Spinning is immeasurably good for me.
You may have heard that there are two kinds of knitters: process knitters and product knitters. They are fairly self-explanatory: Process knitters knit primarily for the joy of doing. They choose a project based on how fun it would be to do, they don’t care so much about the finished object, and they don’t tend to be in a great hurry. Product knitters, on the other hand, tend to pick a project based on its end utility, and knit primarily for the joy of the finished thing.
Now, since I make things with my hands at all, I am probably more about process than most people are. But I know very well that on the continuum of knitters, I tend to fall fairly firmly on the product side. I like getting things done; I like using them; and only rarely will I pick a project with no imagination in my mind of how fun it will be to use it/have it/give it away.
Many people love knitting for its meditative qualities. They say that it slows them down, gives them time to think, brings them peace. I tend to be so product oriented that this is not generally true for me. Knitting is the background noise of my life – or rather, it’s the activity that occupies that buzzing part of my brain that would be background noise if I didn’t have something to do with my hands. It’s the catnip for an over-anxious mind. But meditative? Peaceful? Rarely. Especially since I tend to be so focused on getting a thing done so I can get on with the next thing.
Spinning is not like that.
With spinning, you have to be process oriented. The act of spinning makes you process oriented.
With knitting, you have landmarks – knit to the armhole decreases, finish a back, a front, two sleeves, sew it up. You get things done incrementally, measurably, stitch by stitch. You can measure your gauge, make adjustments, to get what you’re doing just right.
For those who are better spinners than I am, who know more about it than I do, and who spend more time at it than I do, there is plenty of information out there for you to manipulate what you’re doing to get just the product you want.
But I’m not there yet.
I just spin.
Spinning is the ultimate in repetitive motion. The feet treadle. The right hand drafts. The left hand holds back the fiber mass. The eyes watch the drafting zone, trying to get the exact same amount in the zone every single time. All this happens, over and over again, literally thousands of times before you fill a bobbin, then do it again ’till you’re out of fiber, then ply them together if that’s where you’re headed. As the elegantly loquacious Auntypodes put it, “The act of spinning, itself, gives the same sensation as of the outward exhalation of a sigh; a relaxing, shoulder-dropping half-yawn of contentment.” I don’t know why, but on a bad day, after I spin for a while, everything seems a little bit more okay.
Then there are the really bad days. Days when you’ve cried so much that you’ve lost half your manual motor control, and you’re liable to tear up and hopelessly obscure your view of the drafting zone. Days when it’s all you can do to count your treadling before each release, as any hope of a consistent rhythm is gone.
On days like these, all you can do is ply.
No drafting. Just pull two threads and treadle them together.
Gathering information by osmosis is occasionally useful, because I have even less knowledge about plying than about spinning. In my vague perusals of recent issues of Spin-Off, I gathered that holding the yarn directly out of the oriface is useful in keeping tension equal on the two plies, so I tried that. Someone also said something about plying sufficiently for the yarn to look “beaded”, which sounded kind of cool, so I took a wild guess at what that meant and tried it.
I’m sure the plying isn’t consistent. But it’s not bad. And it’s definitely lace. My first lace. 7+ months in the making.
Ashland Bay Merino/Silk blend. 2 ply, 38 wraps per inch (if I did that right, which is a big if), 670 yards, 1.7 oz.