spinning-how to get started?

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I'm thinking about making my own hand spindle and giving it a try. It seems really interesting. I checked out a small booklet from the library and sort of know the basics ( in theory only!). I feel very hesitant to try it on my own without a lesson or a mentor. I'm not really sure what kind of wool to get or where to get it. I really dont know what I would make with the yarn which I'm sure would have a bearing on what wool to buy.

Do any of you spinners out there have any recommendations on a good project for a beginner? Do you buy the wool already prepared or do you start completely from scratch? It seems really neat to start completely from scratch but maybe that might not be a good idea for a beginner. Do any of you have experience with natural dyes? That is intriguing also. What suppliers do you recommend? I don't know of anyone local. I already checked the yellow pages.

I will be attempting to try this from a book. Will it be obvious whether I'm doing it correctly or not? Thanks!

-- Denise (jphammock@msn.com), December 14, 2000


Denise, I am kind of in the same situation you are because there is no one around here to teach spinning to me. I'm thinking of ordering a drop spindle and book from Delta's Spindle. I have Angora rabbits and I want to be able to spin their hair myself. Please let me know or post what you find out and how it works for you! I'd love to be your beginning spinning buddy (via e-mail) but it will be after Christmas before I can order and receive my hand spindle!

-- Suzy in 'Bama (slgt@yahoo.com), December 14, 2000.

Hi Denise,

This is long.

Well....let me describe to you what I do, and maybe you can see if it fits into anything you might be interested in.

First I start with a fleece. I skirt it (pull off the wool around the edges of the fleece, pull off dung tags, etc.) Then, depending on what I think I may use it for, I may sort it (pull off the best wool to use for a project, and save the scratchier stuff for something else). I wash the wool in my washing machine, being careful not to agitate it (I can give you details if you are interested). I squeeze the water out of the wool, and give it a very gentle spin in the dryer (no heat.) After that time, I usually spread it outdoors (since I usually do this in good weather...out of the direct sun) on tarps, or blankets, and let it dry. I have taken over my living room with drying wool in the winter time, though.) After that, I pull it apart (by now it's often in chunks anyway) and prepare it for carding (kind of fluff it up, pull off any debris left, etc.)If I'm not going to use it right away, it usually goes into a big trash bag for a while.

Okay...then I card it on my drum carder and make batts. (Or on my hand cards if I feel masochistic.) I try to do just about what I will need for whatever my project is. Once I get enough batts, I spin it and put it on several bobbins before I do anything else. Once I get 12 bobbins full (I hold them on a lazy Kate), I ply the singles into two-ply yarn and put them back onto the bobbins. Then, I reel those onto my skeiner, and make skeins. Later I may block them, using my steam iron. I tag the skeins with the number of yards. Then they sit around and look wonderful in big baskets in my office. Sometimes I even get inspired to make something! If I do, I take the skeins and use a ball winder to make balls.

SO...you can start anywhere. I would suggest that you get some batts, or roving from a mail order supplier (if you don't have any sources close to you...can't recall if I know where you live?) Wool is a good fiber to begin spinning. It's pretty forgiving and joins more easily. I don't think you need to buy anything expensive to start with. I haven't tried spinning much more than wool....cotton, but I didn't see any point in it.

You might try knitting up a wool cap and/or mittens. They go fast (use bulky yarn, or two strands) and big needles...like 10s.

I don't recommend going out and starting with a flock of sheep, although I pretty much did just that! Good luck to you. I have been knitting a lot, and missing spinning, but I have lots of wool to work through later!

I have colored sheep, so I don't dye my wool. I do however, combine colors and sometimes put little chunks of other fibers into the wool before I card it. That makes some fun, tweedy yarn.

I'm sure other spinners can provide you with better answers, and I probably left out a few things, too. Just start playing with it all, and you will make some weird yarn at first. Even though my first stuff looked AWFUL, by the time I plied it and put it into a skein, it looked great. I still have my first skein!

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), December 14, 2000.

same boat your in,,,,, have some good web sites,, but IM STUCK,, and cant seem to find the answer

-- STAN (sopal@net-port.com), December 14, 2000.

What book are you using? The book I used to teach myself from is called Hands on Spinning, by Lee Raven. It has a section on Spindle spinning. The book is put out by Interweave Press.

-- Leann Banta (thelionandlamb@hotmail.com), December 14, 2000.

