Practice Makes Perfect

It takes practice. It takes practice. It takes practice. That’s my current mantra as I’m teaching myself, with the help of videos, books, and support and advice from my dear cyberfriends on Raverly, to spin yarn on a drop spindle.

My first attempt at spinning my own yarn, which involved a .75 oz (21 g), high whorl spindle and 1 ounce of mohair/Shetland fiber, resulted in 14 yards of 2-ply that looks reasonably like yarn.

My first yarn after plying and washing

It’s not enough yarn to knit anything other than a swatch, so I’m undecided whether to knit it up or simply save it for posterity. You probably noticed that the thickness of the yarn is a bit inconsistent, and there are the occasional slubs in it, but overall, I think it’s pretty good for a first effort. A lot of the credit goes to the spindle and the fiber. Using proper tools and appropriate materials contributes greatly to a successful outcome. Although the spindle was inexpensive and is made from a wooden dowel and toy truck wheel, it is very well balanced and spins fast and long. It’s a joy to spin on. And the fiber was easy to draft and nicely prepared. There was a very small amount of VM (vegetable matter) in it, but it was easy enough to pick it out when I came to it.

My first handspun yarn

I still have a bit of singles left from the spinning, probably enough that I could have gotten 2 or 3 more yards of 2-ply from that ounce of fiber. But I ended up with a cute little hank of handspun.

I’ve been practicing every day, and things are starting to click. I am even daring to think that with enough practice I will be able to produce usable yarn that any knitter would love to knit with. And I must say that visions of Bosworth, Golding, and Kundert spindles are dancing in my head.

Resistance Is Futile!

I admit it. I can be pretty weak. I have a difficult time resisting stuff that makes me fat, like ice cream, potato chips, cheesy poofs, chocolate, and Nutella, so I just don’t keep tempting items in the house. If I get a craving for peanut M & Ms, I have to get in my car and drive to the store to get some. And that helps me resist the temptation. If there is a bag of M & Ms or chips or cookies in the pantry, they will call to me, and I will not be able to resist their siren song.

For a long time now, at least ten years, I have been thinking about learning to spin fiber. I love to knit > I love yarn > I want to make yarn. But I have resisted temptation. Spinning would take away time from my knitting and add to my stash. But the thought of learning to spin kept nagging at me. I’d read blogs of knitters who also spin and see their beautiful handspun creations, and I would be oh so tempted, but I would resist. And resist. Then I started reading weekend knitter blog. Weekend knitter, aka Stacey, has a husband, two children, a house, and a job, yet she finds time to spin, knit, and blog about it. Well, that isn’t quite true. She doesn’t find the time. She makes the time. I think she does some of her spinning and knitting while she should be sleeping. LOL

Stacey is an artist and takes beautiful photographs of her handspun yarns and knitted items, and let me tell you, her blog is really inspiring. Reading weekend knitter blog is what made resistance futile. Seeing all those gorgeous handspun yarns destroyed what was left of my resistance. I caved. I surrendered. I took the plunge.

I prepared myself. I read everything on the Internet I could find about spinning with both a drop spindle and a wheel. I watched videos. I decided to start with a drop spindle because drop spindles are dirt cheap compared to spinning wheels and because, I’ll admit it, spinning wheels kind of scare me. So I started shopping for a drop spindle and found myself overwhelmed. I ended up just ordering the Turkish spindle offered by Knit Picks, along with some Wool of the Andes fiber.

But that just wasn’t enough. I started looking at spindles and fiber on Etsy. I found a kit from KeepEmGoing that includes a tiny, .75 oz. top whorl spindle and an ounce of mohair/shetland fiber for only $10 plus shipping. A very light spindle is good for spinning thin yarns, and I hope to be spinning fingering and lace weight yarn after a little practice, and $10 is a great price for a spindle and fiber, and I just couldn’t resist. I placed my order and the kit arrived today.

Spindle and fiber kit from KeepEmGoing on Etsy

After reading a lot about using a drop spindle and watching a ton of videos and mentally practicing, I felt ready to dive right in. I attached a leader to the spindle and practice making the spindle spin. Then I started in earnest, using the park and draft method. With park and draft, the spinner spins the spindle to build up twist, then stops the spindle and holds it between her knees. Then she drafts the fiber (pulls it slightly apart) and lets the twist move up the drafted fiber. With practice a spinner can draft the fiber while the spindle is turning. But for the beginner, park and draft is the recommended technique. It’s not that difficult to do, but getting a consistent yarn is definitely going to take some serious practice.

I think I’m doing pretty well.

My very first cop of handspun yarn

My yarn isn’t perfect. It isn’t even close to perfect.

My first handspun yarn wound on a cardboard core

But I think it is pretty good for a rank beginner. And I know that with practice, I’ll improve and eventually be able to produce yarn that I can be really proud of. And who knows? Once I feel that I have mastered (or at least come close to mastering) drop spindling, maybe I’ll address my fear of the wheel. I already have a pretty good idea of which wheel I want to buy.

Stacy, this is all YOUR fault. Thank you. 🙂