My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


I Do Still Knit

Yes I do. Just not very much lately. My right wrist is not happy. Here’s a picture of the progress on Ingrid’s second sleeve:


Fortunately, spinning doesn’t hurt. I’m lefthanded and my left hand does all the work. Which leads me to wonder why my right wrist is the one bothering me. Life’s little mysteries.

Thanks for all the enabling on where to go to buy luxury fiber!

Keyboarding hurts too, so this will be brief. But first, a reader question:

Liz asks:

I bought a spindle a couple of weeks before you did, but I have no one to teach me how to use it. Do you think you could have learned without one-on-one help? My feeling is a few minutes of being shown would equal several hours of “book learning”. Do you think from your experience this is true, or am I just making excuses for myself?

I myself am generally much happier learning from a person than from a book. Seeing something done live and in 3-D beats reading about it in a book in my opinion. For me, I think this is due in part to the fact that I am lefthanded. All the pictures and diagrams I’ve seen are demonstrated by a righthanded person, and that just adds to the confusion for me.

The instructions I looked at for Andean plying were of course illustrated for a righthanded person. I had to think carefully about how to wrap the yarn to make it work for me.

Samantha mentioned that yesterday’s photo of Lucy made it look like she was giving me the kitty silent treatment after my having been away for a few days. Actually, that was her “I’m freezing — is it too much to ask for you to turn on the frickin’ heat?” look.


I did break down and turn it on after that. It was getting pretty nippy.

Today is a holiday. Thankfully.


  1. Spindle spinning help for visual learners: there are quicktime videos at … I found them very, very helpful. Book learning wasn’t doing much for me.

  2. That’s some good spinning! I have to laugh at myself, because once I mastered even spinning on a drop-spindle, I started making yarn that was thick/thin and slubby:

    I can’t afford luxury fibers just yet, but the red part of this yarn was made from Corriedale wool from Blue Goose Glen on Ebay– they deal for a wheel company that also sells roving, but the Corriedale was exceptionally soft.

  3. Oh. My. Goodness. Did you SEE the colors at the silkworker website? I think you must try some!

  4. Could you possibly have a pinched nerve?

    I’m happy to see you picking up the drop spindle spinning so quickly. It’s in the back of my mind that with one kid in braces and the other just starting college it’s the only way it’ll be affordable for me anytime in the next 9 or so years until they are both through with college. I’ve been thinking about asking for a spindle for Christmas and your comments this week have encouraged me.

    Gwen agrees with Lucy, she hopped into bed last night and squeezed herself right between my husband and me.

  5. I am not usually one to post many comments but I just wanted to say I love your blog. Also…I am right handed, but recently went to the doctor for a lot of pain and numbness in my left hand. Ended out with a cortizone shot in it for carpal tunnel and it’s been much better most of the time. I couldn’t figure it out either since I’m right handed, but hey…it worked!

  6. I had to turn on my heat too, after waking up with a cat on either side of my head and feeling like I was in a head lock. They say heat escapes from your head, and I guess that must be true. Cats are heat-seekers in winter.

    I never have pain from knitting, but get pain in my non-dominant wrist when I needlepoint. I think it’s the position I have my wrist in, so now I wear a brace on my left wrist when I needlepoint. I think it just keeps everything aligned correctly, because it works really well. Also, my doctor suggested that I sleep with the brace, and that helped too. Good luck!

  7. Wendy – I feel your pain – literally. I’m currently blogging about my right shoulder pain which has me down to minimal knitting (if any at all). I just saw my massage therapist last night and she worked wonders, even if it’s only the first step to a long road of recovery. I hope you’re getting some good help for your pain as well. I always believed mine was “carpal tunnel” but my therapist wants me to explore other options. I’ll do anything to avoid surgery. Anyway, best wishes for a speedy recovery. GET WELL SOON!

  8. I’m not much of a Dr person, and ingnored arm pain in my non-dominant arm for, oh, six or seven years. So as a result I am winding up a year+ of PT/OT, splints, being forbidden to knit, and finally minor surgery for a nerve pinched in three places (no, it wasn’t going to get better by resting no matter how long they made me wear the dadgum splint.) And no, it wasn’t tendonitis like my GP thought either. If you haven’t already, please get it checked out by a hand specialist, wrist pain can be CTS, but can also be deQuervain’s tenosynovitis, and even a little knitting will likely make it worse since treatment is not to move your thumb. Ingrid is lovely, but don’t do it if it hurts. If rest doesn’t work, a cortisone shot may be all you need. Sorry if I’m being impertinent and you already know all this. In any event, hope the wrist is feeling better soon!

