Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Spinning in Circles

I'm not quite sure whether to be amused or offended by the blank, slightly baffled looks I get when I mention to the uninitiated that I just bought a spinning wheel. My mother, my neighbor, my best friend...they've each looked at me, a little taken aback, and repeated in a dazed tone, "Spinning wheel? You mean...to make, uh, yarn?" Actually, my best friend thought I meant some sort of exercise equipment, but she recovered pretty gracefully.

I'm still working at it. My singles are still lumpy and overtwisted, but I think they may be getting slightly better:

There are some parts that almost look like yarn. I seem to be having a lot of trouble getting the tension right on my wheel (Spinners will understand. For everyone else, there is a little knob on the wheel that controls how hard the bobbin pulls on the fiber as you spin it.) Either the yarn won't wind on fast enough and gets overtwisted (more overtwisted than usual, I mean), or the fiber breaks. I am sure this has more to do with my drafting than the wheel.

For non-spinners, drafting seems to be the most important aspect of spinning actual yarn, as opposed to what I am making. It means pulling a little fiber out of the roving to be spun, and controlling how much gets spun at a time. The trick is pulling out just the right amount of fiber at a time, and continuing to pull it out evenly as you spin. This is more difficult than it sounds. You need to draft evenly to spin smooth yarn, which is my--apparently rather distant--goal. Uneven drafting gives you thick-and-thin yarn, which is, of course, a legitimate sort of yarn, but it's not the kind I enjoy working with. I am trying to spin smooth, fine yarn, which means continually drafting a small amount of fiber at a time. Problems arise when I draft too much fiber (lumps) or too little fiber (the yarn breaks). Because the wheel keeps spinning all the time, if I pause to get a better grip on the fiber or hit a snag while drafting or my hands just don't move steadily, I get uneven parts or breaks.

It's pretty fascinating, in a hypnotic sort of way. The wheel spins and the fiber slides through my fingers and I am constantly focused on keeping my drafting even. I can see how it could easily become addictive as one gets better and doesn't have to stop to fish the broken yarn end back through the flyer orifice or untwist the roving that has accidentally entered the draft zone and the drafting becomes smooth and automatic. Not that I would know from personal experience, mind you. But I can imagine.

15 comments:

Haley said...

sounds intriguing. i'm sure you'll be making fine yarn in no time!

sophanne said...

You are making great progress. There will be a wheel in my future. I remember watching them spin at the sheep and fiber festival and realizing what you say about drafting is true. They confirmed this when I asked them about it. You really are the spinner, the wheel just helps move it along.

Sharon said...

Sure looks like yarn to me!

BTW--thank you for the good thoughts.

MelissaKnits said...

that is some significant improvement! Spinning literally changed my life. I was a type A, compulsive driven focused nurse, obsessed with money. Then I began spinning and the whole world just stopped. Literally stopped. And I could smell roses. And that was the end of my life as I knew it. Now I'm me.

Kristin said...

Definitely less lumps and twists than the first try. Good work.

Kim said...

Your handspun looks like yarn! Like I said before, the more you spin the better you get. You'll be spinning dental floss in no time. I love the blank or confused looks I get when I tell people I spin ("Spin? Like in a gym?").

Sarah said...

You're improving so fast! You're totally right about the draw. Have you checked out "Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning" yet? I bought it a few weeks ago and I wish I'd had it when I first started out.

kmkat said...

As a non-spinner I found your explanation wonderfully accessible. Many of the spinning bloggers' (or blogging spinners') words go zinging right over my head. Please continue to post about your spinning and learning -- I will love to read about it and see your yarn, whether you call it that or not.

Sarah said...

You are talking in a totally foreign tongue to me now, but I am very supportive of your efforts. It is fascinating. The spool of yarn you made looks great.

julia fc said...

Looks a lot like my first yarn. The uptake rate is critical, you're right. Slow down your pedalling, if you haven't tried that. I find a lot of new spinners think they have to race with the wheel, and nothing in spinning is ever solved by pedalling faster, as Alden Amos says. I would also make sure that you have oiled the dowel well so that the bobbin spins easily. You want that bobbin really free to draw in the yarn.

Karen said...

This bobbin looks a lot better! I think it helps in the beginning to predraft a lot so that you don't have to draft so much while you are spinning and you can just concentrate on what your hands and feet are doing. Also, when you are adjusting your tension, just make a little bitty turn at a time.

You're doing great!

Knitman said...

Now look here, I CANNOT add spinning wheel to my obsessions. Thank fully I have a really good excuse. I tired to learn to use one but it quickly became apparent that my disability prevents me doing the foot thing. Shut up-I know you can buy electric ones. I ain't got room for sheep, alpaca, llamas or rabbits. So there.

Oh and Luna was unfortunately aptly named. Not only she is she built like a Russian shot putter she has, in modern language, learning difficulties. However, she is an excellent mum and produces quality pups.

Faith! said...

That first bobbin looks good to me! Pre-drafting, as in ripping long strands AND fluffing them up a bit, is the greatest secret I've discovered with spinning. And no worries if the first few experiments don't turn out how you'd like- the learning curve is rapid!

Gingersnaps with Tea... said...

I'm sure as you work at it, it'll get better. The knitting…spinning…dying… weaving thing is all one big slippery slope you know. My Aunt started a knitter and ended up spinning, dying and weaving her own wool, I'm very much afraid of going the same way…

BTW I found you because we both seem to appreciate the same blogs, I looked at your blog and went, "Oh, look all MY friends are Here." ;-D.

Romi said...

Wow! It looks good to me (but I'm not a spinner). :)