While I was in Virginia, I mentioned to my mother that I was interested in learning how to spin. Now, I’ve been putting off learning to spin for a few reasons. One, I’m afraid I’ll love it. Two, I’m afraid I won’t. If I love it, well, I feel like I don’t have enough time as it is to do everything that I want to do. Add spinning to the long list of crafts I already do and… But I really want to like spinning. Actually making yarn seems so fascinating to me. I’m worried that I won’t enjoy it, that it’ll be a big hassle or I’ll be just plain bad at it. So, I haven’t really applied myself towards finding a class and learning to spin.
As a nice surprise for me, my mother arranged for me to have a private spinning lesson at an LYS, Nature’s Yarns, Inc. The shop and the people there were lovely. When I went for my lesson, their knitting group was meeting, so the place was filled with people knitting, chatting, and even spinning. I watched in awe as one woman smoothly, hardly even paying attention, churned out yard and yards of something that looked like it was going to be a fabulous yarn. I was very jealous.
After the requisite explanation of the parts of the wheel, which I only somewhat remember, we got down to business. My instructor had me learning on a Louet wheel, which I think was the S10 (I think she called it something else. but I can’t quite remember.) She had prepared three types of wool for me to try, a carded white wool, a rougher wool, and some blue top/roving. She showed me how to draft the fiber to make it the right thickness before I started to spin. Experienced spinners can draft as they spin, but there was no way that I was going to be able to do that.
The wheel that I was using only had one treadle, which meant that to go clockwise you put your toe down first and to go counter-clockwise you put your heel down first. (I think.) This quickly became a problem. I have trouble with clockwise/counter-clockwise on my best days. Add in fibers, spinning machinery, and having to keep track of what I was doing? Yeah, I think I unspun the yarn as much as I spun it. I was supposed to turn the wheel counter-clockwise to spin the yarn.
I knew that I was going to be bad at spinning the first time I tried it. I seriously doubt that anyone has ever sat down at a wheel and spun a decent yarn their first time. So I didn’t feel bad that my yarn was perhaps the ugliest thing this side of the Mississippi. My instructor told me that I spun very well and maybe better than other beginners, but I bet she says that to all the beginners. I mean, seriously, what else do you tell someone?
(This is the first time I’ve tried putting a video on the blog. Hopefully all will go well. The audio really isn’t worthwhile, just some background chatter. At :10 I add more fiber, badly. At :30, I try to draft the fiber a little better to prevent a slub, but it didn’t really help.)
By the end of the lesson, I kind of had something resembling the hang of it. Ok, I was nowhere near proficient and I think my yarn actually got worse towards the end. But it was fun. Learning to spin was kind of like learning to drive a car. You sort of know where everything is and what everything does. But you have no idea exactly how press to hit the pedals for a nice smooth ride. That’s something that comes with practice. It’s that infamous “feel” that makes things work. At the end, I certainly didn’t have a “feel” for anything except when the fibers were going to fall apart. My yarn is by turns horrifically over twisted or terribly under twisted. It goes from bulky weight to finer than laceweight in the space of an inch. I had no feel for how often to press down on the treadle (I’m pretty sure that my method of “find a rhythm and don’t ever stop” was dead wrong) and did you know that the bobbin doesn’t really pull the yarn? You have to decide when the yarn has enough twist and then feed it into the bobbin. You pinch the fiber in one hand until you get the right twist, then move the pinch up to twist the next section. But I kept just over-twisting the first section because I would forget to put it on the bobbin. And I’m pretty sure that I held my pinch too close and I should have sat back a little more.
I’m not really sure if I enjoyed spinning or not. It didn’t seize me immediately like knitting and crochet. But one hour really isn’t enough to get the whole experience since it’s so complicated. Maybe I’d like spinning more if I had actual yarn at the end of it instead of 4 yards of slubby junk? In any case, I predict that by the end of next year, I’ll have a spinning wheel and hopefully something that looks like yarn. The potential for learning there is just too much for me to resist. Look at that yarn, though. So twisted that it can’t even straighten out. At least I kind of like the colors.