Master making textural art yarn
Jacey Boggs is a spinning powerhouse. A frequent contributor to
Spin-Off and SOAR mentor, she has made a name for herself with her analytical thoughtful approach to making novelty yarns that aren't only fun but also functional. Later this year, Jacey will be releasing her first book with Interweave, Spin Art. Below we share excerpts from her introduction to the book, which is filled with everything you need to master the craft of making textured yarn.
Jacey Boggs: I learned to spin yarn barely two weeks after I learned to knit. I purchased a used Louet S‑10 online in the hope that I could spin my own yarn for cheaper than I could buy it. I was naïve. Ten days later and $100 lighter, I sat down and put foot to treadle for the first time.
I was in love.
For the next two years, I spent at least four hours each day spinning in the corner of the dining room, behind the table, and in front of the window air-conditioning unit while my son teethed, then crawled, then finally walked. I pored over every spinning and fiber book that my local library carried. When I'd absorbed all of their information, I ordered from other libraries. I read books. I perused magazines. I scoured the Internet. If it was about spinning, I wanted to know it. My inchworm draw slowly changed to a comfortable short backward draft, then stretched to a graceful long draw. Plying came naturally, and the science of twist and balance seemed intuitive. Eventually, I could spin without watching, and my yarns thinned and evened.
I spun and I knit and I was happy. I also blogged. Handspun yarn was not easily found online at that point, so when I started posting process and finished pictures, readers started asking to buy. The most daring thing I spun and sold was singles, but mostly it was traditional 2-plies that paid the bills.
And then the experiments began.
Some artistic spinners were pulling some fun textural stunts, and I tried my hand at them. After having spent so many hours working to make my yarns even and balanced, though, the lack of control and durability in these textured yarns frustrated me. Still, I set about learning everything I could about the tricks and techniques that these less traditional spinners were doing or had done in the past. Then I experimented on how to adapt and develop what I'd learned to create more controlled and studier yarns. I realized these two aspects, controlled spinning and creative textural techniques, could and should be married. Knowing how to spin; having control over one's hands and feet; understanding different types of fibers; knowing how twist works, where it accumulates, and how it impacts plying; how staple length affects drafting, hand distance, and drape: all of these things directly influenced my textural spinning and made it better. My controlling nature finally paid off in demanding that everything be exact, neat, and durable. I scaled things down, refined hand movements, and introduced anchors. After I'd adapted what was already out there, I started experimenting with new textures and combinations, and the world opened up.
Today, I teach workshops all over the world. I teach the textural techniques in this book—the hand movements, the reasons and science behind them, what works and what doesn't work, and why. But what I really hope that the spinners I teach take away with them is that the more you learn about spinning, the better a spinner you'll be—that the old adage "know the rules before you break them" doesn't really apply. You can't break the rules of fiber/spinning and still produce a good yarn; you have to learn the rules well enough that you can work inside their parameters to get the fiber to produce the yarn you want.
Traditional and textural spinning are two sides of the same coin—two plies in the same yarn. One just happens to be bumpier than the other.