Learning to spin lace at Margaret Stoves knee


Margaret Stove in her element, an Orenburg shawl. This picture is included in her book Wrapped in Lace and is from a trip she took to Orenburg to visit with master knitters.


Margaret shows how she tensions Merino to spin springy elastic yarn.


Margaret demonstrating how to find the tip of a wool lock after it has been washed.

Margaret shares a microscopic image of what elastic in yarn looks like.

How to avoid pills, and other things I learned from Margaret Stove

I love knitted lace. Few things are so timeless, elegant, and universal. There are so many possibilities and so many variations—eyelets in a sweater to a ring shawl to a Mary Walker Phillips wall hanging.

Always impressed by the intricate and complex Orenburg-style lace, I had the impression it was something to be looked at, appreciated, worn to fancy occasions, but not something you would want to cuddle up in. All that changed the first time I saw one of Margaret Stove's shawls. It was in the Interweave books department when they were editing her inspiring new book Wrapped in Lace: Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World. The Merino yarn she spins to knit with is amazingly springy, bouncy, and envelopes you in a cloud of warmth. It reminds me of the first time I gleefully wiggled my fingers down into the marshmallow fleece of a sheep at our local learning farm in Fort Collins, Colorado. Margaret's spinning maintains what I feel are the characteristics of wool in its natural state, its ability to be simultaneously dense and airy. I have to admit the yarn impressed me beyond her complex patterns, often inspired by the leaves and flowers of plants from her native New Zealand, and they, hands down, make this lace-lover swoon.

While recently watching her newly released DVD, Spinning for Lace, I learned so much about how she is able to achieve this. Margaret is a great teacher—very logical and linear, easy to follow, and quick to add helpful tips that you know come from years of experience. It is amazing how generously she shares so much of what she has learned through experience and experimenting with Merino wool. In the video, she demonstrates her drafting technique to maintain elasticity in this fine fiber and how she evenly plies the stretchy singles.

And beyond these basic steps for spinning ideal lace yarn, I learned so much—reasons for spinning tip first to avoid pills and undue wear on fine wools and a trick to find the tips of yarn (you just rub a clean lock between your fingers and the scales cause it to "walk" toward the tips), and how to ply yarns of varying elasticity. There was a great section at the end where Margaret shared a selection of her shawls and told stories of what inspired each of them and what some have been up to since she made them.

Even as a beginning spinner, I feel I am ready to go out and try spinning dreamy cloud-like yarn. I feel so fortunate that through the magic of video I can go straight to the source and learn from such a delightful master as Margaret Stove.

Spin on,

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