I am highly susceptible to advertising. I suspect that when you carve up the carcass of my motivations, that’s the skeleton of why I have as much fiber-related stuff as I do. I can pontificate for days about my reasons for stashing or how wonderful a certain kind of tool is, but at the end of the day, I’m just really good at consumerism. I hear someone talk about something nifty and I’m like “I want that.” Want is the coal that fires our economy, and like coal, there are some pretty significant downsides. (Not that I’m going to get into any of that here or now. I just wanted to talk about spinning.)

Not all the podcasts I listen to are sponsored – in fact, most of the fiber-related ones aren’t overtly, and it’s usually the comedy or general interest ones that do the silly, unnatural segues about avoiding the post office or having healthy snacks delivered to your door. But by its nature, a show about a specific hobby will mention tools and materials and subjects related to that hobby. If a podcaster mentions a pattern she is knitting or a yarn she bought, a listener is likely to want to see it. Even if they aren’t, hearing about something often enough will often get one to think “so what’s the deal with KrebSpun anyway?”

This is basically how I found myself at Miss Babs’s website. I’ve never seen her stuff in person (I was looking for a LYS where I could buy it, but that doesn’t seem to be an option) but she is a well-known independent yarn dyer, and I’ve heard many good things about her amazing colors. There were some lovely hues, but that alone isn’t generally enough to get me to buy a skein of yarn. However, I cannot leave a yarn site without at least glancing at the markdowns, and there was a “destash” page, where I found this gorgeous blend of merino, yak, and silk (at 50% off):

I have a bit of a fiber stash, but with the exception of a small braid of alpaca silk I bought at Carolina FiberFest, none of it is luxury fiber. It’s all inexpensive workhorse stuff, which is fine. I don’t want to get into the nicer fibers until I really know what I’m doing. I realize this kind of goes against my “you shouldn’t be afraid of knitting” stance, but fiber is different. You’re not going to “ruin” most yarn by knitting and frogging, but there’s no ctrl-z when it comes to spinning fiber.

I don’t think my apprehension is unfounded, either, because my attempts so far have been whelming at best. None of my handspun is going to win any awards for loveliness, evenness, or softness. My first whole skein was an accomplishment just for the fact that it’s a pretty significant quantity, but it’s fairly rough to knit with, and the scarf I’m making from it will need serious blocking. I know some of the problem is due to overtwisting, and that will go away with more practice. But I also wonder if I’d do better with a more luxurious fiber. At the same time, I’d rather not break off chunks of the fancy-pants stuff to practice with, because I want to stretch that as far as I can.

So I ordered that fiber from Miss Babs because it was both gorgeous and inexpensive, and with it came some samples: a mini pouch of Eucalan, and a small bit of fiber wrapped around a business card. It was a few grams of a deep grayish purple, described as a “luscious to spin” 80/20 blend of BFL and Tussah silk. So I spun it, because how could I not with a lead-in like that? Plus, such a small amount was perfect for practice.

I used my homemade spindle (I think of it as my wibbly-wobbly) and chain-plied it into this:

bflsilkThis is my best handspun by far. The fiber was awesome to work with, in stark contrast with my current handspun WIP (with roving so fresh-from-the-farm that I’m plucking out bits of plant every 5 minutes). The resulting yarn is a nice, even three-ply light fingering that I honestly would love to use for a pair of socks. I knit up a swatch of about 2.5 cm squared (that’s an inch for anyone who’s sitting out the Metric Revolution), and the stitch definition is excellent. And best of all, I finally spun a yarn that was soft and pleasant to knit with, which had not been the case thus far.

I have to wonder whether I owe the difference to the quality of the fiber or just improvement with practice. Now that I know I can turn out some nice yarn, though, I’m a lot less hesitant to get into the “good stuff.” Before I do that, though, I do want to finish the current WIP. I doubt it’ll come out as nice as the sample, but I think it’ll turn out a lot better than my last skein, because I’m being very conscientious about not overtwisting. (I definitely plan to ply a few samples whenever the spindle gets full enough to need winding off.)

All in all, it was a fantastically effective bit of advertising. It allowed me to get some experience with a nicer fiber than I was used to, without worrying about “ruining” any of my own stash. In turn, I gained the confidence of knowing that I actually can spin a nice yarn. As a result, I’m definitely going to be splurging on Miss Babs fiber in the future.

I joke about being addicted to fiber, but I think there’s a lot of truth in it. Leaving aside how much better I feel when I’m able to knit/spin than when I’m not, the whole “hook ’em with a sample” thing is a pretty common sales tactic, as any crack dealer or pharmaceutical rep could attest to. That Babs is one clever girl.