Getting Ready to Spin

I have always been fascinated with spinning wheels. I grew up in the 70’s, back in the hippie days. I dreamed of learning to weave on a loom and spin my own yarn on what seemed to be a magical spinning wheel. I don’t even remember what the wheel that fascinated me so even really looked like….maybe the one that Rumpelstiltskin used to spin straw into gold or maybe the one that Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on and fell into a deep, deep sleep until she was awakened by the Handsome Prince. Wait, wrong story.

music box spindle

Once I learned how to weave, I decided to learn how to spin. How hard could it be? Right. I learned 2 things right away: one is that bad equipment will frustrate any spinner, and will turn a new spinner completely away from spinning and two, junk in equals junk out or life is too short to spin bad fiber.

Bless your heart if you are one of the folks who learned to spin dryer lint. I would ask why, but then, in this day and age, most folks would ask why we learn to spin anything?

Why do we spin? The reasons vary by the person, and are endless. I spin because I can, because I learned to turn raw wool and fiber into special yarns that I would not be able to buy. I determine the fiber or fibers, and the colors; the grist and the yards per pound. My yarn in not always even and has character. If I want perfectly evenly spun yarn, I will buy it; I don’t see any reason to complete with commercial spinning machines, I don’t want my yarn to look like it was commercially spun, I want it to have character and reflect me, my moods, interests and creativity.

my handspun

My first experiences with learning to spin were disastrous. I purchased an inexpensive drop spindle, and became totally frustrated trying to follow the written instructions to use it; this was before YouTube. I had a few folks in my weaver’s guild try the spindle, and we had a good laugh about why they are called drop spindles, since that one kept dropping to the floor with a loud clunk.

variety spindlesmore spindles

That’s when lesson one was learned: you need the right equipment for the particular fiber. I learned that drop spindles, sometimes called handspindles come in a variety (wide variety) of styles, materials, weights and sizes. One size does not fit all. Here are a few from my collection. I have some friends who are avid collectors, and my collection is a drop in the bucket compared to theirs. I have pared down my collection a bit, since I don’t use them much, and my lug of a dog helped pare down a bit more by chewing up not one, but two $50 plus spindles. Did I mention that spindles come in a variety of price ranges also. He did chew up my favorite “Bosworth” midi spindle made out of purple wood. (snifffle!)

Determined to learn to use a drop spindle I signed up for a beginning spinning class at a not so local shop, The Spinnery.  This is where I learned that there is a lot to know about spinning and Betty systematically took a very small class through the steps, from preparing raw fleece for spinning to making yarn, first on a drop spindle (yippee! I CAN do it!) then on a spinning wheel. She taught me how to use and care for the spinning wheel I had at the time, a Louet 5-15, a good, reliable, sturdy wheel, and I got to try different brands of spinning wheels and drop spindles and different types of fleeces and fibers.

If you want to learn to spin, take a class. It’s fun, you meet other spinners and you get to try different equipment before you spend a lot of money of something that might not be right for you, and might discourage you from learning a fun and relaxing hobby.

Most important, there is no one best wheel, spindle, fiber or technique. Please don’t’ let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong if you are getting the results that you want. Someone else may have an easier or faster way, or their own way that might work for you, or be helpful, but there is, I repeat, no one way to spin fiber into yarn.

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