Thursday, October 04, 2007

Starting Spinning, My Experience

I had the sheep for a few years and was selling the fleece to hand spinners, so I figured it was high time I learned how to spin. I bought a used Louet spinning wheel several years ago for $100.00 and gazed upon it for a few weeks.

Then I attempted to create some yarn. I carded up a bunch of wool from my grey gal and began to thread the wheel. Now I never successfully spun from a drop spindle, probably because I did not have the patience for it. My son, on the other hand had mastered the drop spindle. It is a fallacy that you have to learn to spin on a spindle, because I didn't, and I know lots of spinners that didn't either, but I am sure spinning on a wheel would come more easily to a successful drop spindler. After a few minutes I gave up. I called a gal I knew that offered to get me started, so I trekked over to her house. I kept breaking the wool and letting the wheel go back in the opposite direction (a very common newbie problem). Then my feet and hands were not in synch. So I concentrated on just treadling with a piece of crappy yarn, to let my foot get the feel and rhythm of the wheel turning. After I felt comfortable with that, I added my hands and managed to come up with an over twisted length of singles (another common beginners problem). It's called singles because it is a single thread to be plied perhaps later with another single, giving you a 2 ply yarn or if you add three singles you have a 3 ply yarn and so on. I went home pretty happy with myself and tried my own wheel. I had been using an Ashford at my friend's house which has what is called Scotch Tension, while my wheel at home was a single drive (single drive vs double vs scotch tension is for another post). I could not get the wheel to go all the way around without it flipping back the wrong way. Ack! I was frustrated. I decided I definitely needed hands on teaching with MY wheel and took it to a lady I knew from the county fair. She saw my struggles and had her son come up with an idea. He placed two, 3 inch diameter washers on the wheel at the point where it was stopping, and taped them on with duct tape. It looked horrible, but it provided that extra little bit of weight that kept the forward momentum going in the wheel right where it wanted to stop, and I was spinning! After a few hours of that, I removed the washers and have never looked back.

Now... not everyone has the difficulty I did. Some people are naturals, some never get it, and some are in between, like me. I am glad I stuck with it though because it is one of the most relaxing things you can do. Add some nice music in the background and it is very soothing. And to be able to go from my own sheep to a garment, is pretty fulfilling.

Also, unlike some other pastimes like reading or intricate knitting, you can spin and chat at the same time, so it can be a very social activity.

The Joy of Spinning, was a very helpful site because it has videos on spinning and preparing fiber! The yahoo groups spinning lists were a very valuable resource as well. I had lots of questions and they had lots of answers. Spinlist and Spinfree in particular are well populated groups and very helpful. Subscribe to the digest forms though, as there are a lot of emails generated by these groups.

This is my very first sock. It's HUGE and very stiff. That's because it was from my first plied yarn which was very bumpy, uneven and over twisted. I am going to dye it red and use it as a Christmas stocking!
This is my very first spinning from my lesson. Uneven and over or under twisted, naturally brown Corriedale.

Mike several years ago....a mean drop spinning fiend. He was pretty good at it.

My other wheel, the pretty one, that was a surprise Christmas present a few years ago. This is a Kromski Polonaise and can be used in re-enactments because it is an accurate reproduction.

Today's yarn. Much better! Always save your first spinning so that you can look back on it and see how far you have come!

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