10 Reasons To Love Rolags

 

pink rolags

Rolags are small hand blended rolls of fiber ready to spin from either end. I love them a lot and here are some reasons why.

 1.  They are great for beginning spinners.  You don’t have a big bundle of fiber to manage.  Roving and batts can feel like a huge, unwieldy chunk in your hand.  Tearing them down sometimes feels a bit sacrilegious, or maybe you aren’t quite confident in your joining skills yet (although the answer to that is practice!).  At my January spinning retreat we were all laughing about the way I hold a bundle of fiber.  I admitted I hold my bundle “like an animal” and people laughed and denied it, but I was telling the truth.

2.  Rolags are easy to spin on a hand spindle or wheel.

3.  You can create a very unique yarn by spinning two different sets of rolags and plying them.  We all spin because we want to make something unique, right?  Rolags make that so easy.

4.   There don’t seem to be any ugly rolags.  As an experiment, I’ve purposely tried to make ghastly combinations.  I’ve blended colors that brought some very unpleasant images to mind, and they turn out fabulously.  I just don’t think is possible to make unsightly rolags.

5.  They spin up quickly and who doesn’t love instant gratification?  I know I do, and I’m certain that everyone can see a time and place for it.  Sometimes we want a big complex project that really grows our skills and sometimes we want candy – a project that is pretty and easy and gives us quick and beautiful results.  Rolags are for the times you want candy.

6.  They are unique combinations of fiber that are difficult to get in any other way.  You can get this if you work with batts, which brings you back to that big bundle of fiber to handle.  Rolags are different than batts in other ways, you can better see what is coming with rolags.  Don’t get me wrong, batts have their uses, and I love them.  But rolags are much easier to spin, and you get beautiful blends of gorgeous fibers in them, just like in a batt.

7.  You can buy or make ones that are sparkly.  Many of us love a little sparkle once in a while.  If you don’t, no problem, just buy or make yours tinsel-free.

 

brown rolags

I personally love it sparkly.

8.  You can experiment with expensive fibers without spending a lot of money.  Since rolags are made in small amounts you can play with things like camel, yak, and quiviut without breaking the bank.  That’s always nice.

9.  You can get color combinations that are impossible to achieve by dyeing roving.  Rolags are made from fibers dyed previously, so you get cool striping effects and can blend colors that would make a mud color if you painted them on the same roving.

10.  They expand your horizons as a fiber artist by introducing you to new fibers.  You’ll never know if you love camel, rose fiber or llama if you don’t work with it, right?  Rolags are one of the few ways you can play with unusual fibers.  One of the reasons we spin is to grow and learn, and trying new fibers feeds this.

11.  Bonus Reason – Wool rolags are wonderful for hand felting.  They can be torn apart to separate the colors, or unrolled and used as is for a more free form work.  And you thought rolags were just for spinners.

multicolored rolags

I hope I’ve convinced you to give rolags a try.  You can find them all over Etsy and, if you are lucky, at your local fiber festivals.  Here are the rolags currently available in my Etsy shop in case you are in the mood for a bit of fiber porn.

I’d love to hear about your experiences spinning rolags or about your plans to do so, please comment below to share them with me.

 

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Indiana Spinning Retreat In May 2016


Because I enjoyed my recent spinning retreat, I’m organizing another one, and you can attend!

Date:  May 20 – 22, 2016

Location:  Oakwood Retreat Center at Rainbow Farm, near Muncie, Indiana

Cost:  Approximately $200 includes two nights shared room and meals as follows – dinner Friday, three meals Saturday and breakfast and lunch Sunday.  A 50% deposit is due at the time of registration, the remainder is due on April 15.  Single rooms are available for a slight upcharge.

I recently met someone who attended an event there.  She loved the food, said it was largely organic and really wonderful.

Everyone is welcome, you do not need to be a spinner.  Come with your knitting, crochet, embroidery, hand quilting, whatever project you’d enjoy working on.  At the retreat I attended in January I spun and also finished a knitting project.

Don’t spin, but want to learn?  I’ll be happy to give you a lesson.  Spindles will be available and you can try my wheel too.

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A Yarn I Spun At The January Retreat

I’ll update this post with more details as the date nears.  Right now there are spots for over 20 attendees.  But they are filling up, so make your plans to attend.

Contact me at indigokittyknits@gmail.com to reserve your spot.

 

 

 

Fun With Spinning Batts

I have been experimenting with creating  batts on my new drum carder.  I haven’t made an ugly one yet, I actually don’t think it’s possible.


IMG_5699 IMG_5704 IMG_5715  Here are some yarns I’ve recently spun from my batts.  The top and bottom were done on a hand spindle, the middle one on my wheel.

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A few tips to get started:

Let the batt be the yarn it wants to be.  Don’t get hung up on spinning a super thin, super smooth yarn.  This is the time for having fun with the chunky, highly textured art yarn you’ve been wanting to create.

My favorite easy and quick method for spinning a batt on a hand spindle is to tear it in strips, predraft the strips, roll them into balls, and then spin them one by one.  Depending on the batt you can break off where needed to blend a different color or fiber into the yarn.  If desired, you can pull out little sections while predrafting and put them aside to add at strategic points.

Check out this guest post from Carla Hansen, she’s an expert spinner with lots of in depth advice on different techniques.  Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.  Just begin!

If you’ve always wanted to play with spinning batts, but didn’t really know how to get started, or if you’ve tried them in the past and didn’t love the yarn you got, I urge you to try now.  Here’s a link to the batts in my etsy store, but there are many beautiful batts available all over Etsy.  Pick one and get started.  Have fun and be open to the beautiful, unique results!

