Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Glory of Skeins

As a knitter, I put up with skeins as one puts up with cold rain on a camping trip.  They were something that had to be endured while one stayed cheerful and pleasant to one's companions.  I bought an economical swift:

and a large ball winder.  When I bought skeins of yarn, I went ahead and wound it into cakes to be ready for knitting.  I did try knitting off of my swift, but it was not practical.  It has been a very good work horse, and I do not regret buying it.  I might very well recommend the system to a casual knitter.  It has worked very well.

This carried over to my spinning.  I tended to avoid skeins. I kept singles on bobbins.  I would spin, ply, block with steam, and wind my yarn into a cake for knitting without ever scouring it - because skeins were a pain.  I looked for a way to scour an block yarn while it was on a bobbin because I did not like skeins.  I did not get/make a reel for making skeins because I thought skeins were a pain.

However, the squirrel cage swift as it evolves is different.
This one has evolved to the point where it really works, and it just needs a little sanding and finish.  Let me just say that fancy and expensive does not make a good squirrel cage swift, and there are good reasons that Alden Amos gets $600 for his swifts.  He has refined his designs until they are exceptionally functional.

Any good squirrel cage makes handling skeins easy.  I can put a skein on the swift and knit directly from the skein. It is sort of like a yarn butler standing there behind my knitting chair feeding me yarn. All of a sudden, I understand skeins!

The next squirrel cage swift that I make (yes, I need another) will be a real yarn butler for my knitting. It will have a articulated arm to hold patterns as my pattern holder does:

And it will have a little thingy to hold extra knitting tools and it will have a nice light on it that points right at my knitting.  It might even have a place to set my tea cup.

However, first I need to make a skeining reel because if one has the right swift, skeins are very handy.  I think it is too bad the great virtues of squirrel cage swifts and skeins are not taught as part of modern knitting.  These days people have to get into spinning and weaving before they learn how very useful a squirrel cage swift can be.

Skeins of very fine, energetic singles are still a pain. : (


=Tamar said...

Thank you for giving me the correct name for the vertical swift I bought at the thrift shop.

Aaron said...

I think that any swift that has been jailed at the Thrift Shop deserves a proper name, and not just Tom, Dick, or Harry. Such swifts deserve names like: The Count of Monte Cristo.

I think my new swift will be called Casimir the Great.