Three Tips for Spinning Laceweight Yarn from Margaret Stove

Margaret Stove may be the most soft-spoken rebel you ever meet. It’s not that she enjoys being contrary; it’s just that when you spin the way she does, the usual rules don’t apply. Margaret spins extraordinarily fine laceweight, generally from New Zealand Merino fleece, and knits it into lace so fine that spiders are ashamed to weave webs so coarse.

Margaret’s “1939 Christening Shawl” from Wrapped in Lace is based on the one knit for her as a baby.

Margaret’s “1939 Christening Shawl” from Wrapped in Lace is based on the one knit for her as a baby.

Here are just a few ways that Margaret Stove spins unlike anyone else.

On Washing Fleece

Margaret’s way of spinning is economical. When you can make a shawl nearly five feet across with less than 150 grams of fiber, you don’t need to wash fleece in a bathtub or even a bucket. Margaret sometimes washes one lock at a time, dousing each lock in hot water and scrubbing it vigorously on a bar of soap. Do I hear you gasp? Watch for yourself. It works really well. (To wash faster, she sometimes places a handful of fleece in a mesh bag like the ones that onions come in.)

On Wheel Maintenance

Most spinning teachers tell you to oil the flyer when you change your bobbin, but if you spin as fine as Margaret does, miles and miles of yarn fits on a single bobbin (and the flyer turns at thousands of rotations per minute). You will wait a long time between oilings if you fill a bobbin with cobweb-weight singles.

Detail of Margaret’s “1939 Christening Shawl.”

Detail of Margaret’s “1939 Christening Shawl.”

On Plyback Tests

For most spinners, pulling an arm’s length of singles back out of the orifice and letting it twist back on itself gives a good indication of the amount of twist. For yarn this fine, though, the difference in twist between hand, orifice, and bobbin can distort the picture. Instead, she pulls a sample off the side of the bobbin to judge the character of a balanced plied yarn.

Spend a very pleasant hour-plus with Margaret at your elbow and learn more surprising secrets from an amazing spinner.

—Anne

Featured Image: The “Kowhai and Fern Shawl” from Margaret Stove’s Wrapped in Lace: Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World incorporates flower and fern motifs reminiscent of those found in Margaret’s home country of New Zealand. Photos by Joe Hancock.


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