The January Challenges

Being home all the time reinforced the old school skills that I already practiced, such as growing vegetable and flower gardens, cooking at home (though I do miss eating out in a restaurant occasionally), baking bread, making soap and other body and household products, spinning, and knitting or weaving. However, the bread baking, soap making, and spinning needed to be moderated. The freezer filled with breads, soap wasn’t selling online and there were no craft shows, and spinning on my wheel produces more yarn than I can knit up and again, there were few sales in my shop and no craft shows.

Slowing down some of the skills was easy, but slowing down the spinning required some thought. I began spinning with spindles, top whorl drop spindles. Over time I discovered Turkish spindles, bottom whorl spindles, supported spindles, Dealgans, and Mayan spinners. I never got the hang of supported spindles, the Dealgan, Mayan spinner, and my two whorl spindles are only used when I am doing a demonstration at a camp or school (not this past year unfortunately), but the Turkish spindles I fell in love with them. I have had several from different makers, and artists. Trust me, some are as rough in quality as tinker toys, some beautiful but heavy for their size and still somewhat blocky in appearance, then I discovered Jenkins spindles. The quality if far above any of the others, the arms are sleek, the shafts smooth, slender, and well turned. I have tried most of the sizes he makes, some have come and gone from the ones I own and some replaced with the same style and size but in different wood or different weight. His three mid sized spindles are my favorite and I have one of each. Hubby managed to get me the middle of my mid sized ones for my birthday and it is by far my favorite.

To slow down my spinning, I returned to my spindles. They are portable, one is always with me if we go out to pick up groceries or on the two occasions we got to do socially distanced meet ups with Son 1 and family. My spinning is even and consistent. My mind settles into a calm rhythm, stress melts away.

When I discovered the Jenkins spindles, I also discovered a social media group for those spindles and I have made dozens of new friends worldwide that share the same passion and the group had an ongoing challenge for 2020 to spin at least 25 grams (less than an ounce) a month. Sidebars to that challenge were to spin a rare or threatened breed and do knit, crochet, weave, felt, rug hook, or otherwise create a finished object using at least 25 grams of yarn you had spun on the Jenkins spindle. I didn’t discover the group or the challenges until too late in March to participate, but joined in for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters of the year. Some months, I spun an entire 4 ounce braid, some months, spinning at least 15 minutes a day, less was done. In May and June, I spun and plied a braid of more than 4 ounces of gradient dyed wool with the intent of using it as the yoke of a sweater, then decided not to knit the sweater. The skein of over 500 yards of yarn went into my shop and didn’t sell, so a couple weeks ago, it was wound into balls and knitted to complete my second finished object of the month.

This group has filled a hole left by not being able to go to the local spinning group each week. As the year is winding to a close and we can slam the door on 2020, but knowing that we are still social distancing, the group challenge for the year is called the Breed Blanket Project 2021. The object is to spin on Jenkins spindles, monthly, enough of a pure breed to knit, crochet, or weave 1/12th per month of a blanket to finish at least baby blanket sized by the end of the year.

I decided I wanted to learn to ply on the fly (spin and ply in one pass of the fiber). I practiced it for a few days and though I can do it, I don’t like the yarn I was producing, so I will return to spinning singles and plying them for the yarn. My spindle spinning produces a yarn that depending on whose standards you are using is light fingering or heavy lace weight yarn. I had 115.5 yards of a pure breed, Jacob, spun, plyed, and washed and decided to use it to get gauge and see how much yarn it is going to take to produce the squares I will use. The blanket I am going to make will be 56″ x 56″ at the end of the year, but I will probably knit a border on it when it is assembled to make it closer to 60″. The sample I am doing can’t be counted toward the blanket as I can’t begin spinning that yarn until January 1, but I will continue knitting, using up mini skeins and make a throw pillow out of it. I have lined up the 12 breeds I will spin. Each 28″ square will take 4 months and will have 3 natural colored breeds and 1 dyed fiber of another breed. Here are some of the dyed fiber I will spin.

With them and another dyed fiber in route to me, I will use natural grays, whites, and browns. It should be a fun challenge.

When I wheel spun yarn for the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em challenge, I had considered using them for a breed blanket, but knit the half hap shawl instead.

Along the way, there will be pop up challenges, the first is something new. My new will be new fiber, the teal and multi color in the left side of the photo, the fiber hubby gave me for Christmas on a new spindle (one acquired in November or December so my birthday spindle. A side part of this challenge is to use an Aegean spindle, so I will also use the one on the right in the top photo, the one with the dandelion painted on it. This fiber is a pure breed, so it will satisfy both challenges at once.

So socially distanced, hoping for a vaccine soon enough to make at least some going out safer, I will relax and spin the challenges, chatting with the friends I have made worldwide in this group. Spindles have been my sanity for the past 10 months.

I would love to hear your comments on this post.