So You Want To Spin?

Beginner’s Info: Part 1

So you want to learn to spin? Good for you. You’re about to be initiated into the wonderful craft of spinning. Or, to turn it into its most basic process, the art of taking a handful of something and making into gorgeous yarns.

If you’re interested in spinning, chances are you’ve at least seen a spinning wheel before. Maybe you watched someone at a Living History demonstration, or perhaps you have a friend who keeps babbling on about their wonderful wheel, or maybe (like me) you picked up a magazine and got sucked into a world of color and texture. However you developed the interest you want to get started. So now is the time for me to stop telling you how much fun you’ll have and give you some hard facts.

What is spinning?

Spinning is putting twist into something to make it form a new, stronger shape. You can spin with three blades of grass and your fingers. You can spin with long strips of fabric and a heavy rock. You can spin with your hair and a messed up curler. But none of these are the cool ways to do it.

If you want to begin spinning, you’re going to need three things. Something to spin into yarn, something with which to spin that thing into yarn, and something to tell you how to do it.

Drop Spindle vs. Wheel

As for the mode of spinning, I personally recommend starting on a drop spindle. They’re inexpensive when bought, practically free when made, and they teach your hands a lot quicker than a wheel can. I taught myself to use a homemade drop spindle in a long afternoon. If you’re interested in making one, here are some good instructions. If you want to buy one, the cheapest I’ve found is a Louet Drop Spindle. Whatever you buy, try to get one that can do top and bottom whorl. (More on that in another post.) If you think you want to spend more money and get a pretty one, there are some gorgeous ones on Etsy and all over the Internet. In a later post I’ll list some of my favorite fiber websites.

If you choose to begin on a wheel, more power to you. A wheel requires less alertness and is a lot safer on your toes. (They don’t call it a “drop” spindle for nothing.) However, let’s face it, wheels are not cheap. I believe the cheapest one I’ve seen is $100. It works, but if you’re partial to fancier ones you’ll need to shell out big bucks. (Or find the deal of the century like my dad did. Believe me, there are some gorgeous wheels out there waiting to be found.)

I Have The Tool—Now What?

So, once you’ve chosen one of these spinning tools, it’s time to dig up something to spin. I do not advice shaving your dog for your first try. I recommend beginning with a wool roving. What on earth is a roving? A “roving” is a long, long strip of wool that has been combed into submission. All the little hairs lay alongside each other in a glorious state of smoothness. Practically any fiber seller will have roving. (Sometimes it’s called “top,” although the two words are technically not interchangeable.) If you want to start out small, go to your local craft store and look for the needle felting section. They’ll probably have lots of little rolls of “wool roving.” My first fiber was a six-pack from Hobby Lobby in pretty fall colors. It spun very nicely on the drop spindle.

As for types of wool (yes, there are more decisions to be made, but it’s not that hard!) if you plan to order roving online you might want to steer toward a Corriedale or Romney. Fibers like Mohair and Merino are slippery and harder to control. We want easy! We want success! We want, above all, yarn.

So how do you make yarn?

You’ll find out tomorrow.

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