My father used to tell this great story about sawing off the treadle of my grandmother’s spinning wheel as retribution for her not letting he and my uncle go out to hunt. In the end, they climbed out the window and went anyway, and I can only imagine my grandfather’s reaction when he learned what the boys had done. Personally, if it were my wheel, I think Dad would have had to worry more about my wrath than Grampy’s, but who knows.
Those of you who have been coming here to read all about gardening are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. I admit it: I’m taking a break from gardening posts to talk about another (relatively new) hobby of mine–spinning. I started knitting this past fall and decided it would be even more fun to knit if I was making my own yarn. Perhaps it was the story of Dad and the spinning wheel, perhaps it was a desire to connect with my grandmother, but I was drawn to spinning and so I signed up for a class with an amazing teacher.
Not long after, I hosted a second class at my house and decided I needed a spinning wheel of my very own. One came to me gently used, and I’ve been spinning like crazy ever since. One of the first things I noticed is that there’s sooooo much out there that it’s hard to pick a place to begin. There are countless varieties of sheep, each with a different texture to their wool. There’s alpaca, angora (goat & bunny), llama, and I even know someone who has spun dog fur. Then there are the plant-based fibers: flax, cotton, bamboo, and the more exotic seacell. When an old friend from high school introduced me to Phat Fiber, I was instantly intrigued.
The idea behind Phat Fiber is to put together a box each month that highlights cottage industry fiber vendors. I should say three boxes each month, because you can choose just yarn, just fiber, or a mix of the two. For $33, I could sample quite a variety of fiber without having to commit to large quantities of any one thing. I went for it. Now, let me tell you, buying a Phat Fiber box is a bit of an adventure. The boxes sell out within a minute of being posted to Etsy and there are only two opportunities each month (usually about 12 hours apart) to buy each month’s box. I missed out on the morning purchase by seconds (I got to add the box to my cart, but the last one sold before I could complete the purchase), but later in the day I scored my first “Fluff” box of fiber.
It arrived a few days later and I was delighted with the contents! Over twenty samples ranging in size from about an ounce to a few grams, all representing the fiber artist’s vision of “The Elements.” Well, I could hardly wait to spin it, so I finished up some experimental yarn I was playing with so that I’d have three empty bobbins and could get started.
I decided to do a skein of two-ply using the wool-based blues, turquoise, and purples. Spinning purists are probably shrieking at this point because they know I’m about to say that I mixed everything from ultra-silky alpaca to a fairly coarse South African wool to a gorgeous Merino-Silk mix in the same skein. But that’s what I did and I actually love the results! I split each sample into two bits (one for each ply of the finished yarn) and spun them in order on the first ply and in reverse order on the second ply to somewhat balance everything out.
I have to take a moment to call out my favorites from this first skein (I’m guessing I’m going to have a plant-based skein and another wool skein with browns, greens, and earth tones, but that will have to go into another post!). The first fiber I grabbed out of the box was my favorite in terms of texture. This gorgeous mix of ultra-smooth Alpaca, Tencel (a fiber made from wood pulp!), and wool was blended and dyed by Fiber Fancy. The color, appropriately-named “Earthy,” spun up as a lovely almost silver and the feel of this fiber sliding through my fingers was heaven! What a great introduction to Alpaca for this beginning spinner!
Next, I have to mention the Merino-Silk blend from Extreme Spinning. The silk made it feel just a bit stickier than the Alpaca, but it was soft and easy to spin even at super-fine lace weight.
And finally, another gorgeous alpaca was probably the over-all winner. A blend of Mohair, superwash, merino, alpaca, and just a tiny bit of glitz, Frozen Lake from Silver Sun Alpacas was superior both in texture and in color. I loved that it was dyed first, then blended together instead of blended and then painted. And I really liked the blend of dark & light fibers–this spun up absolutely beautifully and stood out from the medium blues and blue-greens that many folks chose to represent the water element.
If you are a spinner or a knitter, check out Phat Fiber. You’ll be glad you did, and will probably be stalking their Etsy page the day the box goes on sale next month just like I will be!