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!

I signed up for a two hour private in-person spinning lesson to learn how to use my wheel. On the website it explicitly says “Topics with spindles OR spinning wheels can be tackled in private lessons. Beginning spinning lessons on a spindle OR wheel should be booked for a 2 hour duration”

I booked two hours and thought they would follow up to see what I was hoping to learn. They did not so a few days later I called to tell them my goal for the two hours – a beginner lesson for spinning on my new wheel.

They seem surprised I had even blocked the times which was a little red flag I wish I hadn’t ignored. I was asked if I had a drop spindle. I said I did but I wasn’t interested in using it. I was told that I have to learn the drop spindle first and they would have one for me to use if they didn’t like mine and to bring my wheel.

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.

We spent the whole time on the drop spindle which I had no interest in and didn’t find it very enjoyable.

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.

I thought we’d use the spindle to get some visuals and then move on but we did not. Why couldn’t we have spent the last 40 minutes on my wheel? It was clear she wanted me to leave when she decided we were done with the drop spindle.

After I asked, Stephanie said I can make another appointment to come in if I need help again but honestly, it didn’t sound like she actually wanted me to come back.

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. I did find them slightly condescending and I didn’t learn on the wheel but there aren’t a lot of choices.

I wouldn’t say they were rude exactly but they weren’t very friendly and I felt like I was being condescended to a lot during the lesson. I tried to be cheerful and pleasant but the overall vibe was dismissive and again, I never got to do what I actually signed up to do.

I felt like I was an unwanted guest at someone’s house, not someone paying for a lesson at a store.

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

You don’t have to learn the drop spindle before learning on the wheel–it is very odd Cloverhill was so insistent I needed to when their own website says this isn’t the case. I wish I had saved the money and took a real spinning wheel class anywhere else even if it meant driving 90 minutes to Philadelphia or Red Stone Glen.

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!

A little update—after seeing my review on Yelp, Cloverhill refunded me for my class.

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