07 September 2012

A Chance With A Spinning Wheel: Part I

After much anticipation my spinning classes started this week, hooray! The classes are being held at the Handweavers & Spinners Guild of Victoria, there are five sessions all together and each lasting 3 hours. The first lesson was about learning the basics, how to adjust the wheel, how to flick the fleece, how to get started and all that.

Since I don't have my own wheel (yet!!) the Guild loaned me one to practice on. It's a traveller single treadle by Ashford, there are larger traditional wheels available but my beloved little Honda Jazz could only handle this small wheel :)

What I hadn't expected was that we'd be handling raw fleece, well I knew we'd be learning about fleece but for some reason I just didn't consider handling raw fleece, complete with vegetable matter and erm, well, you know, things that get stuck on a sheep's coat... how naive was I! To be fair, the fleece we were given was quite clean, I was assured that there were worse ones. Anyway we learned to turn this corriedale fleece:

... into this: (I do love the sheen!)

... by using a flick carder like this: (yes, I bought my own carder :)

To be honest, at this stage I'm not entirely sure that I like handling greasy wool, maybe I'm just being a typical squeamish city dweller. On the other hand isn't this what it's all about? Learning where the wool/yarn had come from, how it came to be, like growing your own vegetables and making your own bread. In fact, come to think of it, knitting one's own garment is also part of that process of Make It Happen, it's earthy qualities serve as a constant reminder that that's what distinguishes us humans to the rest of the animals, that armed with tools and knowledge we can make it happen.

And make it happen I will, spinning on the wheel that is! It's easily said than done though, just when I thought I'd had the spindle under control, more or less, the spinning wheel is entirely a different kettle of fish! For you seasoned wheel spinners I solute you for making it seem so easy, so fluid, so serene, so transfixing... but to coordinate two hands and a foot while drafting/sliding/treadling is like trying to make a pair of puppets dance cha-cha!! Yes, yes, I know, practice makes it perfect, I'll drink to that! ... maybe I'll drink another one to that!

Next week I will be learning how to ply on the wheel and how to scour the wool, to do that we need to complete our homework of spinning two bobbins worth of yarn. This is my progress so far:

Actually this is my second bobbin - I didn't fill the first one mind you, it's just simply too ghastly to see. I've set it aside as a reminder of "how NOT to do it" whilst at the same time I can have a look at that and give myself a quick pat on the back and say "there there, you're making progress". By that, my friends, I will say good-bye for now because I have some real work to do.

Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!


  1. Wow, that sounds like way too much fun! I think after one class you are making great progress already, you are making yarn! Whatever comes out, just call it design feature ;-)

    I think I'd have problem handling raw fleece with various "matter" in it too. The way I rationalize it, I like cooking but I don't have to be a butcher. I'm happy to let others do the dirty work and enjoy the result. Either way I'm sure you'll enjoy playing with the fiber.

  2. This is so cool! I think it's fantastic that they gave you a wheel to use for the class. It sounds like you are learning a lot. I am a complete novice and know nothing about the whole process. All of the terms are completely foreign to me. Flicking, carding, drafting, sliding -- what??? I actually just requested a book from the library to help educate me, but what you're doing looks like so much more fun!

    I agree with Vivian, you're making excellent progress after one class! I'm really looking forward to seeing what you do next! Have fun and enjoy the adventure!

  3. Hooray for learning to spin and learning about pasture to product. I love my travel wheel -v- traditional because it is portable. I prefer not to spin wool raw but I am also used to my Alpacas that don't have the grease. It is a great way for you to understand an appreciate the process though.

    1. We'll be learning about alpaca fibre in another lesson, I can't wait! Yes, I'm certainly learning to appreciate everything that's involved in the whole pasture to product process :)

  4. just remember those seasoned spinners out there were beginners once, too. Hang in there . Soon the hands feet and heart will all be in sinc. Good luck!

  5. I had a go at a spinning wheel at Rav day a couple of years ago and have been dreaming about getting one ever since. A drop spindle is all very well but a real wheel is much more fun. Hope you enjoy your classes.
    thanks for sharing

  6. Absolutely enjoy the process - and your second spindle is looking pretty good, considering it's only a second spindle!

    And while it isn't clear to me that we can do all things from source to final product, this is one area that I think learning the process of it all is very beneficial. I suspect you might approach yarn, and fiber generally, completely differently once this is all said and done.

  7. My first real wheel was an Ashford Traveller and I loved her! She was so lightweight and easy to transport with a simple buckle of the seatbelt. Your spinning is looking just fine for a beginner. As you spin more your singles will look more like what you want. It does take quite a bit of practice. Just remember that a few minutes each day is the best way to train your hands, feet and mind for spinning. I love that you're learning about fleece in the grease. I do love the feel of the grease and the raw wool smell...makes me think of my childhood out in farm country. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and saying hello. The purple fiber is calling my name and I may have to spin some tomorrow when I get together with my friends. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. Your yarn is gorgeous!

    How fantastic to start with a whole raw fleece. When I took my spinning class, we went thru the process but it was more of a demonstration.

    I don't really like the feel of the "grease" either, but I know several people who prefer to "spin in the grease."

    I just love your attitude about learning how it all happens. :-)