This is a series of questions Jess Rollar of Milkyrobot was kind enough to answer for me about spinning and her process. You can buy Jess’ yarns and fibre from her Etsy store (also called Milkyrobot). I have bought some, and please let me say that they are as wonderful as they look in the pictures.
How did you get started spinning?
After teaching myself knitting, I became very interested in handspun yarn. I kept drooling over handspun and wondered if I could do the same. Once I got spinning I was hooked!
How long have you been spinning and how long were you doing it before you considered yourself good?
I started spinning in 2002. My mom bought me a wheel for my 21st birthday with no experience what so ever. It took me a couple tries to actually get any yarn to twist and not break. I finally mastered the skill later in the month. It was about 8 months to a year until I fell in love with my yarn. Some were kinda creepy at first and didn’t actually look like yarn!
Who taught you how to spin?
I taught myself how to spin after getting my wheel. I’ve never used a drop spindle and still haven’t. Just could never get it to work right.
What is your process?
I always start out with an image or idea before gathering my materials. I usually base my yarn and batts off of graffiti art, nature or just random objects that catch my eye. Once I have an idea of what I want to create, I gather all the fibers together and card them into a squishy batt, then spin away! Some yarns get plied and some stay single, the yarns do the talking!
What equipment do you need to create the yarns your post on your Etsy shop and blog?
The equipment I use the most would be my spinning wheel, of course, and my Ashford drum carder.
What kind of wheel do you have and what kinds have you had in the past?
I spin on a Louet S-17. This is the first and only wheel I’ve had. I do have plans to pick up an Ashford Country Spinner sometime this year.
Where do you buy your materials?
Most of my materials are bought from two local fiber shops, The Fiber Factory and Tempe Yarn and Fiber in Arizona. I get some unusual spinning fiber online or from etsy shops as well.
Do you dye your own fiber, if not, how do you get the exact colors you want?
I have dyed my own fiber in the past. I’m currently getting ready to start dyeing sock yarn soon. When I can’t find the exact colors I want, I find other materials to spin into my yarn such as sequins or random strings and things.
What do you think would be a basic start up spinning kit? Wheel? Fiber? Carders?
I always suggest starting with a Louet or Ashford wheel. I find these wheels very easy to understand and use. As for fiber, I would suggest wool or dyed roving to start with. Once your comfortable with your wheel, try adding in random fibers and see how they spin and feel. I’ve only used Ashford hand carders and drum carders and very much love them! I suggest starting with that to anyone!
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with spinning and get excited about the yarns you make and sell?
You must have lots of patience and lots of creativity! Let your fingers do the work and let the fiber do the talking. Anything can be spun even plastic spiders and feathers! Get super creative and don’t hold back.
What tips would you give to a new spinner on how to spin your batts? How do you incorporate the sequins into the spinning?
Whenever I spin my own batts or even others, I always strip the fiber into 8 pieces. Once split up, I spin each strip one after another and let the colors pop up how they please. Sometimes I even mix other fiber clumps into the spinning or solid merino strips. With the sequins, I usually just catch the tip of the sequin strand to some fiber and let the wheel pull the in, twisting the sequin strand around the roving.
How close are you to being able to support yourself on spinning?
If it wasn’t for the economy today and if I could get my yarn into a few more shops, I would most likely be able to live off my yarn and fiber sales. But in this case, maybe next year if I push myself hard enough!