  9. I agree with Margaret! Please make sure it is properly diagnosed, so that it can be treated with less drastic measures! I suffered from de Quervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis, and it is not something to take lightly. I went though three doctors before it was properly diagnosed (one just said it was arthritis). Luckily I found someone in time, and did not require surgery. Take some time off of blogging, pet Lucy for wrist-stress-relief, and let your body heal! Kitty purrs are very benficial for human health. My doctor didn’t say that, but we’ve observed an distinct increase in family wellness since we increased our % of housecats!

  10. Liz might find this link helpful:
    It has little videos on how to use a drop spindle. My favorite part of the website are the videos of her angora bunnies. Too cute.
    I hope your wrist feels better soon; I can’t imagine being in too much pain to knit.

  11. Your BLOG is wonderful, i love reading it and I’ve learned so much too. About the hand pain, if you are not already wearing a brace at night, I would suggest you think about doing it. I have had CT surgery on both hands and deQuervain on my right wrist and a cervical level two neck fusion. While i was waiting for all this surgery I wore a hand brace at night on both hands and that helped a lot. A GOOD hand surgeon would be good to talk to also. Most of them will give you lots of therapy before suggesting surgery. Feel Better.

  12. I learned how to spin a drop spindle by trial and error. I checked a book out of the library, but it was mostly about preparing fiber, and not so helpful (although I was going all the way and preparing my own fleece from scratch). I found a website that has good instructions and video clips that was the most helpful – Joy of Handspinning . Then just practice and experiment! I still do not produce very nice yarn compared to bought yarn, but I enjoy it and you can mix together any colors or textures you can make.

  13. Wendy, do you knit left handed? That is to say, do the stitches move from the right needle to the left? If so, notice what your right hand is doing. Even if you pick the yarn, your rh doesn’t move a lot. Your left hand is the one with more motion. The hand with the stitches on it just sort of sits there, holding things. Gripping, really.

    I am also left handed, and I noticed that if I stop every now and then and wiggle my fingers and my hand around a bit then I don’t have problems, as I did before. I usually do it when I take my “ten- minute look away and adjust the eyes” break.

    I hope this helps.

  14. So, about that Andean plying bracelet…
    …I’ve been trying to make it work. It’s been trying to avoid working for me. We’re at a standoff. However, here are my insights about it, which you may translate easily into left-handedness:

    what you’re actually doing is wrapping the yarn around and around your hand. The whole deal with the finger is just to make sure that you can take the wrapped yarn OFF again – ’cause if you’d just wrap yarn around your hand, it would, uh, be nice a nice and tight – but not plyable-from – hand warmer.

    So, the trick you’re trying to do is to insert a something (your middle finger) into the tight ball being wrapped, and then remove it, so that the tight ball has a large enough center hole to fit comfortably and nicely over your wrist, without pain.

    I’ve been experimenting with toilet rolls instead of hands (for making the center-pull ball – which seems to entail mostly just the keeping track of where the first end, while simultaneously rolling the ball with the business end; I do that by sticking the first end into a notch on the TP roll), but they just don’t seem to make the kind of yarn ball that you need for plying.

    There are mpegs of Amelia Carlson (from the Bellwether, my utterly favorite fiber shop) doing Andean plying. I’ve also taken a lesson from her, after having read her book (and in one hour of actually seeing a person DOING it, I learned a huge amount). I think the technique could be easily reversible for lefties.

    Oh, and about (not) hurting your hands while spinning – try to keep your wrists straight, not bent, while doing so. Less bending = less stress and pain. HTH!

  15. I’m glad Alexa posted that icanspin link for Liz. That site is a great resource for spindling, as is the spindlers list (always makes me think of a movie) on yahoo groups.

    I think different personalities differ in terms of ability to pick up something like spinning from a book, but I think almost everyone finds it easier with an in-person teacher. I learned to spindle in about 5 minutes when Sheila Beardslee Bosworth taught me at Cummington. I’ve never looked back.

    There are a lot of handspinning guilds and groups out there–you’d be surprised. It’s also a great way to meet like-minded folks locally. Check out or for local contacts. I joined Nutmeg Spinners this year and loved my first meeting!

  16. Enjoy your day off. And btw, frickin’ is a Utah term. LOL

  17. I’m right handed, and it’s the left hand/wrist that causes me problems. I don’t understand that either.

  18. Reading about your adventures in spinning is giving me the urge to buy a spindle and some wool. I have seen this called UMF on another message board, which stands for the unexplained mystical force that makes us all want to spend too much money on wonderful things that others have. Maybe this is the UWF – unexplained wooly force!

    I do have a question for you, unrelated to spinning. I suppose that other readers of your blog may have an answer for this, too, so I’ll post here instead of bothering you with an email. How much total yardage do you find that you use for your standard fair isle sweater, using jumper weight shetland? I want to try my hand at fair isle knitting, and I’m trying to figure out about how much I may end up spending on wool for such a project. I don’t have any patterns or fair isle books at the moment, so I thought I’d refer to the experts here. Thanks to Wendy and/or anybody else who shares their estimates!