Doreen, I hate to be a downer but . . . I started with a hand spindle and just could not make it work. I'm left handed and usually am pretty good at reversing directions but just could not get the thing to work. I finally bought myself an Ashley spinning wheel and started out with some wool. There is a multitude of different kinds of wool but to start spinning, if you can get a roving of a nice long staple wool (for go the carding at first) so you can concentrate on spinning. I've been spinning for several years off and on and it just takes time and practice to figure out how much tension to put on the bobbin, how much wool to feed out, etc and depends on how thick you want your finished yarn. The best book to use is the Hands on Spinning by Lee Raven to start. It has lots of information, it's pretty easy to read and understand and has great pictures. It's very rewarding, have been spinning wool/mohair mix to use for knitted felted hats that I sell. I would wait to spin mohair, angora, cotton until you have spun at least one roving of wool. I still have my first hat I made, it's a hoot.

The book starts with a hook spindle and progresses on to the hand spindle and then on to the wheel. It tells you how to card and what all those funny words mean, roving, sliver, carding, worsted, s twist, z twist, etc. and has some directions for projects. I haven't look at the book for a while until now and I discovered I need to review some things.

It's really hard to find a guild around this area. I'd love to be in contact with spinners and weavers via e-mail or in person.

Good luck.

-- Betsy K (betsyk@pathwaynet.com), December 14, 2000.

Thanks for the great advice! The Hands on Spinning book sounds like the one I need. The one I got at the library is Spindle Spinning by Connie Delaney. She gives alot of good info, but I would like to see more pictures.

I live about an hour northeast of Cinti., Ohio. Would you recommend any certain online suppliers of fiber to get some roving from? What do you consider a reasonable price? Also Sheepish said to spin 12 bobbins full to get started. How much roving would that require?

I sure do have alot of questions and appreciate your answers! Thanks!

-- Denise (jphammock@msn.com), December 14, 2000.

Denise, I spin 12 bobbins before I start skeining. That's all. You can start with any quantity you need. Sorry if I was rambling and not too clear. I made a potholder out of a very small amount of yarn that I spun at the beginning...maybe one bobbin at the most (.5 plied)

I also didn't mention that I now use a spinning wheel(s) but started out learning to spin with a drop spindle, and I plied by using the spindle too. (Just twist opposite your original spinning twist. To ply, throw one single over each shoulder, and hold your spindle in front of you and spin the two singles together. I found it helped to put the singles yarn into balls and throw the balls into boxes behind me to keep them from getting tangled up over my shoulders.)

Hope that's more clear.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), December 14, 2000.

btw, I took lessons from two different people, and got very discouraged the first time, and less so the second. My second teacher was a wonderful Irish woman with a lot of patience and a good sense of humor. It really is just like learning to ride a bike. It seems to take forever, but once you DO get it, it sticks with you. All I can say is keep trying! Don't be too hard on yourself. My biggest frustration was that the yarn seemed to be getting away from me! The wheel kept sucking it in before I could do anything with it (at least it seemed that way.) Starting with a spindle is a good idea. To wind it and still keep tension on it, do a butterfly "wrap" around your thumb and little finger (in a figure 8.) This will keep tension on the yarn while you wind it on.

If you want to email me, I will do my best to help. I don't think I'm being too clear!!! Also a good video will really help show you. Check your library or find a list of Victoria Productions (I think that's the name...they have a lot of fiber arts videos.)

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), December 14, 2000.

Check around and see if you can find a local person to buy a roving from, maybe a yarn shop or check at the feed mill. If the folks that run yours are like around here, they know who has sheep and probably who has wool ready to buy. I suggested a roving since it's ready to go and you won't have to wash, dry and card before you can spin and its a lot easier to spin than some your card yourself. Wool comes in a variety of lengths and fineness. Merino wool is very fine and soft, Dorset is a little coarser and shorter than Merino, Karakul is very coarse and long staple, Ramboillet is suppose to be really good. Those are about the ranges of wool available, each spinner has their own favorite in wool. The price of the roving will be a bit higher than buying a fleece, but your ready to go. It will depend on the quality of the wool, whether it is dyed or not and how much the person has on hand.

