Do you have handspinning questions? Are you looking for answers? Don't worry, Ms Spinster understands and is ready and willing to answer any questions. How do you think she came to be nicknamed: PatsyZ Most Excellent Spinnin' Guru.Calm

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The Origami Mobius Vest - Part One

After several requests,  I've put together a little presentation to explain my Origami Mobius vest.   Here is the front, with slash pockets and a wide shawl collar.  The yarn is all handspun and woven on a rigid heddle loom.  Since it is warp-faced, that means it has twice as many warp ends as weft picks.  The warp is actually from sample yarns from multiple classes.  The weft is turquoise as well as the selvage threads. 
 The back doesn't have any collar at all, this is due to the Mobius fold that creates the illusion of a front collar.  The back is seamed down the middle to the waist and the back lower band is eased to give a better fit at the hips. 
Try it with graph paper.  You'll need to cut and tape so that you have a length 10 squares by 120 squares.  The thing that allows the origami folding to work is the fact that as a weaver we can make a fabric that is beautiful on both sides.

 1.  Four squares equal10 inches, the size of the vest fabric for my vest is 10"x 120" plus a bit for ease at the hips.
 2.   I've numbered the front side and colored the back side with red hatching marks so you can keep track of the folds. Start with the back side facing you. 

3. The first fold is four squares from the center back (between 6 and 7) on both sides and is a perfect 45-degree angle, so the back side is now showing.  Both sides become parallel to each other.
4. The next fold makes the pockets by folding the sides under and toward each other.  On the backside, you will see the side that is numbered.

5. Turn it over and you are looking at the front with the deep V pocket folds which need a little bit of stitching at the side bottom to keep a lipstick, credit card, and tissue.

 6.  Now we will make the collar fold, mine is a long shallow fold.  It starts one square above the last fold and ends ten and a half squares away.  The fold brings the back side to the top as the shawl collar is shaped. (The exact angle depends on your own shoulders.  Start with this amount and adjust to fit.) 

7. The shoulder fold is eleven and a half squares up from the bottom edge.  

8.   This should allow you to tape (whip stitch) the back center edges together.  Now you have the front view.

9.  And this is the back view.  The cut edges (1 and 12) are whip stitched to (6 and 7).  Try this with graph paper first until it is clear where you need to make folds.

In the next blog entry, I'll discuss the construction including hiding a cut edge and adding ease for hips at the back waist. 


Cellulose fibers - flax, in particular, have been in my hands a great deal this summer. I have finished two important articles for the PLY magazine's flax issue. I can't say exactly what the articles are, but I'm very pleased and I have a created a teaser video about the last finishing step that you might need after you scour your yarns.  The scouring usually activates the lignins that are part of the fiber creating a very stiff yarn.
Enjoy, better yet join me in one of my classes at SAFF in NC, in October

The Year of Spinning Cellulose Fibers, Join me

I declare this my year of CELLULOSE!  I've taught cellulose classes twice in MI and VA, plus GA, NY, and OH.  I'm still scheduled for more of the same classes at MFF, OR, and SAFF. Cellulose is any fiber that doesn't come from an animal.  Not WOOL.

These incredible fibers are obtained from plants, like the seed hair - cotton or the bast fibers; flax, hemp, and ramie. They're perfect for spinning fine and creating beautiful weaving yarns. The first photo has natural and yellow dyed flax plus white ramie yarns shown as skeins and woven into a table mat.

The earrings are 2-ply handspun flax, which is perfect for any Irish Crochet patterns you might have.  I will point out that once flax is spun, it magically becomes linen under your fingertips.

Cotton yarns are soft and supple.  The brown cotton yarns in the third photo are plied with soysilk and knit into a summer scarf.  This year we are featuring Sarepta brown cotton fibers from Louisiana.  In Cotton classes, I always start students spinning the cotton while still attached to seeds.  Then we move into the ginned lint and finally the rovings.

In most workshops, we have time to do a comparison dyeing to show how the same dye, prep, and concentration change by the fiber involved. Don't forget to bring an apron and rubber gloves.

Banana fibers, historically called abaca, were stripped from the leaf sheath of a non-edible type of banana plant.  Sometimes this fiber was called Manilla Hemp.  The banana fiber we'll use is harvested from the entire Banana stalks and leaves left after the plant has finished fruiting.

Not only are they not wool, they don't act like wool, they don't feel like wool or spin like wool.  Sign up today, at Michigan Fiber Festival or Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair.

Patsy Zawistoski

August Michigan Fiber Festival Mystery

Spinning friends, especially Michigan Fiber Festival friends, I need a few more inquiring minds.