  19. Reasons that your right hand/wrist hurts and not the left: ten-keying and mousing. People tend to be good about having their keyboard at the right level but then they put the mouse on the desk top. It’s a killer. Ten-keying is very repetitive and also can increase the potential for carpal tunnel.

  20. I’ve tried the Andean bracelet and it’s never worked for me. Until I discovered the wonders of the nostepinne (sp?) a couple of years ago, I just wound each spindlefull into a ball and waited until I had 2 balls (or 3) to ply. That works pretty well. A nostepinne is just a big stick that is used to make a centerpull ball. You can do the same thing with a ballwinder if you have one, but this is much more portable.

  21. Your spinning is WONDERFUL Wendy!

    Just wanted to give Liz (and you!) some spindle info …

    You CAN learn to spin w/o direct one on one help. There are many internet sources including my favorites … – many free videos. You can also join an onling group “Spindlers” there.

    Or go to to join. Its a chatty bunch who love to help people learn to use spindles. (follow the “instructions” link) has a great pictorial essay for learning to spin has a free video for drop spinning

    There is also a video/dvd that’s available from a number of sources. Its called “Spindles around the World” by list member Barbara Clorite. Its available for purchase at a number of vendors. A google search should turn up a few. (follow the spinning link) also has learn to spin information as well as nationwide guild information.


    Nannette, who single handedly keeps the grammar police in business =}

  22. Hee hee…Piper is with Lucy on that one. A couple of mornings ago we were sent in a panic because Piper wasn’t downstairs demanding her breakfast when we were up and getting ready for work. We were calling her, searching the house, fearing that she slipped outside somehow. Jeff finally came down the stairs suggesting it might be time to turn on the heat because he had just found her upstairs curled up in the spare bedroom closet to keep warm.

  23. Wendy, I don’t knit as much as you (understatement!) but I do use computer nearly all day at work – lots of mouse work. Generally I try to maximise keystrokes in lieu of using the mouse – nevertheless I have managed to get RSI type pains in right forearm and, a year later, in my right upper arm (I am righthanded). Once I realised what the pain was linked to (took a couple of weeks each time) I moved the mouse to the left of my desk and trained myself to use my left hand for mouse work – it took a week or so each time for the pains to subside. I’m now ambidextrous mouse-wise but try to keep it on the left. I might say, it was rather weird the left brain / right brain errors I used to make when I was first trying to do this. I guess my neural pathways are now all the better for the “new” experiences.

    I don’t know if you can devise a knitting equivalent of this swap – I know my various efforts to knit alternate backward and forward rows have been extremely slow, and I still held my yarn on my right hand, so not a complete reversal – but I had nothing other than idle curiosity to drive me.

    cheers JJ

  24. Sorry to hear your wrist is still giving you trouble. If you haven’t already, consider seeing an OT/Hand Therapist. They are specialists in the OT field. I used to work for a OT/PT supply distributor and a good item to consider is a parrafin bath. Most people experience them with Spa Mani/Pedicures but OTs use them for therapy. Therabath is a professional/industrial brand – I don’t recall if they do a consumer version – but I’m sure I’ve seen Homedics or whatever brand in department stores or like at a Target or similar. We had lots of patients call and order the professional ones or pick them up from the warehouse. The heat might be soothing for your wrist, but definitely consult a hand thearpist.

    Hope it improves soon and you and Lucy have a great weekend!


  25. Glad you’re enjoying spinning! You’ll find yourself using the heavier Bosworth down the road. My daughter uses her Bosworth mini all the time for spinning embroidery floss. I like to spin ultra fine lace thread on an Alden Amos tahkli. Most of us end up collecting different spindles to suit the range of fiber diameters and lengths, and our spinning moods!

    Exotics? Qiviuk. It’s a bit slippery to spin, like cashmere, but it’s worth the effort!

    I second the recommendation for Kate Painter’s Paradise Fibers.

    Yak. Don’t buy the hair by mistake! “Top” is best for learning as it drafts more evenly than uncarded down.

    Merino. 80 count is superfine and a delight. If it’s been compacted in shipping, fluff the sliver before spinning. If you get a chance, try Rosemary’s Falklands wool. Anybody know who is carrying it in the US now?

    Cotton. There are luxurious cottons, but it can be pesky to spin, so you might want to postpone that for a bit. Oh, and pre-drafting a silk hanky can be hard on the wrists. I get my dd to do it for me.

    Lucy. Cat can be tender, so it’s best blended with a strong fine wool. Spins similar to angora. Lucy’s will probably have a nice halo, too.