Sunday, July 16, 2006

I Came, I Saw, I Sorta Spun

Nothing like a cold dose of reality to wake me up out of a delicious daydream. You may remember that back in May, at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Fair, I tried spinning for the first time, on Louet single- and double-treadle S10 wheels. Loved it. LOVED it! It took considerable will power to walk away from the wheels without taking one home.

But I thought I would be good and dutiful and responsible and all that nonsense, so I said to myself that I would research wheels, try them out, check out prices, and be a good Puritan in my obsession.

So yesterday I went to a great begin-to-spin day-long workshop given by Anne Corbey at
The Fiber Loft in Harvard, Massachusetts. Five of us spinner-wanna-bes gathered at 10 AM in lovely air-conditioning, each with our own single-treadle Louet S10 wheel and a goodly pile of unwashed fleece from Anne's own Romney sheep (I think it was a Romney - she also has cross-breeds, and I didn't remember everything she told us over the course of five hours or so).

Note that I said unwashed fleece. Anne thinks spinning is easier in the grease and that washing the wool is easier after it's spun, rather than when it's still fleece.

First we carded. I learned that I need to develop my arm muscles if I want to card fleece. Since one of the reasons I'm considering taking up spinning is that I think it will give my over-strained knitting muscles a break, hard-carding may not be the way I go. (I almost said it's not in the cards for me, but I spared you.) An hour later, we each had a pile of mostly clean and reasonably straight fiber, and we started spinning!

Anne came around and started each one of us off. I was first. Unfortunately, my yarn broke shortly after Anne took her skilled hands off it and my untutored ones took over. I valiantly tried to reattach my roving to the yarn from the orifice. And tried. And tried. And friggin' tried till my lower back hurt and my teeth were clenched and I was having hot flashes...nonetheless, I persevered. Eventually, Anne worked her way back around to me, reattached my roving, and I was off again!

For another yard. Maybe only 20 inches. Anne had told us to treadle slowly, and when I treadled slooowly, the frigging treadle kept stopping and reversing direction and driving me Up. The. Ever-lovin'. Wall. Eventually I said screw it and treadled faster. The yarn started behaving itself. I bet there were whole minutes where I actually calmly, meditatively, with relaxed muscles, spun. Maybe five such minutes in three hours. Five separate minutes, that is.

And I thought I was coordinated. Hah!

I will say that all this knitting and sorta-spinning is improving my character. I no longer think I'm practically perfect. I no longer think I can learn anything at the drop of a hat. I no longer think it's possible to live life to its fullest without regular infusions of fiber.

I may even learn something about myself from all this. Stubborn? Cranky? Prone to fits of self-doubt? Well, OK, I've always been self-doubting, but now I'm learning what other character flaws I have, as well.

Back to the subject: Anne also had us try spinning a commercially prepared roving, a nice, clean, dry dark gray wool of some basic sort. Pain in the fleecy butt. I think I needed to pull this roving further apart than I did, so I wasn't feeding gobsfull into the poor wheel at one go. Anyhow, some of my more-talented comrades in spinning did spin up the commercial roving. Most of us also tried a double-treadle wheel, and most pronounced it considerably easier to maintain a good treadling pace with the double treadle than the single treadle.

Finally, in the last hour of the workshop, Anne showed us how to ply our own yarns, since we'd been prompted to spin yarn onto two bobbins earlier. She also told us that we were the only - I repeat, only - class in her 23 years of teaching spinning there in which everyone in the class spun enough of their own yarn to ply it, rather than having to learn plying with commercial yarns. I began to feel better.

So, stop yammering, Ms. Linnet, what does this alleged yarn look like? May I present:

All of maybe 25 yards? This is in the stage called "put tension on the newly plied yarn overnight" and you all may admire my vaguely French porch chair, sinnce I don't have a niddy-noddy. Currently, the yarn is bathing in a large bowl on the kitchen counter. If it turns clean enough to be something other than pale-yellow-mud-colored, I may even use it in something - a felted kitty bed, I'm thinking - rather than burying the evidence in the compost heap.

And before you start commiserating with me and thinking, ah, it's too bad she had such a trying time with her first spinning, I just want you to know: I don't give up easy. And I don't let some pile of greasy fleece and my own unlearned fingers get in the way of a True and Proper obsession, no-siree-bob. Remember I'm stubborn and cranky.

I still want a wheel.

And I bought four skeins of Koigu on the way out the door, just to relieve the built-up tension. At least I know how to treat myself well.


rose said...

Yay for your first wheelspun yarn! It will get so much easier with practice. You'll soon have whole hours where you can spin and relax.

Ducktastic said...

I think it looks fabulous for your first "official" time spinning. And I know I don't perform well in class settings where I think everyone's watching me, so maybe that's why you had a harder time?

Definitely don't give up, and I bet you'll be making gorgeous handspun in no time. :)

bitterknitter said...

Yay, you made yarn! It is excellent yarn and I'm sure that it will knit up beautifully.

Fiberbliss said...

Great Job!! I shop at the Fiber Loft, but have never taken a class there. I enjoyed reading about your spinning workshop experience.

Abigale said...

Learning to spin is not easy! I had gotten pretty good on my drop spindle when I got my wheel - but there was still a whole new learning curve with that. It gets easier. Just remember when you were learning to knit, or drive a clutch - stuff that you take for granted, and don't have to think about any more. Same thing with spinning on the wheel - It gets to be an automatic thing pretty quickly - so hang in there!

Great job!


Abigale said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Abigale said...

Sorry, just wanted to say DO NOT throw out or felt your first yarn!!! Please - don't do it. I know that now you are looking at it thinking meh - it's awful - but really, it's a good thing to run across in a couple of years, and see how far you've come - not to mention that you can show other newbie spinners where you started, and show them that what they are producing is totally in the realms of normality.

Also, that spinning in the grease thing - I don't quite understand why it would be easier to spin - I find it harder, not to mention there's a small ick factor working with the grease fleece. Just MHO, of course, but I prefer a nice well prepared batt or roving every single day.