Spinning Adventure Part 3: A Lesson

Learning to spin has been a bit of a journey like everything else in my weaving-fiber arts life over the last couple of years. Really the least stressful part was when I made 20 wall hangings between December 2020 and June 2021. The more I’ve wanted to expand what I do, the more roadblocks I’ve run into.

I ended up selling the Hitchhiker wheel last month which was a great decision. I do not think that would ever be a wheel I’d really find relaxing to use. The woman who bought it (I sent it all the way to California!) seemed thrilled to get it and I charged a really reasonable price so I felt good about that. It was so cute but it really wasn’t practical for me.

I’ve been trying off and on with the Kiwi but I really felt like I needed a lesson. I’m not sure if I’m going to MAFA 23 which is offering a spinning workshop that must be pretty intensive because it is several days long. Either way that’s not until late June.

I looked into classes at Red Stone Glen and they didn’t have any until May that still had slots. I think they don’t send out class updates as often as they should–people shut down the site with the last one and many classes were on there and filled that I didn’t feel had been offered when they sent out the last email blast. Even if the classes next month weren’t filled RSG is about 90 minutes away and that would be tough to do without spending the night in the middle of nowhere.

Maybe I’m being impatient but I really wanted something sooner. When it’s warm out I want to get back into processing fabric for weaving, working on projects or maybe doing some dyeing outside. I don’t want to be inside!

It’s really frustrating that I live in a major city and have to go out to the counties and to rural areas in other states to find what I want. Clover Hill Yarn in Catonsville, Md is not too far from the city line but on the complete opposite side then where I live so it takes about 30 minutes if there is magically no traffic and close to an hour any other time. Still, it’s closer than PA!

They have a section on their site where you can book private lessons. It said to book 2 hours if you want spinning help/learn how to drop spindle or wheel spin but you can also book weaving lessons and other craft help with the same person. I booked the two hours but no one contacted me to see what I wanted the time for so I called and was told to bring a drop spindle if I had it and to bring my wheel so they could check it out.

I really want to learn on the wheel so honestly I wasn’t too thrilled to hear about the drop spindle. She said she’d put one aside for me and some fiber in case she didn’t like what I had. Honestly, I didn’t bother digging out the drop spindle, I’m pretty sure it’s under 3 tubs of fabric strips in the closet-room but I’m not sure so I just went with my wheel and the wool I had been using.

Yesterday, Stephanie got me slowly working on the spindle with some bluefaced Leicester which was a lot easier to see than the white Shetland I had been trying to use. She actually didn’t like the Shetland, it wasn’t processed very nicely and she pointed out what she thought would happen when I tried spinning and it was what happened. It wasn’t very uniform and there were bits in it that wouldn’t spin smoothly.

She also tightened up my wheel and got me started to spin on it.

I was sort of flagging about 90 minutes into the lesson so she ended it early and gave me a credit for the 30 minutes that partially covered the new drop spindle and some of the new fiber. I’m still finding the drop spindle awkward physically but it did really show me how the drafting process worked without the speed of the wheel. Stephanie said I can make another appointment to come in if I need help again. She told sort of how plying works but we didn’t get that far. I’ll have to keep practicing. It’s possible I might be able to figure that out myself or someone from my guild maybe could help. Or I’d be happy going back to Clover Hill. The drive wasn’t bad post-rush hour-pre-school letting out and I even got a great shrimp salad sandwich at Caffe di Roma on my way home.

I feel like I accomplished my goal of having someone there telling me exactly what to look for in the fiber and how to get started. I do feel like the spinning the spindle isn’t a very natural move for me. I am not an aggressive or firm handler of fiber. I really don’t have a ton of hand strength and I keep wanting to pet it.

I’ll see how it goes from there!

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