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Sit and Spin (DVD)

The Spinner's Guide to Creating Smart, Sturdy, Outrageous Art Yarns
by Jacey Boggs of Insubordiknit, Copyright 2008

I have to admit that I haven't entirely grasped the point of art yarns. Many of the art yarns I've seen for sale have struck me as not entirely functional for any purpose other than decorating one's stash. While interesting to look at in the skein, closer inspection suggests that actually trying to use them would lead to frustration and disappointment. The twist is often irregular, the grist often varies wildly and the lovely bits and pieces adorning them are not securely attached. Worse, many of these yarns are “less than honest” about their structure in that it is obvious that they have been severely blocked to control excess twist; the second an object made from one of them hits water the yarn's true nature will be revealed doing irrevocable damage to the object's form in the process. Industry has ways of permanently setting twist, but no amount of steam or weight will prevent a handspun yarn from showing it's true colours the moment it gets wet.

Enter then Jacey Boggs of Insubordiknit.com. Jacey spins art yarns that are thoughtfully constructed with attention to the structural details that make the yarns not just fun to look at but also fun to use and she wants other spinners to be able to do the same. Sit and Spin is over an hour of looking over Jacey's shoulder as she teaches “almost everything (she) knows about spinning art yarns”.

I first watched “Sit and Spin” with two friends so that we could give impressions from across the experience spectrum. Jan considers herself a novice, Chriss is intermediate and they tell me that I'm an expert. We found one small glitch when I realized that there was no “suggested materials” list offered in the liner notes. This meant that we had to pause often while I ran downstairs to find materials and, despite my ridiculously large stash, I found I didn't have everything we we would have liked on hand to try all the techniques.

Sit and Spin is divided into 5 segments based on the types of yarns created: “Puffs”, “Coils”, “Wraps”, “Loops” and “Foreign Objects”. Each segment is further divided into 3 techniques. In the introduction Jacey recommends following the techniques in the order presented as they build on each other; for example, you need the “thick and thin” single from segment 1 to make “halos” in segment 4. The segments are introduced by “beardy, wierdy spider-flavored rock and roll antics” in the form of the band “OFM” suitably draped in a wide variety of items made from art yarns. These musical interludes are on separate tracks, so you can skip them if you really want to, but we found them highly entertaining. In all there's only about 6 minutes of music video, enough to give a fun break between segments, but not so much as to be distracting.

Jacey introduces each segment by describing the type of yarn you will be making. She demonstrates each technique at normal speed and then slows it right down to show it step by step. The camera looks over her shoulder at the same angle you would if you were standing behind her in a workshop. As she teaches each step a little icon appears on the screen – a lime for “twist” for example. When she has shown the technique a few times in slow motion she speeds it up again while she names the steps and displays the little icons. After each technique a review page is displayed which summarizes everything you need to know about that yarn. The summary pages are easily available from the main DVD menu if you want to go back and look at them. The menu also offers looping excerpts of each technique so you can spin along with Jacey without having to stop and replay the segment.

On the whole we found that Jacey is a very skilled spinner and an equally skilled teacher. She's also an engaging presence on the screen whose creativity is apparent throughout the DVD. She clearly explains each small step of each technique so that you understand why she moves her hands in such a way or why she puts that twist in that particular place. In the process she emphasizes spinning sound and balanced, or acceptably balanced, art yarns.

Which brings me to the only critisim I have: unfortunately, she does not explain how to balance the yarns. In fact, some of the yarns, such as corespinning and autowrapping, appear to be spun in one step, so that, even though they have more than one component, they are singles yarns and therefore cannot be balanced, since, if you don't ply you don't balance. As an experienced (read “overeducated and technically oriented”) spinner, I can work out how to make these yarns balance, but Jan and Chriss both felt they didn't know enough to do so. Since Jacey repeatedly mentions that the yarns can be spun balanced an explanation and examples of how to do so would be helpful.

Despite this, we learned a lot and felt that, with practice, we could make good yarns using the techniques she presented. The “wrist flick” for making slubs was worth the price of the DVD all by itself (though it left me slapping my forehead and exclaiming 'why didn't I think of that?!'). We all agreed that we have never seen a how-to video on any topic that comes close to the quality of this one in organization, camera angles, teaching style and just plain entertainment. In the end I think Jacey has sold me on trying my hand at some art yarns. She's convinced me that they really can be just as functional as they are funky.


Reviewer Elizabeth Watt dyes, spins, knits and now weaves on a rigid heddle loom in Manotick, Ontario, Canada. She writes reviews for Weavezine as an excuse to avoid writing up her In-Depth study, otherwise the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners (OHS) might consider her a Master Spinner already. In the meantime she puts her OHS Spinning Certificate to good use teaching spinning and dyeing at the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild and LYS Wabi-Sabi.