I am seeking more curious students to sign in for the Saturday workshop, 

CSI: Yarns and Fibers - Are You Up to the Challenge?  

This is a very informative fun workshop.   I hope you are ready for sleuthing and solving the mysteries of fibers and yarns.  You may even have some unlabeled and unknown fibers or yarns in your own stash.  Some of us call these “UBBFYs or “Unidentified Bags or Balls of Fluff or Yarn.”  

It's a new class with rave reviews in California where students left very excited about all they learned and how they can put it to good use.  I'll be bringing my digital microscope, to help you get a close look at the fiber.   Guess what fiber is shown on the top slide.  If you are still puzzling over the answer, the bottom slide is even closer. We will also learn the other methods for identifying fibers.

On Friday, which I know is the first shopping day, (but I do give you early shopping time), is the very popular, Handspinning Options for Painted Rovings.  This workshop teaches you how to quickly make various yarn styles with that specially painted roving.  This allows you to consider which 1, 2, or 3 yarns you want for the project, using very little fiber or time.  You'll also gain a better perspective for making or choosing painted roving combinations.  

If you want to get in either class call or log in quick because they are thinking of canceling the class.  By the way, the fiber is brown cotton.


May 2014, Shepherds Harvest, MN

Shepherds Harvest Festival 2014, is this weekend May 16-18, at Lake Elmo, MN.   I am packing the car so we will drive this year.  Although online registration is closed, you can register in person.  PM me first. I have room in my classes and I will bring enough supplies.

Spinning Boucl├ęs class on Saturday, May 17th. These yarns are stable, great for weaving - warp or weft and for knitting.

Spinning Hemp, Ramie, Bamboo, and Tencel - Old and New Cellulose Fibers.  This workshop is on Sunday, May 18th you can spin great yarn for lace work, plaiting, or weaving. 

Can I Keep It? This Wheel Followed Me Home....

A large walking wheel now lives with me, another case of a wheel following me home from an event.  This time SOAR 2013, St. Charles, IL.  I live nearby and my husband drove it home.
Ever since I learned that my grandmother spun on a walking wheel, taught my aunts to spin, and my mother (the baby of the family) to hand card, I have always wanted a large spindle point wheel.  I have and enjoy my 2 charkas, and enjoyed teaching spinning on a walking wheel, but never thought there was quite enough room in our little house.  Perhaps there still isn't but the wheel followed me home just the same.

In my mother's mountain cabin, the spinning pretty much stopped before she was old enough for spinning lessons, the family had become well off enough to purchase "boughten yarn".  Then the spinning wheel basically set on the porch unused as the family grew up, out, and down the mountain.  It had already left, "had walked away" before someone thought it might be worth keeping.   Perhaps it looked like this one.

I have found myself studying back in my books about wheels.  Patricia Baines, Spinning Wheels, Spinners & Spinning; David Pennington and Michael Taylor, Spinning Wheels and Accessories; Peter Fowler, How to be Owned by an Antique Spinning Wheel - A Practical Guide; and Katy Turner's succinct The Legacy of the Great Wheel.  Oh the joys of having a good library!

The Minor's head is the large accelerating whorl
I was told that the sellers had bought the wheel a few years back and understood it to be from the Evanston, IL area.  That it might date back to the 1870's.
I know that I have a Minor's head attachment, for increasing the speed.  This was granted an American patent in 1803 by Amos Minor, and in 1810 the company was creating six to nine thousand a week.

The Minor's head is now working, after loosening the wooden screws, stabilizing it in the head post, and replacing the band with very fine handspun flax.
The carved wheel post, now level after shimming one leg of the spinning wheel

The light weight, great wheel turns easier on the carved cone-shaped post after I tipped the wheel just a bit so the top of the carved cone was level to the world.  The wheel spindles are simple and the rim is made of two shaped very thin stripes of oak.

The adventure has begun.

Worsted draft video

This is a video clip illustrating the worsted draft.  It looks deceptively simple, rhythmic, smooth, and easy.  In many ways it is and in many ways it isn't.  Timing, choice of drive speed, choice of the amount of fiber, treadling speed and a comfortable take up make it easy.  In the beginning it is a lot to understand so just concentrate on one thing at a time.  For now watch the video, watch the rhythm, and listen to the simple instructions then read further to begin to understand exactly what is happening.

**Side Note**  The worsted draft has been called numerous names, short forward draft, supported draft, and inch worm, to name a few.  I personally like fingered draft, since you are fingering the twist as it moves into the drafted fibers creating a smoother less fuzzy yarn. 

This draft has two major parts, for the forward hand.  I'll describe each separately and try to point out the intricacies of each so that I can answer questions I think you might have.  I can't talk fast enough or treadle slow enough to get all the information in while spinning.  I would have to talk like the full disclosure guy on the advertisements and still not get it all said. 

