This week’s spotlight is on Ellen, @twinsetellen:
Q. Favorite fiber to spin?
Ellen: I love so many, but am drawn to breeds with good crimp though not necessarily super-crimpy breeds. Spinning a Corriedale or a Columbia fleece is lovely, easy to spin woolen (see the next question!), and even less crimpy breeds like Coopworth suit my style. But for pure bliss, spinning bison down can’t be beat for me. I am drawn into the way a woolen spun single will just flow like liquid out of this short staple, curly down. It is magic. And the resulting yarn ain’t bad, either!
Q. Do you prefer worsted or woolen methods of spinning?
Ellen: I will spin worsted when I have a purpose for it – a fine lace yarn or a sturdy sock yarn or the like. But my meditative sweet spot is woolen spinning. Whether on the wheel where I can draw way, way back and even get a bit of a stretch to my chest, or on a supported spindle where the singles can be whisker-fine, or on a walking wheel where I am forced to do a true long draw, no cheating with my second hand, the formation of a coherent yarn out of a mass of fiber is enchanting every time.
Q. Who or what inspires you?
Ellen: I’m inspired by people at both ends of the spinning experience spectrum. I could listen to Judith MacKenzie or Abby Franquemont tell spinning stories all day, or watch their fingers spin all day, too. After taking a class with an expert like this, I just want to go home and try everything they mentioned and more. But I’m also really inspired by people just learning to spin. That first few weeks can be so challenging and I’m blown away by people who just keep at it, gradually getting better as they put up with dropped spindles and broken singles. It is such a kick in the pants to go work that hard myself.
Q. Any future spinning goals?
Ellen: I have been collecting Shetland fleeces in hopes of spinning a library of yarns from which I can knit Fair Isle designs in natural colors. My concern is whether I can get my spinning to match from fleece to fleece so that the gauges will be accurate, so I keep putting off getting started. I tell myself I don’t have a good enough representation of colors yet. That is not going to hold up much longer as I have something like 8 or 9 fleeces already!
Q. Do you knit, weave, or gift/sell your handspun?
Ellen: Knitting with my handspun is one of my favorite things. I’ve knit three different sweaters out of several different fleeces. Yes, they were all woolen spun – another reason I love woolen spinning is it is fast for me so I can get enough yarn for a sweater without taking months and months. Wearing the handspun is almost as much fun as the knitting of it!
I do give handspun as a gift occasionally. For dear knitting friends, a gift of handspun at a time when they need some extra support says you really care and they can feel that with every stitch they make with that yarn.
Q. What has Instagram done for you in spinning?
Ellen: Well, one thing it has done is made me have to curb lots of desires to add to my fiber stash – wow, there is pretty stuff out there! But more important, I am getting to see so many gorgeous photos of spinning. It inspires me to pick up my spindle, and even if I can’t do that right then and there, at least I can enjoy the pretty fiber that others are playing with. I’ve made some spinning friends, and I’ve been able to give some encouragement, too, and that is undoubtedly the best part.
Q. Without spinning, what might your other passions be?
Ellen: I have way to many other passions, or I’d be spinning more! I mentioned knitting already, and I also design a bit and tech edit for other designers. When I’m not playing with fiber, I might be found playing with food – cooking all sorts of ethnic food is another love I never seem to have enough time for. And enjoying the outdoors, hiking, biking, jogging, and a bit of gardening, is a big deal for me. No, I am not tempted to start a dye garden – I’m very happy to have most of my fiber dyed by others.
If you haven’t seen much of Ellen’s work, go take a look on Instagram, @twinsetellen
I want to thank Ellen for taking the time to answer these fiber-minded questions and for being part of the #spin15in15 movement on Instagram.
Until next time…