

I get asked this question a LOT! I figured that telling the story here would be fun and educational for those of you whom I’ve not *yet* met.

Before I was spinning yarns, I was spinning tunes as a radio and club DJ. [And this is why I name most of my fiber and yarns after music lyrics or titles!] I’d moved back to Baltimore to spend some time with my Mom after the death of my stepfather – and I was, quite rightly, stressed out to the max over all the sudden changes. I decided that I needed a relaxing hobby to help me through this time, and as I walked around a craft store, the idea of learning to knit jumped out at me.

I chose a soft, thick, red wool blend yarn and fat bamboo needles. I knew that I didn’t want metal or plastic needles or cheap yarn – I wanted the most pleasant tactile sensations possible.

I pulled up videos, printed out instructions, and went to it. After telling Aurora – my DJ partner/co-promoter at our club night – about my attempts, we decided to start a knitting thing during the opening hours of the night, when things were slow.

deathrockknit

I was a knitter for a year or so before my brain drifted to the idea of a drop spindle. I was beginning to realize that I while liked knitting, what I LOVED was touching the yarn. And the idea of being part of such an ancient tradition really appealed, too.

I ordered my first real drop spindle from the delightful Castle Fibers on Etsy, and I obtained a bunch of pretty wool to go with it. I used the ubiquitous online videos again to get me started – and it clicked immediately. I was making pretty damn good yarn on my first try!

first skein with x

Obviously, I was hooked.

It didn’t take long before I was spinning more than I could ever knit. so I decided to start selling it in my Etsy shop. I built a demand for my wares, and eventually it was time to step up production – and I knew just the way. Enter: Genevieve!

Painting a wheel: in progress

Let me state up front for the record: learning wheel spinning was not the same experience as learning spindling. In fact, there was a good two-week learning curve for me. The challenge was getting myself coordinated – hands, feet, and wheel. Now I know to start with some commercial yarn on the bobbin at first, to get treadling without having to draft at the same time… that’s how I start my students off, even. No – I was trying to do it all at once.

I got very inventive with my curse words.

However, when it finally clicked, it was a complete joy to work with my wheel. Not only was I capable of producing more yarn at one go, as bobbins hold more than a spindle, but I was more willing to try new techniques. I had two hands free at all times to play with the wool.

I still love my drop spindles, though. Much less expensive to collect than wheels, for sure! I like to tuck one in my bag for situations where I think I’ll be waiting around, or where I might feel the drag of having idle hands. Yes, that’s a big deal for me! I have a bunch of different styles of spindles, and I’ll make another post soon showing them off and explaining the differences in them, because there’s a lot to tell.

In fact, because I know you want more, I’ll be making a series of posts in the immediate future about my equipment and how I do what I do. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to hear about, make a comment below and I’ll do my best to tell you all about it!

cat on knitted blankey

My first knitted thing became Squeegee Cat's favourite blanket.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Tania
    August 3, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Such a cool thing to read about! I’d love to see more about the spindles. I still need to learn to use mine before we leave.

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