First, the back hand, the fiber holding hand, fortunately only has one task, simply to present fibers for drafting.  The grip of this hand is relaxed and gentle, the way you would hold a pet bird so you don't squeeze too tightly.  Or think of the way you would hold a sleeping child, so you wouldn't wake them or drop them.

Start with the yarn taut from the orifice and your hands about 2/3 of a fiber length apart.  Get the wheel moving to the right, which is the Z direction.  Begin the drafting.  As long as your feet are treadling your hands should be moving.  If you need to stop your hands, stop your feet first pressing down so the wheel is stopped.

Part One for the active hand, which is your forward hand.  This hand almost never stops moving.  This hand uses a firm pinch while the hands move apart and the fibers are drafted to a certain amount.  Experience is your biggest teacher here.  Look close at the amount I leave to get the twist and then size of my yarn.

Next Part Two, the forward hand releases the grip just enough to slide on top of the newly drafted fibers until the hands are now about 2/3 of the fiber length apart.  If you slide until your hands become too close then the next set of fibers will not draft easily. 

The BIG explanation of this Part One:  In the video I am also moving newly formed yarn toward the orifice while I'm drafting and moving my hands apart.  So I must be aware of two things that are occurring simultaneously.  I must move the yarn into the orifice in a timely manner.  If it moves in too slowly then it will gain too much twist and begin to "krink" up and resist moving into the orifice.  Alas, this compounds itself with the next slow draft.

The other thing I must be aware of is how many fibers I am leaving in the drafting zone.  The most difficult tendency for beginners is to leave too many fibers while moving their hands too slowly.  More fibers create a thicker yarn which needs less twist and needs to move quicker into the orifice .  Usually this happens because of fear that the fibers will come apart, so the thought is more fibers will be stronger.  BAMP!!! Wrong answer!  More fibers while the hands are moving slowly is one recipe for the dreaded OVER TWIST.

The great thing about this drafting style is the stability.  Once you have drafted the fibers, if you don't pull the fibers apart, they won't come apart.  Usually you should aim toward a thinner yarn, drafting until there are fewer fibers ready to get the twist, as that gives your hands and your feet a better chance to settle into a rhythm.  It is actually okay to spin thin on a slow speed.  Many historical wheels had only one or two speeds.  If the spinner needed more twist they would treadle more since they often didn't have another speed choice.

Allow yourself to draft a bit fewer fibers and to spin thinner, as you can confidence with this draft. Just remember fewer fibers need a bit more twist to hold them together.

The BIG explanation for Part Two: The sliding grip is very important to understand.  The tight grip is quickly relaxed so the forward hand slides over the newly drafted fibers toward the back hand.  You will feel the twist moving right under your finger tips.  The twist will follow your forward hand if the yarn between your hand and the orifice is taut.  When the wheel is in motion it should always be taut.

If you don't release the grip enough, as the hands move toward each other, the yarn can be pulled out of the orifice and off of the bobbin.  That is the exact opposite of what needs to happen.  Unfortunately, another way to get the dreaded OVER TWIST.

If you release the grip too much then the twist will usually move between your hands.  That often allows the twist to grab onto too many fibers and making it difficult to begin drafting the next time.

The speed of your hands is dictated by the number of fibers and the speed of the flyer.  The speed of the flyer comes from the drive whorl chosen and the speed of the treadling.

But if your drive band is on the slowest - largest drive whorl, the single treadle spinners can count like a waltz, Uh, One, two, three, One, two, three.  Here the One is your stronger downward push. Double treadle spinners need to think of a much slower One, two, three four; alternating feet of course.

When mastered the worsted or fingered draft can be very precise, smooth, and calming.

Wet Fingers & Flax Drafting

Wetting my forward hand while the back hand holds onto the point of twist.

Only using my back hand to direct/funnel the fibers to my wet forward hand 

Bringing the twist up the fibers, wetting them at the point of twist.

Q: I watched the Cotton, Silk, and Flax dvd. It was very interesting and helpful. When you were here, you taught me to use one hand for drafting the flax but in the video you use both hands. Did you discover that it was better with one hand? If so, why?

A: Yes, I have learned a great deal more about flax since the video was created. I find I prefer my yarns that have been spun with much wetter hands and more twist than I was using at that time of the DVD.  I try to keep my wet forward hand on the point of twist, (that place where the twist ends and unspun fiber begins), so that I can finger in as many fibers as possible. Wet-spinning the extra twist makes the yarn shinier and less apt to get fuzzy as a finished piece.

