Sunday, June 18, 2017

Learning to Spin

Learning to spin is something that I have had at the back of my mind for several years, a little like the thought of owning a yarn shop one day. This year must be the one for bringing those thoughts forward and taking action on them, because just as I dusted off the yarn shop dream this year, so too have I decided that it's finally time to learn to spin.

I haven't learnt a new craft in several years. I started knitting around ten years ago, and to be perfectly honest I took to it like a duck to water. I really didn't encounter too many problems.
The last thing I probably learned involving tools was how to use the digital SLR a few years ago. But that was easier too, it comes with an "auto" mode perfect for beginners.

My little timber spinning wheel isn't like that. It doesn't have a beginner's button. I really love it though, it's handmade which I think is very clever, and was one my Dad found at a garage sale several years ago and brought home to be an ornament for my Mum. It's being put to use now, though.

Taking many people's suggestions, I decided I would go to YouTube to learn how to spin. I was told how easy it would be, and so late one night with my wheel in front of me and my newly opened parcel of merino rovings I started searching for spinning videos. I found lots. They were informative and easy to understand. But none of them worked for me.
I quickly realised that there is a small problem with having a second hand, handmade wheel if one wants to learn how to spin on YouTube. My wheel doesn't have a model number or a manual, so none of the videos applied to it.
After trying for several hours with YouTube, and several more with the helpful advice of a friendly Australian Facebook group, I decided I would have to be taught in person.
I'd heard of a local fibre craft group that meets every second week at a nearby crater lake. They were very hard to track down, but three phone numbers later and I finally found what I was looking for.

I've never attended a craft group before. It was a lovely experience. Surrounded by the beauty of the lake, and ready to spend several uninterrupted areas simply knitting (and learning to spin) - it was a really enjoyable day.
My wheel was quickly put to rights and I was given a spinning lesson. And goodness is there a lot to learn!
I learnt that the merino roving I had bought is considered not the best for beginners, and I quickly discovered for myself that I was having trouble spinning it. Something to do with the length of the fibres, I was told.
Luckily the lady giving me my spinning lesson - who I also happen to know from several other groups, and had considered contacting but I didn't know if they were in the area at the moment (she and her partner are serial globetrotters, along with being very inspiring) - had a bag of alpaca fleece that she had brought to the group to giveaway. The fleece was much, much easier to spin. So it is my practise fibre, and now I'm actually spinning I'm having a lot of fun. It was rather dusty, however, and even coloured in some spots with the volcanic red soil that's around here.
Under instruction, I've given half of the fleece a bath, in warm water and shampoo, and it's must cleaner now. I'll wash the other half soon.

I had no idea that different fibres could be so different to spin with. It makes sense, now I think of it, as different yarns are more or less difficult to work with when you're learning to knit.
Luckily I did know that my first bobbins of handspun yarn would be very odd. I was fully prepared for them to be the way they are. They are lumpy, thick, thin, under and over spun. I'm so looking forward to when I grasp how to spin it properly, which is something that can only come with practice. I think I have already improved a lot, and have just started spinning some brown wool fleece that was also given to me (it's the one at the top of the post). I think I'm going much better with it.

Through beginning to spin I have discovered that whilst I how to knit, and what yarns are suitable for different knitting projects, I know very little about how fibre is made into yarn. There's so much to learn and I'm very keen to gain a deeper understanding of fleeces, fibres and yarns.

It's all very exciting!

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  1. Fantastic post Sarah, you will be a woolly all rounder before you know it. How wonderful to start at the beginning, a knitters' journey ! From Amanda R

    1. Thank-you so much Amanda! I'm so glad you enjoyed it x

  2. You will find it really relaxing once you get the hang of it and whilst you might want to produce a lovely even yarn your first attempts may well prove beautiful when plied and give a unique hand crafted look when knitted up. Good luck!

    1. I'm looked forward to plying it and seeing what happens! And I'm already finding it relaxing - even though I'm not the best at it yet ;-) I have a feeling spinning could be as addictive as knitting....

  3. That is so cool! I would love to learn one day :)

  4. It was great to read about your efforts :-) I started a spinning adventure a few years ago - but life got in the way and I haven't got back to it - I really enjoyed it so maybe you have inspired me to give it another go!

    1. Thank-you Raewyn, I'm so glad you found my post inspiring! I think you should definitely give it another go, and if you can, I highly recommend joining a group. Having the support of people sitting there right next to you makes a world of difference! x

  5. This is fascinating Sarah. Our entire livelihood revolves around wool yet I know very little about spinning. I love the way you have captured it in your photos. x

  6. I remember when I was getting into needle felting, I thought how cool it would be to spin those wonderful colours into yarn and crochet with it. I am not ready to pick up a new craft but I can totally see myself one day somewhere in the country spnning the wool of my own sheep :)
    Lucky you for getting your wheel in the sale, here they are fantastically expensive!


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Maira Gall