How to Spin: From Choosing a Spinning Wheel to Making Yarn by Beth Smith

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How to Spin: From Choosing a Spinning Wheel to Making Yarn
By Beth Smith
How to Spin: From Choosing a Spinning Wheel to Making Yarn

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Take the Spinning Plunge
CHAPTER ONE: Spinning in a Nutshell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Tying on a Leader • Treadling • Drafting
CHAPTER TWO: Wheels and How They Work. . . . . . . . . . . 14
Spinning Wheel Parts • Types of Wheels • Drive Systems •
Tension and Tension Adjustments • Spinning Wheel Maintenance
CHAPTER THREE: Fiber Preparations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Carded Preparations • Combed Preparations • Short Fiber
Preparations
CHAPTER FOUR: Drafting Methods. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Woolen Versus Worsted • Short Forward Draw • Short Backward
Draw • Supported Long Draw • Long Draw • Spinning from
the Fold
CHAPTER FIVE: Perfecting Your Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Joining New Fiber • A Matter of Twist • Tricks for Improving
Consistency
CHAPTER SIX: Plying . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Lazy Kates • Choosing the Right Whorl for Plying • Choosing the
Number of Plies • Rewinding Bobbins • Holding Singles for Plying •
Plying from a Single Bobbin • Plying From Both Ends of the Same
Strand • A Matter of Balance • Winding Off • Measuring the
Length of a Skein
CHAPTER SEVEN: The End Is in Sight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
Finishing Techniques • Drying Your Finished Yarn • The
Importance of Samples
Glossary of Spinning Terms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122

Introduction:
Spinning can be relaxing and satisfying, once you learn, of course. It’s a simple process, really. Take a bit of fiber, add twist to it, and voilà — yarn! But that simple thing can be quite difficult as you learn to get your mind and body to work in harmony.

I learned to spin out of curiosity — I simply wanted to know where yarn comes from. I’ve been interested in textile work all my life, but never really thought about how the yarn or threads I used came to be. The day I finally I asked myself where yarn came from, I started doing some research. That research led me to learn to spin.

Like many new spinners, I began with a spindle, and it wasn’t long before I was able to make an irregular yarn that could be wound onto the spindle shaft. Because my yarn didn’t improve with practice, I assumed that my equipment must be bad. I decided that a spinning wheel must be necessary to spin smooth, even yarn, which, of course, isn’t true. Not knowing any better, the first wheel I chose wasn’t in working condition and needed a few parts.

At this point, I got smart and looked for some local help. I got my wheel fixed, bought an entire raw Shetland fleece, and got to work ruining all of the fiber. I’m not saying this wasn’t a learning experience that produced plenty of skeins of yarn, but the methods I used to wash and prepare it for spinning were not the best choices for the fleece. That said, I would never discourage anyone from just going for it like I did. No money or time was wasted — I’m better for the experience, and that sheep grew a new fleece for the next shearing! I learned a lot, and through my story I can help others make faster progress. Throughout the book, I talk a lot about sampling and trying things out — it’s the best way I know to improve skill and confidence. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Make adjustments to your wheel by increasing and decreasing tension, changing whorls, and tightening and loosening drive bands. Try different brake-band and drive-band materials to see how they affect the yarn you spin. Also, as you improve as a spinner, keep records and samples of your progress. They will serve as recipes for yarns that you may want to re-create later.

Above all, be patient. Spinning takes time to learn and a lot more time to master. In my experience as a teacher, new spinners need to practice at least 15 minutes every day for two weeks to feel comfortable. But don’t force it. Stop when you begin to feel frustrated. If you start each practice session fresh, you’ll progress more rapidly.

Once you feel comfortable spinning and can sit at your wheel with confidence, I encourage you to make as many different kinds of yarn as you can — thick yarns, thin yarns, textured yarns, and smooth yarns. Practice them all regularly so you don’t get caught in the rut of only being able to spin one type of yarn. Don’t be afraid to play at your wheel. Playing is not a waste of fiber. On the contrary, it’s an extension of your education and well worth the investment. And, please, knit, weave, or crochet sample swatches out of your yarn! It’s the only way you’ll learn how different yarns behave in different fabrics.

Many feel isolated in the craft. If you feel this way, take heart — with just a little research, you’ll find online communities and you may well find other spinners in your area. Facebook and Ravelry.com are great places to meet online friends. If you’re looking for a more up-close and personal experience, join a spinning group or start one of your own. Online searches are a great way to find spinners in your area. Look for spinning or knitting or weaving guilds by searching for them along with surrounding city names. If you want to start your own group, include spinners of all levels. You’ll hone your skills by helping the less experienced, and you’ll advance your skills by observing and learning from the more experienced.


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