(Weight on a spindle is the equivalent of brake band tension on a wheel. The heavier the spindle, the “tighter” the brake band. So, a too-heavy spindle is like having the brake band “too tight”–the yarn tends to break and/or yank in on you while you’re spinning.)
First I tried making a lighter spindle out of a tiny stone ring (for displaying stone spheres), by filling the ring with fast-curing clear acrylic (i.e., epoxy) and covering the epoxy with gold leaf to make it prettier.
(By the way, epoxy really just is a fast-curing clear plastic; it tends to yellow over time and isn’t the best casting plastic ever made, but if you just need a little bit and don’t care if it yellows, epoxy will do just fine. I just mention this because I had always thought of epoxy as “glue”, so was astonished to find out that it can be used for casting. If you’re ever intimidated by the idea of casting plastics, think of it as filling a mold with epoxy-like stuff.)
After casting the whorl, I found the center of mass (which is not the same as the center of the spindle; it’s often a trifle off-center), drilled a hole through it, stuck it onto a brass shaft, and had a very nice Akha-style spindle for my pains. Worked pretty well–spun fast, and was lighter than the silver spindles–but a little too fast for my work, and still too heavy.
So that’s how I wound up in Carolina Homespun, looking for a good-quality wood spindle. And, of course, for small, fast, light spindles, there’s nothing like a Bosworth mini.
Morgaine had six of them in stock, and I spent two hours spinning on each in turn. All of them were nice, finely-balanced spindles, but after spending ten or fifteen minutes on each one, I found that two of them were slightly better-balanced than the others. Then I spent another hour going back and forth between those two–one was walnut and I *think* the other was Chakte Vega. It was interesting comparing the two spindles…they were both laceweight, yet they had subtly different “feels”. The walnut was very slightly heavier (I think), put more vibration into the yarn as it formed, and felt more authoritative, solid–like a mountain bike. The chakte vega (or whatever else it was–a beautiful yellow-orange wood with darker stripes) spindle was lighter, more responsive, but twitchier about the balance, and didn’t spin quite as long as the walnut one. It felt like a racing bike. I went back and forth for almost an hour, and finally took the chakte vega one, as the weight felt more suitable for ultrafine spinning. But really, they were both beautiful. Both weigh about half an ounce.
So now I have a Bosworth mini, and I really really REALLY love it. If you’re looking for a fine laceweight spindle, they’re fantastic. (That said, I still plan to make more spindles.)
Other stuff I picked up at Carolina Homespun:
8 oz of white firestar, which is a dyeable, SOFT nylon sparkle fiber. It’s been discontinued by the manufacturer–Ashland Bay has over 1000 pounds of it in their warehouse, so it should be around for awhile, but eventually they’ll run out, and I wanted to make sure I had a good supply. So far as I know, it’s the only sparkle fiber that can be DYED(!!!)–so I can use it to add sparkle in exactly the color I want. Cool stuff.
6 ounces of 150’s (yes, I said 150’s) merino top. This is from Peace of Yarn, and is from an Australian cooperative that has specialized in ultrafine merino for some time. It’s 15-micron merino (!). Yes, I said 15 microns. And natural, not stretched like Optim. I stuck my hand into the bag and it felt just like cashmere–which is not surprising, because it’s actually finer than some cashmere. (The cashmere standard allows for up to 19 microns.) Tried spinning a little bit and it spun like an absolute dream–spun into a very fine, very smooth thread with almost no effort. It’s definitely finer than the brown cashmere/silk mix I’m currently spinning.
I am absolutely in love with this stuff and if I weren’t about 200 yards into another project, I’d probably pitch it and make a shawl from this stuff. At $6.50/oz, it is not cheap, but it’s beautiful, spins better and more evenly than most cashmeres, and is incredibly soft to the touch. I may well make my next shawl with this merino, I like it that much.
I also got a chance to fondle vicuna fiber, although since it was priced at $75 for a quarter-ounce pack, I didn’t actually try spinning any. It felt very soft, but not all that much softer than high-quality cashmere or guanaco (which it closely resembled)–if I had $800 to spare, I’d happily drop it on the opportunity to make a gorgeous shawl out of vicuna, but more for the cachet and the rarity of the fiber than any real quality difference. (And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to spend extra money for the cachet of, and chance to work with, a rare fiber…people spend hundreds of dollars on pretty rocks, photography equipment, etc.–collecting rare fibers is really no different than any other kind of collection. I don’t think it’s worth it from the standpoint of additional softness, but heck, it’s one very cool new fiber and I’d love to work with it.)
I actually think a shawl of copper satin angora, bombyx silk (or that ultrafine merino), and vicuna would be absolutely gorgeous–shimmery, fuzzy, delightfully soft, and with great cachet. Maybe my next project…
Anyway, that was my shopping trip for the month…I have been spinning up quite a bit of this black satin/cashmere-silk blend (1 ply black satin angora and 1 ply “brown” cashmere-tussah silk blend). It produces a beautiful pearl gray/smoke-colored yarn–the black satin is darker than the cashmere/silk, which produces a “ragg” yarn effect in the skein, but when knitted up it comes out a beautiful smoky gray with “highlights” (which are actually the lighter yarn). It’s so fine it practically floats.
The one difficulty for me has been finding enough black satin angora to spin…satin angora is *very* hard to find. Fortunately, I have a friend who’s a satin breeder, and she’s been reserving her black wool for me. Equally fortunately, I don’t use very much wool at a time. But with each animal only producing a few ounces at a time, I worry a lot about whether I’ll be able to get enough, and whether the colors (from different rabbits) will be close enough to be unnoticeable in the finished shawl.
If you’ve never worked with satin angora, find yourself a satin breeder and get into his/her good graces. It’s gorgeous stuff–the fuzz of angora, but with sheen like silk. More lustrous than my cashmere-silk blend, believe it or not. I love satin angora, and given a chance I’d only work with it, not “regular” angora. The luster is beautiful.