Keep on Turning
>> Shannon Okey is the author of Spin to Knit (Interweave Press) and
the bestselling Knitgrrl series. Her next book, Felt Frenzy (co-authored
with Heather Brack), will be released in 2007. You can find her at
email@example.com, and on her various book tours.
I(heart) yarn, but learned to spin my own so way, check out my book Spin to Knit (Interweave
I could make it exactly the way I like it. Spin- Press, 2006).
ning isn’t difficult, and you can get started with With that shameless plug out of the way, let’s take
less than $10 in materials — if you’re crafty. (You’re a look at some unusual spinning fibers you can try.
reading this, aren’t you? Then you’re qualified.) Sheep are so last year.
Make a spindle from an old CD, brush your dog, and
you’ll be ready to go. FIDO FIBER
Why bother making your own yarn? It allows You’d be surprised how nicely Pekinese spins and
for extra artistry before you work even a single knits (see Figure B). If you don’t have a dog, no
stitch. You can hand-dye your fiber; include beads, worries: short-haired cat fur is spinnable if it’s
sequins, or shredded fabric; or ply with metallic mixed with wool, and long-haired Persian-type fur
thread — you name it. There is truly no limit to what will spin by itself. Mixing fibers is often a matter
you can include. After all, if you’re going to spin your of practicality. Unless you have ten cats that shed
own yarn, why should it look like something you can year-round, you’re not going to gather enough fur
buy at the store? to spin much.
Other fiberistas have figured this out, too. The Then you must consider the staple length, or
Spinning and Weaving Association ( spinweave.org) the average length of a single strand in a given
estimates there are at least 100,000 handspinners type of fiber. It will play a role in working with
in the United States. If you’ve never spun before, many of the fibers discussed here. A Great Pyr-
here’s a crash course. enees with 4-inch-long hair will be much easier
Handspinning is the simple act of twisting a piece to spin than a dachshund — even a long-haired
of fiber that has been drafted (stretched out into a one like mine — because the shaft of each indi-
long strip of overlapping strands). Practice with a vidual body hair is like a slippery plastic tube,
cotton ball before you move on to the weird fibers and shorter ones are easier to pull apart while
below: gently pull the ball into a long strand with spinning. However, many dog breeds have two
your fingers and roll it in one direction on your leg layers of fur: coarse outer guard hairs and a fluffy
until the middle starts to kink. Then allow the strip undercoat, just like cashmere goats. If you comb
to twist back onto itself, and you’ll have a very short your dog carefully, you can often extract just the
piece of plied yarn! fluffy bits, which are much easier to spin. Combs
Using a CD spindle (see sidebar on how to make are best for extracting just the fluff because
one, page 169), tie a piece of yarn onto the spindle brushes tend to mix in guard hairs.
shaft, below the CD. This is called the leader. There’s something you should know before
(I prefer wool for my leaders because it helps grab embarking on a sweater made of Rover: the empty
the new fiber.) Then bring the leader over to the core in a strand of dog hair traps air and body heat
top side of the spindle, loop it through the cup very efficiently. Garments made of dog yarn are
hook, and wrap the new fiber you want to spin great for arctic expeditions, but not so great for a
around the leader. One flick of the wrist, and house with central heating — unless you’re a true
off you go! freezebaby. After all, how do you think dogs stay
For detailed photos of the intricacies of spin- warm outside in the snow?
ning, and problems you might run into along the