Getting Out of Your Spinning Comfort Zone

Woolly comfort or implements of the unknown? Discover new uses for handcards and tahklis. Photo by Jason Reid.

Michael Cook walks you through a traditional Lao method of reeling silk. Photo by Michael Cook.

The Columbia Mitts by Star Athena are the essence of winter comfort. Photo by Joe Coca.

Finding New Territory

One of the most fun—and most terrifying—aspects of being an editor is the constant exposure to new experiences. An editor is a professional dilettante: Every issue we make a list of things that readers might be interested to learn more about. We find experts in the field or terrific researchers to discover and write about them. When they come in, we might try new techniques out for ourselves as we edit or photograph them.

By the time each issue is published, I know a little more about a lot of things. Sometimes the subjects are ones I know pretty well myself, but sometimes they push me in directions I'd never follow on my own. The Winter 2011 issue of SpinKnit was full of new and slightly uncomfortable explorations.

Handcarding, Woeful or Wondrous
I've never liked handcarding, and I don't even own a set of handcards.

There. I said it. It might be shameful confession for the editor of a spinning magazine, but it's the truth.

Whether it's because by instinct I'm more comfortable spinning worsted, because the first fleece I bought to card had a break that caused tons of nepps, or because I always manage to scratch or puncture myself with any kind of card, it's something I've avoided since my very first spinning class.

I've always thought I was doing something wrong when I card wool, but "The Carding Conversation" shows four distinctly different ways of using handcards to process wool. We developed some fun animations to show three different ways that spinners brandish their handcards, but the video of two spinners in Oaxaca who scrape together cards full of wool suggest that it's not as important to have "perfect" carding form as to get the yarn you want at the end of it.

The Dancing Tahkli
Spinning on a tahkli is something else I didn't love as a beginner and set aside for years, but Stephenie Gaustad makes it look fun and easy. Inspired by her article on spinning wool, cashmere, alpaca, and other protein fibers on a tahkli, I borrowed one from Spin-Off Editor Amy Clarke Moore and decided to spend ten minutes a day practicing. After a few days it became addictive; I found myself twirling pencils idly.

There are still plenty of new things I want to explore in this new issue of SpinKnit. Reeling silk doesn't seem like a task for mere mortals, but Michael Cook of Wormspit demonstrates a method that could be done even in my poorly equipped kitchen.

And just when this all felt too far from my comfort zone, I cast on Star Athena's Columbia Mittens for some instant-gratification winter warmth—because it's good to have warm hands when you venture into new territory!

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