How Thin Can You Spin?

Do you remember this?

This is the bombyx silk I was going to spun for the second half of the Tour de Fleece, but…  life intervened and I didn’t manage to get that far.  So, running just a wee bit late, I’ve finally got it on my wheel now, and it is a dream to spin.

Not that silk is always a dream to spin…  Bombyx silk generally has a very long staple length, and that can make drafting a challenge.  The distance that you’re used to holding your hands for drafting wool simply isn’t far enough apart when you’re spinning silk, and it can easily become a struggle as you start tugging at both ends of the same fibers.

A few months ago, I spun pure bombyx silk for the first time in many years and, even though I’ve spun a lot of silk in the past, I realised that my hands had forgotten what to do.  It seemed to take forever to retrain my hands (…or more likely, my brain) and until that moment when it finally clicked, I was pulling and tugging on that silk as if I’d never spun in my life.  As a result, the yarn came out much thicker than I’d wanted and lumpier too.  There’s no doubting it’s beautiful to look at, and the colours ethereal, but because I spun so much thicker than I intended, I just didn’t get the yardage I was hoping for.  It’s come out to a measly 143 yards and I’m really not sure what I could make with it.

So now, as I begin spinning this second braid of silk, I am really focusing on spinning as thinly as I possibly can.  And, it turns out, I can spin pretty darned thin!  Now that my hands (and brain) are back in the groove with spinning silk, this is how it’s coming out…

That is, as long as I don’t get too involved in a scary movie on telly and forget to spin super thin (see the occasional thick bits in the photo below?  Yeah… that was when the film hit a tense spot…).  But overall, this is coming out exactly the way I want it.  And now that I’ve got the hang of it, it is just sooo much fun to spin.

And this time, I hope to come out at the end with a really good length of some truly beautiful, smooth, pure silk yarn.

Hard at Work on the Tour de Fleece

The Tour de Fleece has been rolling along  for nearly a week and I am having a blast.  It is wonderful to have a real, legitimate excuse to tell everyone that no, I can’t do this or that, I have to spin.  And believe me, I’ve been using that excuse just as far as credibility can be stretched!

Have you been doing that too?  Pushing your other responsibilities (…and loved ones) aside to spend quality time with a some wonderful fiber and your wheel or spindle?  If you’re using SpaceCadet fiber, please do share pictures of your spinning, either on the SpaceCadet Ravelry group or by email.  I’d love to feature it here on the blog!

As well as spending a lot of time on a spindle, one of the things the Tour has allowed me to do is to really make some headway on the fiber that has been languishing on my wheel for far too long.   A few days ago, I went out onto the front porch after the heat of the day wore off (95°F!) and filled half a bobbin before real life called me back in again.

You’ll recognise this fiber from previous blog posts.  Yes, it’s still on the wheel!  But… I kind of don’t mind because it’s such a pleasure to spin these colours.

I’m splitting the fiber (somewhat) evenly into thirds and will then spin it all back together as a 3-ply.  Thanks to all the extra spinning time from the Tour, I’m nearly there!  Here’s the first bobbin…

And when that’s done, I’ll be moving on to this wonderful, shimmery-smooth silk…

Hmmmm…  Do you think I might have a warm-colour fixation?  Maybe it’s the weather!

Getting Started in the Tour de Fleece

Note from the SpaceCadet:  My friend Natalie (npeace on Ravelry) is a prolific spinner who creates her wonderful yarns almost exclusively on spindles.  With the Tour de Fleece coming up, it felt natural to ask her to share her thoughts on the best way to get started…


By Natalie

July 3rd marks the start of one of the biggest events of the spinning year – the Tour de Fleece.   For 3 weeks, spinners everywhere will spin along as the cyclists in the Tour de France work their way across France.  During this time, gorgeous handspun yarns will be popping up all over the internet as spinners show off their tour projects on their blogs and on Ravelry.

It was actually all this frenetic tour-based posting of handspun that got me interested in spinning a few years ago.  If you find yourself drooling over yet another absolutely stunning barber-poled yarn or wondering how it would feel to play in a big pile of cloud-like merino… well, that’s a pretty common side effect of the Tour de Fleece.

Natalie spinning SpaceCadet Creations BFL combed top in Garden in Spring, on a Butterfly Girl spindle

It used to be that people felt they had to invest hundreds of dollars in a wheel in order to do “real” spinning.  This often seems like too daunting an investment to make just to give something a try.  Fortunately, with the current resurgence in popularity of the humble spindle, spinning is becoming ever more accessible.  If you get all fired up by the Tour de Fleece and want to give this spindle thing a try for yourself, here’s a list of resources to get you started:


Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont – If you’re only going to buy one spindle resource, this is the one to get.  It starts with the basics but will continue to be useful as you gain competence and experience.  There is also an accompanying video available as a DVD or as a video download from the Interweave online store.

Productive Spindling by Amelia Garripoli, also known as the Bellwether.  This book covers a lot of the same material as Respect the Spindle, but the approach is different, and it is an equally valuable resource.

Internet Resources:

Both authors above have informative blogs.  Abby Franquemont’s is and Amelia Garripoli can be found at  Both have extensive archives of general spinning and spindle-specific information.  Abby Franquemont has also posted a number of fabulous instructional videos to you tube, which you can find here.

Also invaluable to the new spindle spinner is the Spindlers group on Ravelry.  The “Stupid Questions” thread is full of answers to every beginner question imaginable, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for there you can post a new question.  Many experienced spinners generously spend their time monitoring that forum and answering all manner of questions for the new and confused.

There are many, many more resources out there, but starting with the list above will have you up and spinning very quickly.  Have fun!