Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Lately I've been thinking how perfectly, well, ordinary things can be fascinating if you find the right person to share it with.

The first part of this is a spinning tidbit. I am doing a Navajo-ply or a chain ply for the combed yarn I spun up recently. This turns one strand of yarn into a 3 strand plied yarn. The phone rang at one point and I just put the open "loop" on a hook on the edge of my spinning wheel's flyer and answered the phone. The yarn has been sitting like this ever since. (Click on the photo to embiggen!)

I have read and heard countless times that it is difficult or impossible to stop in the middle of plying handspun yarn. Obviously, not all frequently repeated statements are true. I've been stopping in the middle for years! When I come back to the yarn, there is never any big red stain of shame on the bit where I stopped. I can't even find the "pause" when I return to the skein of yarn later.

I find this reassuring because it seems as though modern life is always finding ways to make things--well--more complicated. Passwords and cell phones and speed cameras, etc.--technology sometimes makes things harder than they might be otherwise.

So, what I figured out on my own is that for hundreds or likely thousands of years, people have paused while plying their handspun yarns and everything turned out ok.

Also, while I've been in the middle of a knitting slump, I knit anyway. You see, I still need lots of warm clothes here--so here is a pair of perfectly ordinary wool/cotton blend socks. The predominate colors are brown and green, although that is hard to tell in this photo. The only interesting part? I made this pair of socks with only one skein of Patons Stretch Socks. I used practically every last bit of the yarn! (Again, a perfectly ordinary detail that our ancestors knew well...using every last bit of a valuable resource.)

What got me thinking of this were two different comments this week. First, I used spindle spinning as a demonstration in a writing class I taught this week. I passed around wool roving to show everyone. Then, despite all my explanations, one of the students asked "Is this artificial wool?" I had to explain that it was the honest to goodness real thing. In fact, I knew the farm the ram was born on, the farm he now lives on, and his name. In fact, I even helped go sheep shopping for that ram!

Yup, sometimes it's the real thing. Honest. Perfectly ordinary (well, prize winning, gorgeous) Romney wool.

The second example was another exchange. Someone was recommending mints as a way of freshening the breath. I suggested that if you wanted to avoid sugar or sweets in general, that chewing on fresh mint or parsley would also make your breath smell better. The response was... "Really? That works?"

Yup. Our ancestors chewed on mint (not a mint candy) to smell better. As my dad says, "who'd have thunk it?" Sometimes, when something is perfectly ordinary and logical? That's just the way it is. Maybe it's only in a perhaps overly complicated age that we're looking for it to be artificial instead.

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Blogger Alison said...

I'm stumped. What did she think it would be? (Shows you how long I've been completely immersed in the natural-fibers mentality.)

June 22, 2010 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Hi Alison! I don't know what he (it was a he) thought it would be either...when he asked if it were "artificial wool" I said NO like I had the ram chasing me around the classroom! I was just as stumped as you were.

June 22, 2010 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger simply_complicated said...

i'd love to be surprised by those two stories, but sadly, i'm not. I don't think most of the younger generations have spent much time listening to the older ones.... too much time with the MP3 players and video games, perhaps?

Common sense just isn't common anymore.

btw, could you help me find an instructional page or book (online is admittedly easiest) on that plying technique? it sounds like something i could be very interested in!

June 23, 2010 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Hi there--just google "Navajo plying instructions" and you'll probably find what you need to learn this kind of plying. It's also called "chain plying" but that isn't a popular name yet. It uses a crochet-like technique. You create a loop and ply the loop (2 strands) with one strand, and then pull the one strand through the loop to create another loop. It makes a chained 3 ply. That's probably clear as mud so definitely google it for more information!

June 23, 2010 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger simply_complicated said...

thanks joanne... i looked it up... i've used the same chaining technique for all sorts of other things, but never thought of using it for plying... very interesting! say, does it leave a 'bump' of some sort where the end/beginning of each loop is?

as a side-note, i don't think i'll be using this technique any time real soon, as i'm only working very low-tech (a couple drop spindles for spinning and plying) and i think i might be to uncoordinated to ply like that and spin the spindle by hand as well!
thanks again though!

June 27, 2010 at 9:28 PM  
Blogger ilana said...

this post really resonated with me. i remember suggesting to someone that they could hang their clothes to dry rather than trying several broken dryers at a laundromat once. and the response- "you can do that?!"

June 30, 2010 at 9:02 PM  

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