I have five or six bobbins. You need at least three to start since you spin two bobbins full and then ply them together on the wheel. I like to spin two bobbins then ply, set the twist and dry then wind into balls just because I get bored with spinning and it gives me a break. Each person has their own level of tolerance for doing the same thing for extended length of time. Spinning gives you lots of time to think and is a very relaxing job. I have that spindle around here some place, if I can find it I'd send it on to you, I certainly couldn't get it to work, just a clutz I guess. We also have a wool processing mill in Frankenmuth, MI that I think sells rovings. I'll see if I can find some info around here. You can take your wool there and they wash, card, and put into roving or bats, for a price of course. It's kinda hard to get the lanolin out of a fleece, has to be SIMMERED in water (temperature is important) with a strong soap, I use Dawn dish soap. Some people spin IN THE GREASE or without washing, never been my choice since I don't care for the smell of lanolin, especially if it's been stored for a time.

Tried my first dying of wool yesterday actually. Used Koolaid trying to get a bright red for a hat for daughter. It didn't work, got a redish peach, so used Rit Dye. I know it's not natural but I need the hat by Christmas and I haven't found a natural dye for bright red.

If you watch next summer there are fiber festivals all over the country. This is a great place to get rovings either dyed or not. Your near Kirkland, they had a fiber festival in late May, I went, wasn't very good though. The largest fiber show, sale, etc. is the first weekend in May in Maryland, been there, it's great. Will find more info if you like. Got to do chores now, I'm running late today, will get back to the forum with info. Have a good day.

-- Betsy K (betsyk@pathwaynet.com), December 15, 2000.

I'm pretty much in the same boat that you are Denise. I just ordered a drop spindle from another Countryside forum member and he has offered to try to teach me via email, but I get the feeling that this is one of those things that goes better if you see it in person. Oh well, I've taught myself several other crafts from books, so we'll see how it goes. :-)

For those of you who already spin, could you recommend some good websites? Are there any discussion groups on egroups that don't mind newbie questions?

Betsy, I'd really like some more info about the place in Frankenmuth, if you don't mind. My family lives about an hour away from there (Imlay City, MI) and I am going to be back home for the holidays so I may just have to make a trip there. Although on second thought, I bet that Frankenmuth around Christmas time is a real madhouse...maybe I'll wait until spring! :-)

Thanks, Sherri in IN

-- Sherri C (CeltiaSkye@aol.com), December 15, 2000.

Find a long haired dog, brush with a wire dog brush, presto instant fiber ready to spin.

-- kathy h (ckhart55@eartlink.net), December 16, 2000.

Sorry it took so long to find the info you requested, it's up to 35 here to day and all the equipment will run so been busy getting all those things done before we get back to the freezing weather.

The company I'm thinking of in Frankenmuth is called Zeilinger Wool Co. The web site is: www.zwool.com. This should give you all the info you need. Frankenmuth just before Christmas probably will be really busy but could be worth it if you find some wool to spin. I have several sites for spinning marked in my favorites and I'm not sure of the address of the sites, sorry. I just put in spinning and found lots. I'm going to post this to the original questions too in case the other folks want to know. Good luck!

-- Betsy K (betsyk@pathwaynet.com), December 16, 2000.

Kathy, I don't have any dogs, but I've often joked that my cat sheds enough to make two more cats out of the fur! :-) Sherri in IN

-- Sherri C (CeltiaSkye@aol.com), December 18, 2000.

Delighted to see spinning being discussed! I bought a kit, with roving and drop spindle this past summer. A book on spindle spinning was included. I played with the wool, seeing what I could come up with and have been busy with it, on and off, since. The book said that it takes about three days of practice to get the hang of it and I found that right on the mark. When I started getting frustrated during the learning process, I quit for a while and did something else, then went back to it when I was more calm. I love my drop spindle! I hope to get several more soon - or better, talk Wynn into making a half dozen more for me.

First efforts at spinning were way too tightly twisted so watch that. Before winding the yarn on to the spindle, give it some slack and see if it tightly wraps around itself. If that happens, remove some twist by reversing the way you spun the spindle. You should aim for a gentle, easy twisting of the yarn on itself, not a kinky, spiky twist. This is very hard to explain with words only, but once you see how your newly spun yarn twists, I think you will instantly understand what I mean. And plying does indeed hide a whole world of imperfections in the spinning. Sooooo, go for it! And have fun!

-- Carol Mora (carollm@rockbridge.net), December 21, 2000.

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