In Conversation with Marina Skua, Freelance Spinner
Marina Skua and I have been working together for just under one year to develop a custom range of yarns for my weaving work. I was immediately taken with Marina’s sensitivity to combining beautiful textures and lustres in her skeins; and her way of spinning, that is her particular style and technique, at once gives a luxury aesthetic with a feel of something wilder and organic; refined and intriguing all at once. Below is an in-conversation by way of introduction to our way of working together, and the stories behind our love of yarn.
Sample spins for The Selkie range of Bright Moon Yarn, hand spun by Marina Skua in ethical Southdown wool, wild silk, antique silver thread, soy and British alpaca.
Imogen: The first yarn I purchased from you was the absolutely beautiful Field Mouse, can you tell me a bit more about your fibre choices and what you love to spin with.
Marina: Field Mouse marked a bit of a turning point in my spinning. Previously I had been aiming exclusively for medium-fine, consistent yarn with a focus on my hand-dyed colours. In making Field Mouse I used much more subtle colours and, instead of blending the fibres multiple times for an even texture, I processed the fibre a lot less to highlight the contrast between the fuzzy wool and sleek soy. This also changed my approach to spinning, letting the inconsistencies in the fibre lead to a bulkier, more organic-feeling yarn.
Since then I have loved creating yarns with more texture and nuance in colour. I love working with a variety of natural fibres and seeing how differently they take dye. Mohair has been a recent focus, as it yields jewel-bright, lustrous colours. One of my favourite fibre combinations is wool and soy. Of course wool can have many different textures depending on the breed and quality, but it tends to compliment the shiny, silky feel of the soy fibre really well.
Imogen: Texture is really important to me, and I think weaving allows for a wide variation of texture; how did you find spinning my custom orders when the brief was really open and experimental? Did you enjoy the outcomes when some of the batts were really very wild and woolly!! I have to admit that starting out on the drum carder, I was really learning from scratch having never done blending before, and I really love this step in the creative process. I also enjoy adding subtle colour through blending, rather than block dying, which was a revelation.
Marina: I think this is why this collaboration has felt so natural and enjoyable. I had already begun a lot of experimentation with preparing fibre for spinning in a way that preserves the natural texture of the fibres, so the first batts you sent to me for spinning were almost a continuation of what I’d been doing myself. The fact that you approached me based on some of my previous work was great, because we could work knowing that you trusted my processes and aesthetic.
While there is a lot to be said for meticulously processed blends, where two or more fibres are mixed so thoroughly to create a single texture, I think we both like to work with characterful, sometimes unpredictable yarn that couldn’t really be made by machinery on a commercial scale.
Crane Wife – Hand-spun Soy and Wool Yarn in Cream and Red by Marina Skua.
Imogen: I’ve learn so much about the whole process of working with fibres and fleece intensively over the past year, and I think having custom spun yarn has really allowed me to develop my weaving work into an aesthetic I’m happy with. A lot of our second batch of yarn came from weaving with the first early experiments and figuring out what worked well. I really feel that getting the best from the character of each blend was key, and letting the yarn do what it needed to do. Do you have any favourite yarns from our work, or ones that were particularly challenging?
Marina: I’ve really enjoyed the whole process of developing the yarns. One of the yarns we’ve worked on that I enjoy spinning the most is what we’ve been calling my basic ply – it’s just my natural way to spin, creating a textured, slightly chunky 2-ply yarn. This carries across to the yarns where I’ve plied the spun single with other yarns and threads, which add a range of textures and sometimes a completely different feel using the same method. One yarn that I’ve found challenging is one that we’ve only made small quantities of – it includes fine antique silver thread. I had to try multiple methods before I found one that would work, as the thread is so fine and delicate it would frequently snap.
Imogen: As a freelance spinner, tell me a bit more about your process and approach to spinning when the end product might not be known; for example, if you are spinning for a specific outcome do you adjust your technique, or do you let your signature spin come through?
Marina: A lot of my spinning at the moment is led by the fibre and the texture it yields. The kind of yarn I make depends on who and what it’s for. If it’s for a commission I’m led by the person I’m working with – usually this is based on something they’ve seen that I’ve created before and want to use that as a starting point.
The rest of the yarn I make is either for me to then use to create a finished item, or to sell as yarn. If I’m creating a finished piece of work I generally decide what I’m making before working on the yarn. Sometimes this is a woven wall hanging to feature really chunky, textured yarn, or a shawl from something more subtle and consistent. I do also spin to experiment, and keep a stash of these yarns until I have enough that work well together to combine into a project.
Spinning yarn to sell is really interesting because I often have no idea what it’ll be turned into. With these, I make the yarn knowing that I would be able to use it (if I couldn’t think of a use for something I wouldn’t try to sell it!), and then send it out into the world to be turned into something new, and sometimes completely unexpected!
Polar – Vast tundras, towering icebergs, chilly depths and snow-capped rocks are the inspiration for this set of hand-dyed and blended, hand-spun yarns by Marina Skua; made from beautifully soft British Bluefaced Leicester wool, Welsh mohair, English angora and alpaca, wool nepps, and soy, ramie and banana fibre.
Marina’s hand-spun yarn for Imogen’s debut yarn range ‘The Selkie’ will be available at a special pop-up shop hosted by YAK, Gloucester Rd, Brighton on Saturday March 17th 2018.
Imogen will be exhibiting her handwoven textiles at O N C A Gallery, St George’s Place, Brighton, March 17th-25th 2018.
Bright Moon Weaving Studio
O N C A