Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Rotating Distaff and Yarn Holder using the Kumikreator

Over the last few weeks I’ve been designing myself a rotating distaff using kumihimo cord, a 3D printed disk, and a rotating lobster clasp.  Most spinners are able to hold their arms up while drop spinning, but I need something to hold my fibre away from the drop spindle that will allow me to spin with both of my arms at waist level.  My aim is to make some kind of device that will hang off my elbow, and hold the fibre away from my drop spindle while I walk in my local park and spin.  

I would also love to be able to use my rotating distaff to hold my yarn supply while I knit.  

As much as I know how good it is for my mental health to get outside and walk in nature, I frequently struggle to motivate myself to go out in the country park that's right behind my house as I find walking painful.  The wonderful thing is, if I’m knitting or spinning while I walk, I don’t notice the pain quite so much.

I made myself a little ‘spinster’s reticule’ to keep my fibre or yarn in while I walk.  It’s great, but occasionally the ball doesn’t unravel cleanly, or the fibre breaks when I’m trying to pull it out of the bag.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need something that will rotate while I pull fibre or yarn off it so that I do not constantly have to manage my fibre supply or ball of yarn.

My original kumihimo cord for my first distaff was made on a kumihimo disk out of handspun yarn.  Unfortunately, I found that the merino wool yarn, that I used originally, was a little bit too grippy for holding fibre and it didn’t come off as cleanly as I would like.  I needed to make it again using a smoother, shinier thread or string.  As much as I enjoy the slow, mindful craft of kumihimo, when I learned there was a child's mechanical kumihimo toy, I couldn't resist buying one to play and experiment with.  

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Materials used to make a rotating distaff using the Kumikreator 

(I will show how to make a similar kumihimo distaff using a kumihimo disk in my next blog post.)

The Kumikreator makes a standard 8-string kumihimo braid.  I've always loved peacock colours so I filled the Kumikreator bobbins with two strands each of black, blue, purple, and green.  The distaff uses two cords and so I filled the 8 bobbins twice.

Here’s the layout of the bobbins on the Kumikreator.

You can see that I’ve knotted the threads together before attaching them to the white tension arm.  I’ve tightened the threads on the bobbins and the knot is sitting as low as possible so that the weaving begins as close to the knot as possible.

I then wind the Kumikreator as usual.

When the first bobbin runs out I pull the cord from the remaining bobbins and knot it to prevent it from unravelling.

I repeated the whole process again so that I had one cord to hold the fibre and a second cord to hang off my elbow.

I folded one of the cords in half and attached it to the rotating lobster clasp using a lark’s head knot or cow hitch.

I then threaded both ends of the cord through the hole in the 3D-printed disk and knotted them together temporarily to hold the disk in place.  I haven’t quite decided how long I want my distaff to be, so this will do for now.  (In my next post I’ll show an alternative solution for the disk if you haven’t got access to a 3D printer.)

I then moved on to the second kumihimo cord.  I want the distaff to hang loosely off my elbow so I placed a knot to mark the circumference of the widest part of my arm.

To allow me to cut the cord without it unraveling I ran a few stitches through with a needle and thread and then wrapped the thread around tightly to hold everything in place.  I passed the needle and thread through a few more times to secure it before cutting it close to the cord.

I covered the thread ends in epoxy glue and left it to cure overnight.  This allowed me to cut the cords at the very end of the threads.

I mixed a little more epoxy and covered the inside of a pair of end caps with glue.  I also added a good amount of glue to the very tips of the cords and inserted them both into the end caps.  This glue takes a couple of hours to cure properly.

Once the end caps were secure I used a pair of pliers to open a large 12mm jump ring sideways and joined the two ends together.

I then just had to clip my lobster clasp onto the jump ring and my distaff was ready to try out.

I prepared this fibre on my homemade hackle.

To attach the fibre to the distaff I insert the end between the two cords and then start rotating the cords below the lobster clasp.  I like to hang it off a door handle to load the distaff.

I found that the fibre came off more easily (and the distaff rotated better) if I wrapped it around quite loosely.

I think I like the distaff this length, but I need to try it properly to be sure.  It’s holding just 10g of fibre here, but I’m quite a slow drop spinner.  This will definitely be enough for a half an hour stroll around the country park.

Using the Rotating Distaff to Hold Yarn

My rotating distaff works equally well as a yarn holder that hangs off my elbow so that I can walk and knit at the same time.

I tried 3 different ball types but of course, I need to be able to pass the distaff cord through the centre of all of them.

