Monday, 21 January 2013

First Time Spinner

I bought my first spinning wheel today! If I were a fan of writing in caps lock, I would, just to emphasize how excited I am. Alas, punctuation will have to suffice in conveying my emotions.

I've been trying to find one locally for the better part of a month, to no avail. The ebay wheels all had incredible shipping costs, and I really couldn't risk my whole estate on buying a new one. After exhausting my personal network of those who might know someone who knows someone, I had lost hope. Until last week, when I got an email from my friend Louise. She is a remarkably helpful friend to have, as she often takes on solving small problems in my life, as though they are interesting projects (I'm sorry I still haven't applied for my passport yet). Louise sent me the contact information for Evelyn, a 89 year old woman who gave up spinning years ago in favour of rug hooking. I promptly contacted her. Evelyn is an endearing woman too kind to give me an asking price. She suggested I do my research and find out what used spinning wheels go for these days. This was a challenge - online prices range by hundreds of dollars.

When we arrived to pick it up, Evelyn seemed excited and said she found some things that would make me happy. As we made our way up the stairs of the home Eveyln's husband built, I got to see the gorgeous rug hook projects that Evenly gave up spinning for. When I think rug hook, I picture shag carpet wall hangings of woodland animals or wild horses. Evelyn's looked more like lovely detailed tapestries of rich colour schemes.

She brought me into her craft room. Aside from having the largest flat screen television I had ever seen, it looked exactly like you might imagine an 89 year-old woman's craft room to be. Very tidy with a subtle floral print sofa and more lovely tapestries. But there by the window was my new friend. Gorgeous pale wood finish, looking just as new as Lorna's! Evelyn handed me the original Ashford manual and a hard cover book called "The Craft of Handspinning". Then she handed me a fat manilla envelope full of her handwritten notes from her first spinning class. Each page had little bits of fleece, roving, yarn, or knitting taped to them.

Evelyn's notes from spinning class
Evelyn had prepared a box with carders, extra drive band string, an extra bobbin (still full of yarn from her last spinning), and the treading tool that she emphasised as being extremely useful.

Extremely useful threader.
I offered her $400 for the lot. "Hmmm. No. That is too much. How about $250?" Now that's negotiating! I made it clear that she was undercharging me, but she was just happy to see it go to someone who will use it, and not just "let it sit like an ornament". It was a savings of about $400 from the cheapest one on eBay of the same model.

Evelyn is going to get in touch with me soon, when she "digs out" the drum carder that she would also like to sell me. Her husband built it from drafting plans.

At its new home, awaiting my yarn.

Once home, I sat down and examined the wheel, remembering my lessons from Mereille and Lorna yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see anyone start an empty bobbin with the "lead thread", so I relied on this YouTube video. It was as simple as tying a piece of yarn to the spool and starting to peddle, allowing the spinning lead to grab the fibres.

I was acutely aware of the stack of literature that Evelyn had given me, sitting on the chair beside me. I was just too excited to read anything before playing with it. Earlier today I asked a Facebook group of Spinners what their best advice for beginners was. There must have been 50 replies - many of which related to figuring out tension. I had to fiddle with the knobs, not really knowing what kind of effect they had, until I at last got to the point where the yarn was getting wound on the bobbin, but the drive band wasn't falling off - to my understanding, this is a reasonable tension to work with.

I was quite surprised at how easy the basic techniques were once the tension was set. I carefully worked through all of the rolags I have been preparing since I cleaned my first fleece. My technique greatly improved as I went, but I am happy to accept the challenge of life-long-learning that goes along with spinning truly fine, even, yarn.

It's lumpy and likely unstable in places (and charmingly full of twigs), but I have spun yarn for the first time! I've spun white yarn from a brown fleece that was once so filthy that even the cat avoided it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you do not have a Google account, you can comment by selecting "name/url" and enter whatever screen name you choose. You do not need to include a url. You can also select "anonymous".