Spinning: How I Started

In the fall of 2009, I joined a fairly new knitting group that met at a local Panera. As is often the case, many of them did more than knit and some crocheted. One woman was coming off a jag of cross stitching. A few had learned to spin and would bring their drop spindles or even their spinning wheels to meetups, where we got strange looks and interesting questions from the muggles. I swore I didn’t need to learn how to spin, but one of my friends pointed out that you can completely customize your yarn. Another said that it was just as meditative as knitting. The other thing about this knitting group is that they were both really great enablers and happy to teach other members anything they knew – no need to take classes – we even had a jam-making day one spring at one person’s house, with all of us chipping in for organic strawberries another member bought from a local farmer’s market.

But I digress.

I of course started spinning not long after joining the group, in the spring of 2010. My family had gone to visit my mother in New Hampshire and I got a drop spindle kit complete with a bottom whorl spindle and a handful of wool. I didn’t need to watch youtube videos; my knitting friends patiently gave me lots and lots of tips while I felt like I was patting my head and rubbing my belly. Finally my friend Alise  showed me how to park and draft – you spin the spindle some, then stop it and park it between your thighs while you pull (draft) the wool and let the twist into it until the thread (single) that you’ve just made has just the right amount, then you wind the single onto the spindle.  That’s really what allowed me to get the hang of controlling how much wool I drafted for the single I wanted.

They all told me that to get better I needed just to practice as much as I could. Once I mastered parking and drafting, I tried drafting while the spindle was still spinning and that clicked too. Soon, I ran out of wool. I thought about things in the house that I could spin and decided to try cotton balls – it worked. At the next meet-up, a friend brought me some of the wool she had gotten to practice with: a dishwater gray natural wool roving and a magenta and green roving.  I ordered wool online.

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My bottom whorl spindle and the cotton balls I spun in desperation

A month or two into spinning I got more spindles online, two top-whorl spindles with glass whorls and chopsticks for shafts.  And I started looking for used spinning wheels and asking for advice about which one to choose. I ended up finding a relatively inexpensive Ashford Traditional that needed refinishing and got to work on correcting a really terrible staining job. More on that next time (assuming I write more, which I intend to)!

4 thoughts on “Spinning: How I Started

  1. such fun to hear your story 🙂 And I absolutely love the bit about the jam party! I have a spinning circle of ladies that I adore and half of what we do it fiber craft and the other half is chicken/farm tending, sheep talk, gardening, etc. I have learned SO much and wish everyone could have such a wonderful circle of friends (who know a lot about the ins and outs of fiber and life) ❤

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    1. It was a really great group! Many of the members moved away and it petered out, unfortunately, but I’m still very good friends with a few of them, including the jam day host and the strawberry procurer. Having a group like that is really invaluable – I wouldn’t be knee-deep in fiber art or social action without them!

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  2. Ooh! How lucky are you to have found such an awesome group? I really miss my knitting group that I used to go to every Thursday. I really need to get to the one that is close to where I live now. I want to learn about spinning, but I’m kind of afraid to go down that rabbit hole right now. Especially since I have so much yarn already…pretty much enough to have a small store the way my husband tells it 🙂

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    1. Well, the group pretty much dissolved after 2011 – the charismatic founder left and I didn’t have enough to keep it going beyond a small weekday group. Plus a lot of the core group moved away or had life changes that precluded them from continuing to come. I’m still pretty close with many of the via social media, tho, and am trying to start another group with one of them.

      When I started spinning, my husband wouldn’t have said what yours did but I’m pretty sure he would now. Someone told me that weaving eats up a lot of yarn and I tried it long enough to know that’s true! /enabling

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