Ever since I really started knitting — in other words, ever since I started knitting something other than scarves — I have wanted to learn to spin, but let’s be honest: I barely have enough time to knit, much less spin.
But last week at the STITCHES Midwest show, I finally learned how to use a drop spindle at the Dragonfly Fibers booth. Well, “learned” is an overstatement. First I fumbled around with the spindle a while and then proceeded to break the roving at least four times. Caitlin, the AllFreeKnitting editor, did much better, although she insisted on denying it for the rest of the day:
But I was determined. After a hectic and stressful week, I was ready to take on a new challenge that had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of my life. I also realized there was no better time to buy spinning supplies; I was surrounded by spindles of every size and big fluffy clouds of roving. My decision to take up spinning was confirmed when I was mesmerized by a woman using a spinning wheel at the Susan’s Fiber Shop booth.
At Cheryl McLane’s Purdy Thangz booth, I was ready to buy my very first drop spindle. I’d like to say I selected it for it’s quirky beauty or perfectly balanced weight, but the truth is that I bought the least expensive spindle Cheryl offered. Having only twenty dollars in my small clutch purse quickly made that decision for me.
Spindle in hand, I began searching for the perfect roving. I wanted something pretty to motivate my endeavor, but also something plain enough that I wouldn’t regret ruining it with my first spinning attempts. At a booth selling alpaca fiber, I was told that alpaca would be too difficult for me to spin on my first try, since the fibers are shorter and come apart easily. Regardless, the woman handed me a scrap of alpaca roving and said, “here, this is yours to keep,” and I tucked into the bag with my spindle, unsure of what I would do with a foot-long piece of alpaca that I wasn’t expected to spin successfully.
As we traveled up and down the aisles of booths at STITCHES, we were invited to make a needle-felted flower by Natasha at the Esther’s Place booth. After my flower was complete, I consulted with Natasha about which roving would be the easiest for me to spin, and we decided that I should purchase roving meant for needle-felting, since it was the coarsest with the longest fibers. I chose four fuzzy little balls in two colors of sea blue and proudly toted them home.
Once seated on the couch in my sunroom, spindle in hand, I realized I had no idea how to start spinning. After several more YouTube videos and broken tufts of roving floating around the room, I was no further along. Frustrated, I reached for the brown scrap of alpaca just to feel its softness in my hand. I began aimlessly twisting the fiber, maddened by how simple it seemed in the videos and how complicated it became in my unpracticed hands. Suddenly, I looked down to find that the silky roving was turning to yarn right between my fingers. Afraid to halt the process, I quickly grabbed the spindle, hooked it around a section of the newly spun yarn, and began twirling the spindle in my left hand and moving my right hand up the fiber as it twisted. I was making yarn!
I quickly wound the new yarn around the dowel portion of the spindle and added some of the blue wool roving into the twist. Before I knew it, I had a length of variegated yarn that seemed to change thickness every few inches. I still couldn’t drop the spindle after a good twirl. Even the “park and draft” method seemed a little problematic at times. Much of the time I simply turned the spindle in my hand as the twist slowly traveled up the fiber. But I wasn’t overly concerned with my primitive method; I was simply astounded that the fiber next to me was becoming yarn. I quickly dunked it in a basin of warm water to set the twist and wrapped it around a kitchen chair to dry, grimacing at the strange smell of livestock that seemed to emanate from it.
The next morning, I unraveled the fiber from the chair, and to my delight, I found yarn. It certainly wasn’t a yarn I would ever buy in a skein or use in a project, but it was yarn!
Have you ever spun your own yarn? How long did it take before you could spin evenly?