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Rant - you have been warned! - Random babblings of a fiber-obsessed nutcase

About Rant - you have been warned!

Previous Entry Rant - you have been warned! Sep. 16th, 2005 @ 10:04 am Next Entry
This rant's been kicking around in my head since my "demo" at church last Saturday. A lot - and I mean a lot - of people came up to me over the course of the evening and made remarks like "Wow, I didn't know people could make yarn that nice!" and "Gee, it looks like the stuff you can buy!" and the like. It got me thinking...and that's always dangerous.

Please note - this is MY OPINION. You don't agree, fine - let's discuss it politely, OK? I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not calling anyone names.....I don't mind people disagreeing with me. It makes for interesting conversation and growth on both sides.



There are a lot of spinners out there who spin predominatly "art" yarn, "novelty" yarn...whatever you want to call it. One that comes to mind is Ebay vendor Pluckyfluff.....I'm sure there is some sort of market for this...this....stuff, or she (and others) wouldn't be selling it on Ebay. I don't like it - I want my yarn to be *usable*, not to sit in a basket somewhere - but whatever.

HOWEVER, if you are going to spin in public, or try to market your yarns to "normal" people, please, PLEASE, spin the best yarn you are able to. John Q. Public doesn't know art yarn from Constantinople, and if all he sees is people spinning lumpy, bumpy, almost unusable yarns, he will think that is ALL handspun is.

Handspun has a very bad reputation, down here in Texas anyway, because of all the....strange looking "art" being passed off as yarn. Your normal, everyday person wants yarn that she/he can use - you know, knit sweaters/scarves/hats/whatever out of, or crochet afghans/doilies/whatever you do with crochet (I don't know how to crochet), not (usually) yarn that is really only good to sit out and admire. "Yes", you argue, "but you can make pillows out of art yarn!" and I respond - "Just how many strange, lumpy pillows does a person need?" (Yes, you probably can use this art yarn in a sweater...but who wants to wear a 10 pound sweater? Who wants to spend the money said yarn would cost to make that sweater?)

Now, there are a *lot* of spinners out there that are trying to make a living with their spinning wheels. They are doing their level best to educate the public on exactly why handspun is superior to commerically spun offerings, and to get them to understand *why* they can charge so much per ounce (or by the yard...it depends on the spinner). If John Q. Public thinks that handspun is all lumpy, bumpy, wildly colored, not really good for "real" items, he won't even check out the production spinner's wares - why should he? All handspun is the same, yes?

This is one of the main reasons I go out into the public and demo - not because I like people, I don't - to educate them. Most people have no clue what I'm doing, as I sit there merrily spinning away - I usually hear comments like "Look! She's Yarning!" and "What are you doing, looming?" or my personal favorite "Look - she's WEAVING"....because the majority of the time I do NOT HAVE A FRICKING LOOM anywhere near me. *ahem* sorry..... I mean, c'mon, it has a wheel, and it's spinning around and around and around and mezmerizing the children. You'd think they could figure it out on their own....

When I started going public with my addiction hobby, I was still a relative newbie. My yarn wasn't nice and even, it had lots of little slubs and lumps..and you know, most people would look politely and say "Geez, it's not worth the effort. I can *buy* much nicer yarn at Wal-Mart!" as they walked off. It hurt, but it made me spin even more so I could show them exactly *why* I spin.

Handspun is generally much nicer than commercial yarn. It usually is a lot softer, and less scratchy because we don't use the chemicals to process the wool that the commercial companies use. We are willing to spend the time hand-picking out all the grass and burrs and whatnot; the companies would rather burn it out with chemicals - it's faster, and therefore cheaper. Most handspinners are picky about the quality of fibers they work with - the companies take whatever hits the wool pool (and a lot of that stuff is NASTY, let me tell you!) We tend to adjust our technique (even if it's subconsciously) to the fiber at hand, instead of just spinning this batch (of....merino, let's say) exactly the same way we spun the last batch (of...kid mohair? silk? Lincoln Longwool?)
Handspun yarn has life to it..not like the overprocessed stuff the stores sell. We are willing to play with dyepots and blending colors and handpainting rovings, instead of running everything in the same colorways.

Now, I'm not against commercial yarns at all - I buy them and use them all the time. BUT, I like having the choice (spin enough cotton for a sweater for my 5 year old? Not in this lifetime!)....and let's face it, if John Q. Public doesn't like handspun yarns, there won't be any new spinners, and fiber raisers will be forced to raise prices, and pretty soon some of us won't be able to afford the fiber, and handspinning will once again fade from the craft scene. (This round of spinning-frenzy has really only been around since the...what? '60s? '70s? It hasn't been that long since there were very few people that even had a clue on how to spin, folks!)

