I have a long vacation and I will be traveling with my family. One important part of packing is of course crafting projects. A student recently asked me how I plan for for spinning on the road. Here is an extended answer to her question.
One favourite spinning technique for traveling is supported spindle spinning. In fact, I started to learn how to spin on a supported spindle after my husband and I had decided to stop flying, for climate reasons. I was looking for a craft that would be practical for the long train ride to Austria, and supported spindle spinning was my answer. And look where it got me! I published a short video of me spinning on the train, and continued to create videos. Just a couple of months later someone asked me if I could teach the technique, and that is how I started teaching spinning.
In the post I will talk about how I prepare for spinning and crafting on the road, but first I will give you some of my favourite techniques:
- supported spindle spinning
- suspended spindle spinning
- band weaving on a backstrap loom
- different kinds of braiding
- two-end knitting
- other small sized knitting
And if there is room
- portable spinning wheel.
Important factors for spinning on the road
There are several things I consider as I pack for spinning on the road:
- how much luggage space I have
- how I travel
- having a variety of techniques
- where I’m going.
This year we’re going on two trips – a week in a log cabin where we will be taking day hikes in a nearby national park, and five days in an Airbnb apartment near the beach.
When I plan what crafts to bring on a journey one important thing is the kind of bags I will be packing in – suitcase, soft bag, backpack or a combination? The sturdiness or squishiness will determine what I can bring and what will be wiser to leave at home.
If I travel with a backpack I make sure I don’t bring things that can break or that can injure me. I don’t bring combs or cards on a backpack journey, but a supported spindle is a good companion, as well as small backstrap weaving projects. Smaller knitting projects will usually work fine. Perhaps a suspended spindle if I plan to walk and spin.
If I pack in a suitcase I may bring things like combs, they will be easier to pack in a hard bag than a squishy one. In a suitcase I would also be able to bring fleece in a vacuum bag. If I go by car I bring a basket for various tools if there is room.
The journey itself is also a factor that plays in. Can I spin on the journey? I don’t craft in the car since I easily get car sick if I need to focus on the project. But a train ride is perfect for crafting!
Crafting on the train
When I travel I prefer to do so by train. Knitting is of course a good option, preferably not a stranded colourwork, though, since there are too many potentially loose items to keep an eye on. Supported spindle spinning will always be a favourite.
Lately I have also come to love to weave bands on the train. It doesn’t take up much luggage space, none at all, really. Weaving is also quite unexpected and can be quite the conversation starter. I also like the image of the band getting longer the further I go along the rails.
I usually fasten the warp between my waist and the coat hook in the back of the seat in front of me. From my experience with European rail companies, though, I know that not all have coat hangers. In fact, I think I have only seen them on the Swedish railway companies. But do not fret, fastening the warp with a loop around a foot works just fine. In the beginning I make the loop with the warp itself, and toward the end I use something like the torn off hem of an old sheet.
Before many train rides I have warped for a band without a specific purpose, but the truth is, there is always room for another band! When planning the travel crafting for this summer I realized that I needed a band to tie the inner ends of a linen pinafore dress that I am planning. And so I had the perfect reason to warp for a sweet linen band.
A variety of techniques
When I pack my crafting for a journey I usually like to bring a variety of techniques, at least if I will be gone for more than just a few days. The techniques can vary for the mental variation, but also to avoid getting strained from doing only one craft.
I also consider where the craft may be suitable. For instance, I may bring a small band weaving project for sitting down, a two-end knitting project or nalbinding for sitting or walking, and a suspended spindle for standing, sitting or walking.
I want a travel project to be easy to grab and go. If possible, I want it to fit easily in a bag, both for the journey and for the stay. I don’t want it to be too flimsy or have too many loose parts. A stranded colourwork knitting is not my first option, neither is a large sweater or a lace shawl. I also wouldn’t pick a sewing or embroidery project. There are just too many needles and threads that can get lost.
I also don’t want the project to end before I get back home, I don’t want to risk being empty-handed. Nalbinding and two-end knitting are perfect travel companions. They are both quite small and compact and I don’t run the risk of finishing them since both techniques are very slow.
The destination can be important in choosing projects too. Will I be in a city, in the countryside or in the forest? What will I be doing once we get to our destination? A good project for a city may be knitting and a coutryside craft may be a suspended spindle for example. And there are lots of trees to weave with in the forest.
As you may realize, planning projects for a journey is something I truly enjoy. And, secretly, sometimes I may plan a journey depending on the craft I want to hang out with.
What about fiber?
The student who asked me about spinning on the road was more specific than I have described so far: She wanted to know how I pack fiber. She knew I don’t spin from commercially prepared wool and wondered if I pack wool preparation tools or if I process the wool before I leave. Well, that depends. If I go by car and stay for more than a few days I may bring combs or cards. Or just a flicker if I want to spin from lightly teased locks. Otherwise I may process my fiber before we leave and store it in a sturdy box. I do this usually the day before we leave – wool preparation is fresh produce and will go bad after a time. How fast depends on how the preparation has been stored and handled and how prone the wool is to felting.
So, my husband and I just came back from a trip to a rented log cabin in the countryside. We drove in a rental car that was supposed to be quite small, since our children decided to stay home, but we got a huge car instead. So I flung my travel wheel in and a pair of combs together with a bag of wool.
To be on the safe side I also prepared a backstrap loom with a small band, a twelve-strand linen braid, a supported spindle and a 10 gram cross-armed spindle. I spun a silk yarn on both spindles. Now, I just wrote that I don’t use commercially prepared fiber, but this silk top was something I bought many years ago and was there for me to use.
Some of these things I prepared for both this trip and an upcoming train journey, especially the weave and the braid. But I did weave for a bit in the parked car while we were waiting for it to charge. So for the train ride I will bring two small project bags – one with the band weave and the braid and the other one with the two silk spinning projects. I will have plenty to do!
Here is a video I shot a few years ago when we took the train to Austria, featuring lots of travel projects.
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