Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On learning to spin

In between all the knitting design samples, writing my own patterns, and tech editing other people's patterns, I've (as you know) been taking little snatches of time to learn to spin (on a spindle only, so far). I'm surprised by how difficult it seemed at first, yet how quickly (just by practicing 10 minutes a day or so) it "clicks" and is so fun and relaxing. So far I've gotten through 4 oz of superwash Merino (not exactly recommended for beginners, but so nice and soft) and about an ounce of Corriedale (shown above), which is coarser than Merino but not bad at all (and much easier to draft). I'm avoiding the sack of Swalesdale top that came with the "learn to spin with a clunky spindle" kit I bought years ago-- it's just gross. Apparently that wool is only used for carpets and things. Not something I want to touch.

Anyway, even though I've only been at it a little while, I've learned what has (and hasn't) helped.

1. Really heavy spindles (like the nearly 3 oz one that came in my kit) are difficult to learn on. I first "got it" with a 1.1 oz Schacht Hi-Lo, which is nice in case you don't know whether you prefer top or bottom whorl (it works both ways). Spins nicely too, and inexpensive (I got mine from Spunky Eclectic).
2. Golding spindles rule. I got one for Christmas (slightly lighter, 0.85 oz) and I can't believe how pretty it is or how long and smoothly it spins. Much more expensive that the Schacht though (still a lot less than a wheel, of course!)
3. Some good books that helped: Spinning in the Old Way (very, very detailed, to an insane degree-- downside is no photos, just line drawings, only about high whorl spindles) and Spin to Knit (lots of color photos, shows how to spin on spindle and wheel, lots of instructions for homemade spinning tools- not just the cd spindle- and ideas for using small amounts of handspun in your knitting-- downside is less detail on the technical aspects of spinning). Together, though, I think you've got a lot of good usable information.
4. Corriedale is really easy to draft, at least for me. I still prefer the Merino because of it's softness.
5. Even though she doesn't have any in her shop right now, Amby's spindle bags are really great for carrying your spindle and fiber. I'm glad I got one (if the knitting has a special bag, why not the spinning, you know?)
6. I still have a LOT to learn, but you can get started without knowing very much (kind of like knitting, you know? Cast on, knit. purl, bind off gets you going but there's so much more you can discover as you improve).


Amby said...

Aww, thanks for the plug! :-D

So are you bringing your spinning to Knit Michigan?!? I'll be bringing one of my wheels...haven't decided yet between the Traveller or the HitchHiker.

Larjmarj said...

You're trying to get to me aren't you?

I'm almost chicken to try it, what if I'm a "motor moron"?

Amanda said...

Hi Amy... Which spindle did you get from Golding. I need to find a spindle that has a continuous spin. It will be a very long time until I get a wheel.