71) Travels through time: a 15-minute musing

Several months ago, there was the Tour de Fleece1.  Since the major goal of this is to spin, even a little, every day, I started giving myself 15 minutes spinning time first thing in the morning.  Oddly, I started getting to work earlier as a result – but that's a musing for another day.

Usually I spin on my wheel in this time, but this morning I grabbed the spindle I'm using to ply the tussah weft for my spindled silk scarf project.  I was working on this last night at spinning group, and was so close to the end of the plying ball, I thought I'd try and get finished.

I don't usually use a plying ball (which is where you wind your singles, together, into a multi-stranded ball, so that all you have to do is go back through the ball and add twist when actually plying).  By default, I've been using plying bracelets, which are a kind of magic, and haven't caused my any significant problems.

But then, it's always worth trying new techniques, and this one comes recommended by Abby herself.  So, each time I finished a spindle full of singles, I wound it off into a neat, tight ball (bo-ringgg! I hate winding!).  Then I picked the two balls that were closest to the same size, and laboriously wound them, together, into a double-stranded, extra large ball. (Booorrrr-ingggg!!!).  At this point, I'm not loving the plying balls.

I didn't love it when I started plying from them, either.  I didn't know what to do with this squirrely, bouncy little ball of tightly wound silk.  Eventually, I figured out that I can hold it loosely in my fibre-control hand (my left, for me), and just let it unwind in a cage of fingers.  After that, this proved to be a really fast way to ply.  Really fast.  I don't know if it's faster than the bracelet overall, what with all that winding and re-winding, but the spindle sure fills up fast when you get going.  And it is much easier to pick up and put down your work using a ball rather than a bracelet.  You can take the bracelet off, but you need to have something else to put it on when you're not wearing it, and you do have to be a bit careful with it to avoid tangling and subsequent swearing.

But what does this have to do with journeying through time?  Well, this was the spinning project that I took up to visit my folks a couple of weeks ago.  And all that winding has some strong memories associated with it.  As the plying ball unwound, I felt as if I was travelling back to the moments when I was winding the ball.  I was transported to conversations with my parents; to the giant box of chocolates on the coffee table; to stopping at a motorway cafe and boggling the other patrons by pulling out a spindle whilst I waited for my coffee to cool; to the smell and feel of the air that weekend (mostly damp.  But it smelled of the sea).

Those memories were a definite bonus.  Oh, and I finished the plying ball:

(the little balls are the mismatched ends from my four balls of singles.  I'll make a mini-plying-ball with those, and bracelet ply anything left over.)

I think I *will* be using plying balls in the future, but I will see if I can find a storage mechanism for my singles which does not involve winding everything twice.  It should be possible to slide my finished cops of singles onto short needles, or something.

1 Note for non-spinners/people who don't hang out on Ravelry:  The Tour de Fleece happens at the same time as the Tour de France.  It's an opportunity excuse to spin every day, to challenge yourself, to try new things.  Frankly, it's fun.


  • I must try spinning silk on my spindle. Your spinning looks beautiful.

    6th October 2010
  • Thank you!
    I have to admit, I started spinning silk with spindles. I didnt start wheel-spinning silk until later; I was worried that I wouldnt be able to reduce take-up on the wheel to manageable levels. Fortunately, it proved to be a non-issue, in the end.
    Im looking forwards to finishing up this little bit of plying; then I can get all my spindled silks out for a joint photo-shoot! I represents at least 18 months, possibly two years, of on-again-off-again spindling effort, and there are a whole bunch of different types of silk in there, from top to hankies. Ive made no serious effort to keep the yarns to a consistent grist, though theyre all in that bracket known as pretty fine. Im hoping for a warp-stripe scarf that is interesting and fairly elegant, but
    still has a distinctly handspun/rustic quality, too.
    And now that the end of the spinning is in sight, Im getting seriously excited about the weaving!
    Grain will get you through times of no gold
    ~~better than~~
    gold will get you through times of no grain.
    Blog: http://yarninmypocket.typepad.com
    Ravelry: yarninmypocket
    Weavolution: yarninmypocket

    6th October 2010
  • looks great!
    When I ply I weigh the various balls (associating the ones that are closest in weight to one another) then to ply (and I use this both for spindle and wheel) I plop them indo mugs or cereal bowls (depending on size) on either side of me and ply away. I’ve also experimented (especially with plying more than two strands) with using a large multi-holed button to maintain easy management of the incoming strands, as well as an even ply.

    6th October 2010
  • Oh, Alexis’s button sounds like a great idea! I’m plying a lot of 3-ply right now, and that sounds like an excellent idea for maintaining control.

    12th October 2010
  • Thanks!!
    Did you see the tsocktsarinas 18-ply trick on Ravelry, during the Tour de Fleece this year? She made a guide with a hole for each thread – very awesome. If you missed it, theres video here.

    12th October 2010

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