Guest Author - Laun Dunn
Any of you who have seen me at shows know that as a self taught spinner, I heavily relied upon the “Spinner’s Companion” by Bobbie Irwin to teach myself to spin. To this day, even after all of the years that I have been spinning, it is still my go to book when I want to try something different, or just brush up on some basics.
I purchased my copy as I began my journey as a spinner at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine. The writing is so clear that even a new spinner is able to understand it without having to research terms via the internet or some other source.
The illustrations were very helpful in determining what type of wheel I had purchased. I also found that I was missing some very necessary pieces of the wheel, the whorl as well as the leather that holds the flyer assembly to one of the maidens. I was also able to see, even if it was just through diagram type drawings, many of the other kinds of wheels and drive systems that were available.
One of the most immediate benefits was that I could learn the lingo. I knew that one of my biggest drawbacks in learning to spin without an instructor would be to know the correct terms. This would allow me to effectively research whatever technique I wanted to learn.
As I developed into a more accomplished spinner, I still found myself returning to “The Spinner’s Companion” to diagnose a problem. The guide lists symptoms very clearly in one column with the possible causes adjacent.
The guide to fiber types is exceedingly useful, especially to a new spinner. I knew what I wanted to use the finished yarn to create, but I was not familiar enough with sheep breeds to know which ones would yield the fiber that I needed for my project.
The author also goes on to cover some basic lessons on skirting wool, sorting a fleece by fiber quality, and preparing the fleece for washing. The wash instructions for wool leave no room for self doubt, which is the natural enemy of a new spinner.
The author uses some very basic drawn illustrations to demonstrate drafting techniques. This may be seen as inadequate by some, but I found it to be just right. An important part of learning to spin to me was to find my own style. Upon re-reading the drafting section for this article, I don’t think I use any one technique. I vary my spinning according to the fiber characteristics, and the yarn that I am trying to create.
After reading “The Spinner’s Companion” once from cover to cover, I felt confident enough to delve into the world of spinning. The helpfulness of the book continues on as you evolve into the spinner you want to be.