Spinning around 

About a year ago I bought a kit containing a drop spindle and some roving, as I wanted to learn to spin. I also bought a book entitled Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. Having flicked through the book I decided I knew what I was doing so had a go. 

It was an utter disaster. 

I put the kit away and didn’t touch it again until earlier this year. I was inspired by seeing all the beautiful hand dyed and spun yarn on the Internet so decided to give it another go. 

With a lot more concentration and patience I did some research and discovered what I had been doing wrong. So I started again. 

I started with the ‘park and draft’ method as I understood that this was the best way to start learning. Obviously there were a number of hiccups, and perhaps a few rude words, but slowly I started to get the hang of it. 

I found the most difficult part was to draft evenly. Drafting too little means thicker sections, drafting too much means it’s thin or will break. Getting the balance right is something that will take much more practice. You can see above how uneven it is. 

Something else that will come with practice is knowing how much twist to put into the yarn. I still have no idea how much is too much, but I know how much is too little, as it just falls apart. It’s not called a drop spindle for nothing! 

I also discovered that I tend to hold my breath when I was drafting. No idea why! But overall I found it to be an almost meditative pass time. 

When I thought the spindle was getting too heavy (more regular breaking of the yarn told me this) I wound it off into a ball. Hindsight now tells me I should have wound off onto a bobbin, but that’s all part of learning. More on that later. 

Once I’d finished with one colour I moved on to the next. My intention now was to ply the two singles once I’d finished. 

I was now starting to spin and draft at the same time. Spin the spindle and let it drop, then drafting out while it’s spinning. This is a much quicker method of spinning yarn as I can spin until the spindle almost reaches the floor. I’m only short so this means about 6 feet at a time with my arm extended. But in all the second single was spun in days rather than weeks. 

It seems much more even than the first, and much thinner. This was going to make it more of a challenge to ply as I had 2 different thicknesses, but I ploughed ahead anyway. 

Proper spinners use a lazy kate when plying yarn. I had to improvise. I first wound the two singles onto empty toilet roll tubes to use as bobbins. Then I stuck two knitting needles through a box with the bobbins on. Et voila, makeshift lazy kate! 

Clearly some feline assistance was required… 

Then I started to ply. I attached the two ends of the singles to the spindle and spun, this time in the opposite direction. The singles had been spun clockwise, so I plied anticlockwise. 

The amount of twist in the singles made it challenging, as did the differing thicknesses. There were a number of breaks that I had to rejoin, and possibly a few more rude words. But eventually I had a spindle full of 2 ply yarn! (Which I forgot to take a picture of) 

Again, because I don’t have all the gear, I had to improvise when winding it into a skein. Usually a niddy noddy is used, and I will have to get one just because of the name. But I wound it between my hand and elbow. Finally my very first skein of handspun and hand plied yarn! 

I soaked it in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes and it is now hanging in the shower to dry. And the bathroom reeks of wet wool. 

I have some hard dyed roving that I bought at Yarningham a couple of weeks ago, so I’m going to have a go with that next. I have a plan in mind for constructing a lazy kate so I’ll put that into motion when I’m back from my holiday. Oh yes, holiday. A week on a farm in Norfolk, can’t wait! 

That’s all for now 




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