Learning to spin yarn

Learning to spin yarn
I am a self taught spinner. No, this is not a 12 step program, nor does it involve exercise in any way! (You could tell that right away if this were televised!) Teaching yourself to spin can be a rewarding exercise. It also allows you to find your own way. Even though spinning is an ancient craft, there are still new things to be discovered, and it is far easier to discover a new way when you haven’t been pigeon-holed into someone else’s preferred technique.

As a beginner, if your budget allows please try to start with a roving rather than raw fiber. This is fiber that has been washed and carded into a fluffy rope. By all means stick with an inexpensive wool, if possible, at first. My first roving was purchased from an alpaca farm in Maine, which I should have saved until I became more experienced! I still have a very lumpy, and very expensive, potholder knitted from my first yarn.

While some instructors sing the praises of learning the drop spindle first, I believe in starting at a wheel, as trying to keep a spindle going, as well as draft fiber all while standing up and watching all of these things turning escapes my ability to keep my balance. For space limitations, I will concentrate on using a double drive Saxony wheel here. To get used to treadling and winding on, use about a 25 yard length of yarn before attempting to use roving. Thread the yarn through the orifice, catch the closest hook on the flyer, and tie it to the bobbin. Wind a few thicknesses of yarn onto the bobbin clockwise. Now with the rest of the yarn loosely laid in a basket beside you, tension your wheel so that the drive band gives just a bit of a twang when plucked (if it plays a note, you have too much tension!). Holding the yarn with your left hand, start the wheel in a clockwise motion with your right hand, and begin treadling. Practice pinching the yarn with your front hand (left for left hander’s, right for right hander’s), and un-pinching, which will permit the yarn to wind on. With your drafting or back hand, practice just slightly pulling back on the yarn to imitate drafting (you will not be able to actually draft until you use your roving). When you reach the end of your yarn, unwind it from the bobbin and try again. As you continue with your practice yarn, try spinning both clockwise and counter-clockwise as you will use both directions to create a plied yarn.

As this becomes a coordinated effort, cut the yarn leaving about 24” attached and add the roving. Pre-draft the roving by gently stretching it lengthwise to separate the fibers. Place the end of the roving and the end of the starter yarn in your forward hand, and start the wheel in a clockwise motion. It may take a few attempts to get the fiber to bond to the starter yarn. Once you do get the roving to bond and twist and wind on, try different drafting methods to see what results you can create. All spinners are different, some can spin a lofty yarn using an inchworm technique, while others can only spin thick yarn by long drafting a meticulously pre-drafted roving. Keep trying, and see what works best for you.

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