first steps in spinning

If you’ve ever read my ‘About me’ page, you’ll know that my main aim in life for quite some time has been to learn how to spin. It was right bang in the middle of my finals that I decided to take decisive steps towards acquiring this skill (I have always been a dreadfully impatient girl), and so I ordered a spindle and a large quantity of undyed Corriedale wool fibre. The problem was always a fundamental one: that as hard as I tried, I could never make a continuous yarn. In fact I couldn’t make any yarn at all. It was a complete flop, and awfully disappointing. So I decided at that point that the only way I would ever learn to spin would be with the help of a fairy godmother, and at that point I resolved to sit tight and wait for one to turn up.

A couple of years down the line, what do you know, but up popped my fairy godmother and asked if I would like to go on a spinning course for my birthday! Naturally I said yes please, and thank you very much, and rubbed my little hands with glee! So a couple of weeks ago, off I went to the Handweavers’ Gallery for the day to learn all about the gentle art of spinning. We started off playing with spindles in the morning, and then moved on to wheels in the afternoon. I couldn’t believe it when I had a go on my spindle and all of a sudden I was producing a continuous yarn! I think I had convinced myself by that point that I was truly a failure and would never spin a yarn in my life. But I think the problem was just that my first spindle wasn’t very easy to use. I chose a top-whorl spindle, as I reasoned that I wanted to spin quite fine yarns, not chunky ones, but perhaps that’s just not a clever way to start off? This new spindle was a bottom-whorl one, and it worked a dream – well, that’s not to say I underwent a spontaneous transformation into a master spinner straightaway, but at last I was actually producing something!

After lunch, to my even greater amazement, I discovered that spinning on a wheel is yet more satisfying still than spinning on a spindle. It goes so fast, so smoothly, and you don’t have to keep stopping to wind the yarn on or to give it another spin. And so suddenly, my life’s aim was right there, within reach, and completely achievable! How often can you say that? Admittedly, I was still the slowest in the group to get the hang of it all, but even so, I choose to see that day as a great success. First I spun one yarn (in a mixture of natural-coloured Wensleydale and Blue-faced Leicester, I think), and then another (in a minty-blue merino); and then I plied them together to make a weird, mis-matched hotch potch of a yarn, which you can see in the picture above. It’s wonky, and has thick bits and thin bits, but that’s just how one’s first attempt at spinning is supposed to turn out, isn’t it? Wonky is just my style. I left the course feeling very chuffed indeed.

On the strength of that morning’s success with the spindle, though, on my way out I bought myself a new one, this time with a bottom-whorl, to see if I could repeat my newly learnt tricks at home. As luck would have it, this one worked perfectly too, so I was able to amuse my housemates by spindling around the living room in all kinds of strange contortions. (I’m sure it’s just a question of getting used to the action and adopting a suitable pose to fit it, but currently my spindling involves sitting down, standing up, bending over, feeding the fibre from over my shoulder…you name it.) And then, shortly after that, the bad idea bears piped up in my ears, as they always do in these situations, and in no time at all I became considerably less rich, and the proud owner of one of these:

I had to exercise the greatest restraint in the world, as I bought this wheel untreated, and so had to first oil the whole shebang before I put it together. Plus I had to go away for the weekend and leave it in the box before I even got to oil it! I amaze even myself, sometimes. But at long last, my darling wheel (I feel sure it – she? – needs a name) is lovingly oiled and assembled (thanks to considerable help from a kindly housemate) and stands proudly in the living room. In fact it’s probably just a downright nuisance to my poor housemates, as it’s a rather unwieldy object and currently stands right in the middle of the floor… I don’t regret it for one moment, though, as it’s a dream to spin with, and a million times more fun and satisfying than spinning with a spindle. There. I’ve justified myself. As usual.