Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Beginning Spinning

My first lot of hand-spun yarn

Like many creative people I'm always interested in learning new things and trying things out. Although I already have a lit of projects (not to mention the materials) to keep me going for several lifetimes I can't help but get sidetracked by other things. In this instance, spinning is my latest distraction.

My first skein, made with help!

Pyjamas and a spinning wheel and a cat = happiness!

First attempts

A couple of months ago a very kind person donated a spinning wheel to my textiles group at The Heathlands Project. The wheel was in good condition but needed a bit of work so I took to Ravelry to see if I could find someone to help restore the wheel to full working order and get us spinning. My spinning knowledge was limited, to say the least. I've done some drop spinning but that's about it so I was clearly going to need a bit of help!

Through Ravelry I received a number of kind offers and helpful suggestions, including from a lady based near Shap who offered to come and fix the wheel and give us a demonstration. I've always been fairly sure that most people are pretty nice but I was really touched by how kind complete strangers can be and how willingly people will give their time and expertise to help with something they believe in and are passionate about.

Spiral plying my hand-spun humbug with mulberry silk

Plyed and ready to skein

Making a skein using chair legs!

In next to no time our kind person had the wheel sorted (with a bit of improvisation and cutting up of plastic lids for maiden bearings, there are some great technical terms in spinning.) She also gave myself and a couple of colleagues a quick spinning lesson. I was pretty rubbish but my colleague really took to it and within a week had bought herself a wheel. I was impressed by the beautiful yarns she produced and became more and more interested in learning. I decided that I would borrow the Heathlands wheel over Christmas and get some practise in.

Set up for spinning

Harry like to help

Or just watch

Which is what I did, before I took the wheel home I asked my colleague to give me a lesson and get me going which she did. It was frustrating at first because I could see what I was meant to be doing but I couldn't quite get there! However, patience and practise are enough to conquer most hurdles and with encouragement by the end of the day I was able to spin, sort of.

Getting better and better

Learning to spin is a bit like learning to drive, there seems to be so many different things to do with your hands and feet all at once and it feels like you'll never master it. Then at some point you find you can do it. Feet and hands are doing as they should and yarn is being created, it is a kind of magic. Of course, as with all things the more you do it the easier it gets and the better the yarn you create gets. From lumpy, uneven tangles to smooth, regular yarns but all of them beautiful because they are unique and have the mark of their maker.

First attempts

First attempts

I am quite surprised by how much I like spinning. I've always been interested in learning how to do it but it seemed so laborious and time consuming. However, I've been surprised by how quick it is once you get going and it is so relaxing. The gentle rhythm of the wheel and the feel of the fibre as it passes through your hands, I could easily spend hours doing this (and over the holidays I have!)

My first truly solo spinning project, humbug fibres plied with mulberry silk

Improvement: First skein on the left, last on the right

On top of this is the alchemy of creating something from almost nothing. There is something incredibly satisfying in making things yourself and as a keen knitter and crocheter I've always wondered about making my own yarns to work with. Having now got the basic technique I'm keen to experiment more and try things out, my mind is buzzing with new projects and ideas.

Close ups

Close ups

Close ups

My kind colleague, who gave me my pre Christmas spinning lessons, bought me some humbug fibres for my birthday so this is what I've been spinning with. My yarn is fine from perfect, it is still uneven and I've a lot to learn but I'm excited about getting better, trying new things and making things with my unique, custom made yarns. So, enough writing, I'm going back to the wheel...

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