This is not the only choice, I have watched other spinners who prefer to alternate their wet hands. However, once the fibers in the drafting zone become wet it is harder to see and guage exactly what is happening. And damp fibers are harder to re-open if that section that has too many or too few fibers.

Here is the sequence, when I wet-spin flax First I need a towel on my lap and perhaps under my extended legs as I drip water everywhere.
  1. Staying out away from the orifice, I hold the point of twist with my back hand while I wet my finger and thumb of my front hand.
  2. Then I replace my wet hfingers on the point of twist and move back into the drafting mode. The back hand lightly funnels the fibers, but the distaff is actually holding the flax.
  3. Then when my fingers are still damp but no longer wet, I re-place my backhand on the point of twist while I reach forward and wet my front finger and thumb.
It is rather seamless now that I have repeated it so often. I usually continue to treadle while exchanging hands and wetting my fingers.  I also wet my fingers when I am plying. During plying I keep my wet front index finger between the plys and my thumb and middle finger on each side. Since the back hand is tensioning the two plys, I rewet my front hand when I have brought the twist all the way back on the tensioned plys and while I am moving the plied yarn into the orifice.  Although I prefer wet-spun yarn, it is easier for new students to start spinning flax with dry fiber so you could see the drafting process and guage how much twist is needed, before beginning to wet-spin flax.

What type of dye do you use?

Q. What type of dye do you use? I have Procion fiber reactive dyes that I use for another purpose, and the instructions say they can be used with wool. I dyed two batches and it seemed to come out okay, but on the various spinning sites I've visited I have seen no mention of Procion dyes.

A: I use both fiber reactive and acid dyes for my wools. The difference seems to be that if you use the correct amounts of dye, vinegar and heat, the acid dyes can actually exhaust the dye pot so that all of the dye bonds to the fibers. Then the dye pot water will be almost clear.

However, you can't use acid dyes with any plant fiber, like cotton, flax, hemp or ramie, so I keep both kinds of dyes. If I am traveling and need to dye both animal and plant fibers in the same workshop, I will carry my fiber reactive dyes. They bond to cellulose/plant fibers when an alkaline like washing soda is added and they bond with protein/animal fibers when an acid like vinegar is added. But fiber reactive dyes also bond with the water so the dye pot never exhausts. Traditionalists always insist on acid dyes for protein and fiber reactive for cellulose.

How do I keep from overspinning?

I think my tension problem is just not quite being used to spinning again. I have a castle wheel with a screw adjustment to tighten the tension. I like to run as tight a tension as I can manage in order to keep from overspinning, and I think I've just been too aggressive for my current skill level.

A: What kind of wheel do you have? When you say a castle wheel is it a double drive? That would have one drive band that goes around the drive wheel twice, once on the flyer whorl and once on the bobbin whorl. A single drive wheel has a drive band that goes around the drive wheel and the flyer whorl, and then a separate band that goes over the back end of the bobbin.

It sounds to me as if you need to slightly adjust everything. If you keep your tension very tight then it becomes harder to treadle, and you must treadle faster to keep up your momentum. If you treadle too fast then you get over twist unless you tighten the tension which causes the treadling to be harder.

If that seems to be the case then you need to reverse the cycle. Try this with an empty bobbin and a leader that doesn't slip. When you put the bobbin on the flyer make sure that it spins freely before you put the drive band on it. Also make sure that the large drive wheel spins freely when the drive band is not on it. If either the drive wheel or the bobbins are sluggish then you need to see what is keeping them from moving freely. See if you can fix it. A good oiling may be all you need, but if the wood has warped a round file will fix the inside of a bobbin.

When everything spins freely then put the drive band on making sure you are on your slowest drive speed. It would be the largest drive whorl on your wheel. Then pull the leader through the orifice and hold on to the leader. Now, reduce the tension on the drive band so that the flyer slips and doesn't turn when you treadle and hold the leader. Starting at that point you want to slowly tighten the tension on the drive band, while treadling, until the flyer turns and doesn't slip anymore. Now you may need to let go of the leader and let it completely untwist. When the leader is untwisted, check the take up while treadling. This should automatically adjust the tension on the bobbin if it a double drive wheel. You should feel a gentle take up when you move the leader toward the flyer.

If it is a single drive wheel with a separate bobbin adjustment then begin adjusting that knob slowly like I mention in the last note. You may have to go back and forth between adjusting the flyer and then the bobbin. Do all of this with just the leader.

Using a lighter take up tension, will require you to learn to feed or move the yarn into the flyer, instead of having the wheel take the yarn from you. At first it will feel strange but it will allow you to have a greater degree of control over your spinning and to change sizes and amounts of twist when you choose.