Guest Author - Laun Dunn
So, now that you are a spinner, a friend has asked you to teach them how to spin. Sound familiar? Hopefully this will help you on your way to being a good teacher.
While patience is essential, so is being able to break down the spinning process into manageable steps that can be taught separately. Begin by teaching the parts and purpose of the wheel. The next portion that I like to address is the wheel set up. What should the drive band feel like? How do you position the wheel relative to your chair. Where can you keep the fiber so that it is close at hand, but not in the way? As far as the tension on the drive band, each wheel is different. The Saxony wheel that I use is a double drive with a cotton cord drive band. It requires a good deal of tension to take up. Scotch tension wheels are a bit more forgiving and take up nicely without as much pressure. Be sure to have your student set the tension themselves so they can get the feel of it.
Being able to treadle does not take much learning, but be sure your pupil can treadle slowly and keep the wheel spinning in one direction. There are bound to be frustrating moments for them once the drafting is added, but being able to slow down without reversing the wheel will help. Some good practice at this point is to tie a leader to the bobbin that is a few yards long. Have the student treadle and wind the yarn onto the bobbin to get them used to doing two tasks at once.
To begin the drafting portion of the lesson, select a fiber that has a medium staple length. I prefer a wool that is a consistent 3 inches. Whatever fiber you select, consistent length is easier to work with than something that is irregular. Be sure to select something with a pretty nice hand. We want to inspire our students not repel them with something that feels bristly. If you are using wool locks, flick both the shorn and tip ends open. This makes the fibers slip past each other more easily. I find locks are easier to learn with than roving mainly because they are consistent. They can also be handled easily. Have the student hold the locks with their backward hand, while pulling gently with the forward hand. Show them the drafting area and how to pinch with either hand to limit the ability of the twist to enter into the fiber supply.
As you add the drafting to the treadling, have them hold the leader with their forward hand, add twist to it with the treadle, stop treadling, lay the leader into the pre-drafted fiber and un-pinch the forward hand to allow the twist to travel from the leader into the fiber. This step can be repeated until the student feels comfortable putting all of the steps together. As a matter of fact, I think my first few bobbins were filled this exact way.
Also, as you move on to teach plying, one way to teach the process easily is to “un-ply” a yarn that has been finished. That way the student can see the plies separate into single strands. Sure the wheel direction is opposite of what would be required, but it does work well as a teaching tool.
Most importantly, remember to be patient. Encourage the new spinner to keep trying. For me, it wasn’t until I didn’t have an audience that I was finally able to put all of the steps together into one fluid action. Remind your student, and possibly yourself, that there is no one right way to spin and they need to find what feels comfortable to them.