The yarn cake ball worked pretty well but I needed to wrap the ball winder cone with folded paper or card so that the centre of the ball didn’t collapse in on itself.

The nostepinne-style ball worked really well and it pulled off pretty well without too many hang-ups.

Finally, this commercial, nostepinne-style ball probably worked best of all.  I wonder if it’s because the yarn is wound on quite loosely but the distaff rotated smoothly and gave me a lovely supply of yarn to knit with while I walk without the frustration of having to adjust my yarn at all.

I’m going to carry on playing with my rotating distaff to work out my favourite ways of using it.  Hopefully, this might be useful if you're a spinner or knitter looking for an alternative way of managing your fibre or yarn supply.

Thank you so much for reading!  If you've found any of this interesting or useful, please pin this image to Pinterest.  It makes a big difference to me and helps other spinners and knitters find it too.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Spinning an Autumnal Yarn Using Just 2 ‘Almost’ Primary Colours

Like a lot of spinners, I love exploring colour theory by mixing primary colours to make my own heathered blends.  I enjoy trying to colour match specific hues using just 4 or 5 basic colours.  In searching for the ideal primaries I’ve ended up with a small collection of dyed merino wool, from various mills, that don’t quite make the perfect starter colours.

To spin this yarn I’ll be using up two of these ‘almost’ primary colours - 

Image copyright Wingham Wool

Magenta from Wingham Wool is a lovely deep saturated, magenta but it’s a little too dark and too purple to be the ideal primary colour.  Blending it with yellow gives you a slightly muddy orange or red - which is great if you’re looking to blend autumnal shades but not as a primary colour.

Image copyright John Arbon Textiles

This is yellow from John Arbon.  It’s a beautiful, warm sunny yellow and is a better primary colour than the magenta but it’s still ever so slightly orange. 

Last year I linear blended these two colours together in 20 steps to see how close I would get to red.   Not being perfect primary colours, they gave me a slightly muddy autumnal colour palette. I loved the warm colours I achieved, especially those rusty, orange/reds closer to the magenta end - so I thought I would try to reproduce some of those cosy, warm colour blends to spin a very wearable yarn.

 I blended the fibres above thoroughly using my mini wool combs to get homogeneous blends.  I’m less concerned about completely mixing the colours together so this time, I’ll be using a blending board to quickly blend these two shades of merino to give me a more complex two-tone yarn.

It will be interesting to see what colours I achieve purely through optical blending.

For a closer look at some of my techniques, I've made a video to show my process in more detail.

This animated gif has been sped up by 400% but you can see that I lay the magenta merino fibres onto my blending board by drafting them on using the edge of my blending board brush.  I’m trying to cover the whole of the board while still drafting the magenta as thinly as possible.

Next, I added the yellow.  I want a little less of this colour so I’m trying to draft it out even more thinly.

I then repeated the same two processes once more and then finished with a final layer of magenta.

Instead of drafting off rolags to spin a fluffy woollen-spun yarn, I wanted a slightly smoother, worsted-style yarn so I went on to turn the blending board batt into a kind of semi-worsted prepped roving.  (I realise that worsted and roving are quite contradictory fibre terms but I do like to be contrary from time to time …)

I removed the whole blending board batt in one piece, taking care not to draft it out at all.

I then went on to zed-strip or zigzag strip it.

Finally, I drafted it all out, taking care at the edges to try to re-orientate the fibres so that they were mostly running parallel with the edge of the roving.

It looks almost like combed top but it has the fluffiness of roving!

I repeated this process several times until I’d spun about 130g of singles on my Electric Eel Wheel 6 (affiliate link).

I'll be chain-plying the singles to minimise wastage to get a lovely round sport-weight yarn.  Despite the fact that I drafted the colours quite thinly onto my blending board, I've still got a few sections that are yellower than I would like.  If I were to chain-ply this at the wheel it is very likely to accentuate these sections rather than dilute them.

To combat this issue, I pre-chain-plied the singles to maximise the amount of colour blending I achieved.  You can read about the two ways to chain-ply in this blog post.

I love the effect you get from pre-chain-plying sometimes.  Those long yellow sections that I had been concerned about have mostly optically blended into orange.

It's so pretty!

Thank you so much for reading, and happy spinning!

If you've found any of this post interesting or useful, please pin this image to Pinterest.  It makes a big difference to me and helps other spinners find it too.

At this point, I normally suggest similar related blog posts, however, my list of spinning-related content is becoming a little unmanageable...  If you'd like to read more blog posts about spinning and fibre preparation, please take a look at this page here where you will find links to all of my spinning and fibre articles.  

Thank you for reading, and happy spinning! 


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