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.
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)!
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