Spinning And Dyeing Yarn – A Book Review

I ran across this wonderful book by Ashley Martineau at my local library.

spinning and dyeing yarn

I love it and think it’s a must for all beginning spinners. My five top reasons are:

  1. Great instruction on building your own fiber equipment, including a spinning wheel, drying rack, kick spindle (must try!),  and a niddy noddy. She even shows how to build a sturdy lightbox that will store things waiting to be photographed. Lots of fun for the do it yourself crowd, and you won’t need to invest much money until you know you really enjoy spinning.
  2. Directions on spinning fabric.  I want to try that, I have lots of fat quarters and bits of quilting fabric piled up with no particular plan for their use.
  3. Information on core spinning, including on a hand spindle!  I highly recommend starting to spin on a hand spindle.  The portability is wonderful and its so inexpensive to get going.
  4. Clear directions on washing wool.  I want to buy a fleece (or two) this year and process it myself, just for the fun of it.  I’ve been hesitating because I was intimidated about washing it.  Will I felt it?  Will I get it clean enough? How do I even begin?  These clear instructions make it look pretty straight forward.
  5. The inspiration factor – there are dozens of pictures of gorgeous fibers.  Yarns, roving, batts, it’s all here.  If these colors and textures don’t make you want to immediately begin nuzzling your fiber, maybe you aren’t quite as crazy in love with fiber as I am.

Five stars for this book.  Its perfect for beginners and a great resource for those looking to up their game and try new techniques.  Clear instructions, excellent pictures and even a section on going pro make this a winner.  This one deserves a spot in your fiber library.

This post’s fiber picture is something new.  We’ve recently begun making spinning batts.  Here’s a lovely one, its now available in my Etsy shop.

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Spinning Fever

For quite a while I’ve been wanting to take the plunge into spinning.  I bought a spindle and played with that for a couple of months and really enjoyed it.  Here is a picture of a pretty yarn while it was in progress that I spun on my hand spindle.   It’s finished (and sold) now.

So, I realized I really like spinning and creating yarn, but that I could never be very fast with a spindle.  In June I began looking for a wheel.  It’s quite overwhelming – there are lots of wheels around.  Did I want something traditional?  Modern?  From a big name manufacturer?  Or a new, independent maker?  Lots of decisions.

I rented a wheel for a month from my local fiber dealer, The Trading Post for Fiber Arts, and played with it.  It was a Majacraft Suzie, which is a beautiful wheel, but at $1055 list price, a bit too rich for my blood, especially for my first wheel.  Here’s a picture of a Suzie.

It’s very modern and untraditional looking!  I’m not sure that everyone would recognize this as a spinning wheel!

On vacation in Michigan I visited The Lady Peddler, where I bought an already assembled Ashford Traveller.  It wasn’t at all what I thought I’d end up with, and I’m not sure it’s my permanent long term wheel, but things are improving quickly!

It’s very traditional looking (not my thing really), and the bobbins are really much too small for my liking, but I’m getting better at using it and it will do for now.

Here’s a picture of the Traveller.  I think everyone would recognize this as a spinning wheel!

What I do like about it is that it uses kite string for the band on the wheel (easy and inexpensive to replace) and it’s very portable.  I take it out to my deck all the time – I love to work outside if the weather is at all reasonable.  Today I will take my wheel to show my wonderful business partner (and friend) Cheryl, and our great friend Carryn – we will be having a little knitting party.

The cool thing about spinning wheels is that they seem to hold their value really well.  I should be able to sell it for what I paid (or close to that) when I’m ready to move on, and someone else will get a nice wheel that is well broken in and spins beautifully.

Having lots of fun!  Here is a picture of some yarn I just finished.  It’s 100% wool, 2 ply, a gorgeous colorway I call Candy Necklace.

Book Review – Respect the Spindle

I have been bitten hard by the handspinning bug, so today I am reviewing the book Respect The Spindle by Amy Franquemont.

This is a great book for a beginner.  If you read it with a spindle and a bit of roving available, you’ll be able to try out her techniques and be spinning in no time.

There are many beautiful pictures of spindles, yarns, roving and knitted items.  It’s eye candy for an aspiring spinner!  There are also lots of photos showing the author demonstrating techniques, which is a nice way of seeing exactly what she is talking about, making this book useful for those who are more visual learners.

There is a great section on the science of  hand spindles, which is very interesting, and she points out that spinners “intuitively understand and work with mechanical engineering, advanced calculus, and rotational and fluid dynamics every time you pick up a spindle”.  Math and science can be fun!  Who knew?

The square format of the book makes it a bit different than most of my other books, which I like simply because it makes it easy for me to find in the huge stacks of books all over the house.

My only complaint is about the fact that she states she was raised in the U.S. and the Andes, I am extremely curious about how that happened.  Nothing to do with  spinning, I’m just nosy I guess.  I would have enjoyed learning a bit about that.

Here is a sample of my first yarn (started before I read this book).

It’s clearly yarn, but pretty rugged and primitive. Not what I was hoping for.

Here is a sample of my second, unfinished yarn.

Much, much better!

I think part of the improvement is just from practice, but I know that I am much better at controlling the thickness of the yarn, joining new sections, and winding the yarn on the spindle (the wound yarn is called the cop) after reading Respect The Spindle.

This is well worth purchasing for the beginning hand spinner.  I’m really glad I bought it.

Now, to go buy some more spindles!