So, what I'm saying is: If you want to spin the lumpy-bumpy interesting yarn, fine - but please do it at home. If you want to spin in public, aim for the bestest, evenest yarn you can possibly make. If you think that's *boring*, then jazz up the rovings with dye. Or handpaint it. Spin 2 singles of different colors and ply them together to make wild yarn. (Wild, bright colors actually draw people into my demos. It also makes it easier to explain *how* a wheel works - white wool simply confuses the issue). Add beads - although that might be a bit hard to do while you're trying to answer questions and explain (for the 5 million-th time) that NO, you don't kill sheep for their wool, you give them a haircut, and DON'T touch that! and and and.....*g*

If you go to a craft show to sell your wares, go ahead and bring some of the art yarn, but please make sure you have more of the "normal" yarn, so that folks can see *why* they should buy from you and not Wal-Mart, or JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby. The current knitting craze won't go on forever, and a lot of the people that are currently knitting with the eyelash/fun fur/novelty stuff will either quit or move on to "real" knitting - fair isle, aran, intarsia, etc. I mean - my friend knits, did it a lot years and years ago, but quit. Last year, she got caught up in the knitting frenzy, so she bought scads of eyelash yarn, restocked her needles, and went to town. After 15 fuzzy scarves, she *threw her needles away in disgust*. The yarn gave her fits as she tried to work with it, she couldn't see the stitches, and she decided that the scarves were really too itchy to wear all the time. Plus, the colors are just....plain strange in a lot of cases. I don't think she's in the minority here......crochet seems to be on the rise now. (Can you crochet with weird yarn? I haven't a clue). Again, there's nothing wrong with eyelash yarn (I have a bunch of eyelash scarves set back for Christmas presents)...but too much is too much.

Think I'm making too much of this issue? What about Lion Brand's "Homespun" yarn? It's....icky. Squiggly. A lot of people I have talked with are surprized that *MY* yarn looks nothing like that - I mean, it's handspun, right? So, shouldn't my handspun be just like that? I try to explain that Handspun and Homespun aren't the same, but it doesn't really seem to sink in.

Keep in mind, also, that you may be the only spinner that person *ever* sees. I'd rather they remember my "boring" "normal" "looks like store-bought" yarn instead of remembering me as "that weirdo that makes that bizarre stuff".

What about kids? They are at every demo I've done.....we always end up discussing how clothing was made 150 years ago. Lumpy-bumpy stuff wasn't used - too much waste. (Plied stuff wasn't used much either, I keep hearing. Too much time. *shrug* I like plied yarns - but I make sure the kids know it's MY choice, not necessarily how my ancestors would have done it). They then go back to school and impress the teacher with their new-found knowledge...and I get the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped keep the art of spinning alive in this day of Nintendo, and TiVo, and computers.



So, discuss.......let me know *your* views on this. Concurring, dissenting, spinner, non-spinner - let's discuss this.
Current Mood: tiredtired
The possessed iPod says:: Crimson Pirates: 10,000 Miles Away
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spin a yarn
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From:hugh_mannity
Date:September 16th, 2005 04:57 pm (UTC)
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I ain't a gonna argue with you. I agree 100% (if not more).

I admire pluckyfluff's balls and marketing talent, but think her "yarn" is trash. Because it's fundamentally useless. What worries me is that now she's got a book out, people who don't know how to spin will try to spin that sort of stuff without first understanding the mechanics of spinning. Then they'll write it off as a useless craft because "no one can make useable yarn with a spinning wheel."

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From:fiberaddict
Date:September 16th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
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Erk. I hadn't even *thought* of the effect of her book on the spinning-clueless.

If you're going to spend over $30 on a book on spinning, pick up Alden Amos's "Big Handbook of Spinning" aka the Master's guide to good yarn. I've read that book over and over and over, and keep finding new info in it. I swear he's got a chip in there that automatically adds stuff each time the cover's opened!
[User Picture Icon]
From:hugh_mannity
Date:September 16th, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC)
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I've got the Big Book.

And my copy's autographed.



By Alden *and* Stephanie!

*blows raspberry at fiberaddict*

*Does happy dance and gets ready to go home and spin some real yarn or do something else fiber-related.*
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 17th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
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Thank you for saying this! I SO TOTALLY AGREE! *smile* Preach on sister!
(spin a yarn)
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