More on the Winter Retreat


I came back from the winter retreat with lots of ideas, fiber and the flu.

Yesterday, while recovering in bed, I managed to knit up a swatch from one of the sample skeins that I created in Deb Menz’s class. Just in case you’re wondering, the swatch was knitted from the third skein (from the left).  I’ve got to admit, the swatch turned out much nicer than anticipated. During the class I was having a difficult time trying to imagine what my yarn would eventually look like. Although it’s really beautiful I don’t think I’ll run out and buy a $500  drum carder. Hopefully I can get similar effects with hand cards or mini-combs.

… And speaking of mini-combs, here’s Judith MacKenzie McCuin demonstrating how lash multi-colored Lincoln locks onto mini-combs.

Judith_mackenzie_mccuinThis photo was taken during her class called “Three Bags Full: Spinning for 3 different types of yarn”.

We spent the whole morning spinning her wonderful Rambouillet top into a very fine lace weight yarn. In the afternoon we sampled some Lincoln, and possibly some other fibers. Honestly, the second half of this class went so fast that I don’t remember everything we did.

Judith is a wonderful teacher and I would highly recommend any of her classes.  Not only did she supply us with a multitude of  fiber samples to enjoy, but she also found time to talk to each student and critique our spinning styles and wheels.

After her discussion on worsted spinning techniques, I found out that I’m should probably switch hands (in snowboarding terms, I’m goofy-handed).  So, since I’m right handed, I should have my right hand pinching the twisted strand and the left hand holding the fiber bundle. She swears that the dominate hand should be forward, but understands that it might be difficult to switch.  I tried very hard to switch during class but I’m still not completely convinced that I can.

I also took one of her other classes called, “The Great Sock Caper: Hand-spun yarn for hand-knit socks”. This was another wonderful class where she taught us to create three ply, four ply and cabled yarns.

She started us out with three pieces of merino top, each a different color, and  instructed us to hold all three in our fiber hand while we consecutively spinning from each one. We were also told not allowed to strip or draft any of the fiber! Of course, we all asked why she was so adamant on this point.  Her response was, that stripping and/or draft of the fibers will get them out of alignment and thus we wouldn’t be able to achieve a truly worsted yarn.  I believe she mentioned or at least implied that if you want durable socks only worsted yarn will do.

I found it entirely too difficult to manage three pieces of top at once and could only manage to two. After we struggled a bit, she pulled out the mini-combs and showed how this can easily be done right off a comb. I did indeed find  spinning three  colors off one comb much easier although, as Judy would say, my yarn ended up potage de canard (duck soup).

In the sock class we not only talked about spinning but she also went into great detail on how to get a good fit. I even modeled a recently finished pair of crew socks, hoping to understand why they tend to bulge above the ankles. The answer was simple; the top of the cuff needs to be bigger than the circumference of my ankles.  I clearly need to add decorative increases so my socks can fit my rather large calf.

Now on an entirely different subject. I caught a glimpse of a niddy noddy that I’d love to have but fear is no longer being made. The owner kindly allowed me to take a picture.


Although it is really simple design, I think it’s much more functional than any other niddy noddy that I have found to date. Why?  Well, for one simple reason; the cross bars can be easily removed.

I always seem to wind my yarn on tight and have a heck of a time getting it off.  If I only had one of these ….

Oh, I just love coming across interesting spinning tools.

11 thoughts on “More on the Winter Retreat

  1. I wish I had realized who I was sitting with in the sock and plying classes–I would have introduced myself. I think I’m finally getting the holding three colors of top in one hand deal–4 ounces later! I haven’t plied this one yet, but hope to this weekend. I learned so much in that class and look forward to taking more from Judith. Your little skeins look marvelous.


  2. Sounds like a fun set of classes and those skeins look lovely.
    While they’re not nearly as elegant as the niddy noddy in your picture, there are PVC niddy noddys on the market that can be broken down for yarn removal and transport. The other advantage is that you can set the twist in the yarn right on the niddy.


  3. Hello Janine. It’s always good to hear from fellow NW knitters. Sounds like you got in a lot of practice after the retreat. I’m back to one color at a time, using my own technique. I guess I’ll just have to watch out for another JMM class.
    Kim thanks for the tip on niddy noddies. I have an excellent portable one made by Cascade Spindles but even though I don’t need another, I just year for one like I saw at the retreat.
    Oh Emma, you are so good at encouraging my spinning urges. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a good used one. Judith MacKenzie McCuin has a lovely Duncan Carder that runs with a motor. At least I can dream.


  4. I’m bummed out to hear that Deb Menz won’t be teaching too many more classes – or maybe it will be easier to find her if she’s giving them out of her own studio. I’m fascinated to see the beautiful skeins that you created. And the swatch is too beautiful for words. I’m tired of my stripey yarn and that “impressionistic” look is just what I’d love to be able to achieve. It’s just gorgeous!


  5. Mary,
    You should take one her classes if you can.
    I’m not sure when Deb will slow down her travels, however this summer she’ll be back in this area for the Association of Northwest Weavers’Guilds conference.


  6. Hi, I couldn’t resist commenting on your leading with your left hand when you are right handed. I and several other of my guild members do the same thing. To me it makes perfect sense to use my right hand to draft the fibers and my left hand to hold the twist from entering the draft triangle. I think this is a personal preference, not a must do it this way thing. I’m enjoying reading your blog up to this month’s post.


  7. Hi there – I have a niddy-noddy like the one in your picture. It was made by Howell’s Weaving, 4832 Salmon Dr., Paradise, CA 95969, 916-877-4539.
    p.s. love your swatch & the yarn!


  8. I am right handed and was taught to spin left handed without me realising. It turns out that my spinning teacher had a left handed teacher as well! I have switched to being right handed, but I often pick up some roving and start off the way I was taught. I also have a niddy noddy similar to yours.


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