Thursday, May 24, 2012

spinning with a wheel for the first time

On Tuesday, I took a beginner's spinning wheel class with my friend Christy at the Weaving Works down in the U District in Seattle.  I went into the class with a very basic skillset in drop spindle spinning, which I learned at the Sew Expo back at the beginning of March, and with never having sat at a spinning wheel before.  The slight familiarity I had with fiber and how to draft it was very helpful, but of course none of my other baby spinning skills translated in the slightest.

There were a variety of wheels set up in the class for everyone to use, and the one I ended up using was a Lendrum single-treadle folding wheel, similar to the double-treadle one available at the store now. It was easy enough to use once I had played with it, with a single treadle on the right side and three whorl sizes to choose from to adjust the ratio of the flyer speed to the wheel speed.  For this class (and so far at home) I'm keeping it on the slowest speed possible, as it's already very fast to me!  I had always wondered how you set up a wheel to spin, and it turns out to be quite easy once someone shows you how - the yarn comes out of the orifice (the black tube at the top of the photo above) to join with the fiber you're spinning in your hands, and once it's through the orifice it is attached to the flyer in order to wrap around the bobbin.

By the end of the class I had a bobbin about half-full of beginner yarn - some well turned, some not, some way overtwisted, and some not twisted enough.  My biggest challenge so far appears to be controlling the twist in the fiber - I'm using my right hand close to the wheel to control twist, while my left hand is managing and feeding the fiber to my right.  It's very easy to loose my right hand too much and then get twist in my fiber supply, which means a thicker slub of yarn forming since it's difficult/impossible to break that up once the twist is in it.  I also had trouble at the beginning with too much twist going into my yarn, which actually caused it to kink up and almost bind up the flyer, so that's going to take some time to get used to as well.  I only broke the yarn once, though, so overall I'm pretty pleased with the results for my first attempt.

At the end of class, we were shown how to use a niddy-noddy to pull the yarn off our bobbins, and then the teacher tied off the ends for us.  Apparently I wound onto the niddy-noddy very tightly, and it was difficult to get the skein loose once it had been tied off!  The yarn is only a single strand at this point, and of course when it's allowed to relax then all that twist comes out in curlies and overall twist of the skein.  I think it's kind of pretty, honestly - and it's amazing how much yarn was on the bobbin, and that was only about 2/3 of what I spun that night (my one yarn break was irredeemable and I started over at that point with a new leader).  That's probably the same amount (or possibly more) of yarn that I've spun on my drop spindles over the past few months!

The teacher gave us the option to borrow a wheel for the week between classes for a small deposit, so I took her up on that offer and brought it home along with the bag of fiber she gave to each student.  The fiber we're working with is plain undyed Australian wool mix, which she said is probably primarily Corriedale but is mixed with other things.  I spent a short time last night spinning again, but was having some difficulty and slightly different problems then I did while I was at the class.  First off, I was spinning in my dining room for the light and the wheel was moving on the hardwood floor as I treadled, so I used a silicone potholder to stop it from moving.  My first two sections of roving spun up very easily (and I was a lot more consistent with my yarn size, as you can see in the photo above), but then I started having more trouble controlling the wheel for some reason, with it going too fast for me at times and flipping direction when I didn't want it to.  After about the sixth time that the yarn wisped right out of my hands, I gave up for the night and pulled off the wispy bits and just wound off the edge on the guide hook so that I could just practice treadling a bit.  I'll try again tonight, maybe by moving my little ironing board so I can sit in my sewing room where there are rugs *and* good lighting.

And of course, after the frustration of having issues spinning, two of my dogs decided to be absolute brats one right after the other, which did not help matters.  That was when I cut my losses and headed to bed, as clearly anything additional was not going to be accomplished last night!

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