Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spinning Wool (a very helpful instruction))

Miss Natty Bumppo

 After I got my sheep, I wanted to learn how to spin wool. So I just went ahead and bought the spinning wheel, the kind that you see the most in cartoons, old postcards, and in the back of covered wagons; an Ashford single treadle, which I bought for about $250 on eBay.
Wool goes through a lengthy process before it even sets in your hands ready to spin. A sheep, hopefully has a name like Fluffy, is given a good diet, fresh air and has a cover from the elements to produce good wool. Then once a year, Fluffy is sheared (only traumatic for a few minutes) the fleece is then gently washed a few times. The fleece is dried and combed and carded into roving. Roving is the fleece connected into a long manageable piece of fluffy stuff. So this long piece of wool has many sections gently put together, and your job is to take those sections and spin it into a single twisted line of yarn.
A good example of homespun 2 ply yarn.
You are only fooling yourself if you want to 'self teach' yourself how to spin wool. Observing others spinning magic yarn from fleece is also a mistake; those little biddies make it look so darn easy. I tried for about 3 weeks on my own and after blaming the spinning wheel, I got my husband to problem solve my wheel.  He went through the manual, until he looked at me cross eyed, and said, "I think you need some lessons!" After throwing myself on the bed and crying real tears, I decided to ask a professional how to show me the spinning secrets. One of the first ways you can master spinning is with the use of the ancient 'drop spindle' you can get the knack of drafting and spinning first using this technique.
I will quickly give you the mission...but have already told you how difficult this can be without someone right there to guild you.  
WARNING Don't do this without a box of tissues and a drill Sargent for your therapist.

These are things you can do while you wait for that epiphany.
1. Practice putting your wheel into action without any wool. Get some rhythm.
2. Understand your spinning wheel, because it certainly has a function; it is a wool twisting machine that YOU regulate and have complete control.
3. Go Slow.
4. To thread your bobbin use real wool yarn. I make a double loop to secure the yarn so it won't spin on the bobbin.
Loop and pull yarn through and do this one more time-tighten.
 5. Pull a 1' section of wool from your roving, now take a section and divide that off from the main piece about 1 inch.
6. Pull the yarn from the bobbin through the hole that is facing you. At this time adjust your tension. To do this, start the wheel spinning with your foot while holding the yarn, if it pulls it right out of your hands it is too tight...loosen your strings on the bobbin, and the main wheel. Try again. If it turns with a gentle pull you are set.
7. Attach your roving to the yarn, and start your wheel, until it is attached. Keep spinning a few times.
8. Keep a pinch where you don't want it to spin, and with your other hand, a thumb and fore finger hold, where you draw out your wool. The thought behind this *PINCH (with one hand) and *PULL (on the other hand) and the result is a *TWIST and of course this is going to want to feed onto the bobbin all at the same time.
9. Keep your sessions for about 10 minutes each and go back when your mind has seemed to put it together.
10. This is fun, and it is a skill. Once you have accomplish this, you can amaze you friends and family.
PINCH-have a pinch in the fibers that is hard enough not to twist the fibers but light enough to feed. 
PULL-Drafting is pulling the fibers so they release and then tangle into a ...
TWIST-Adjusted tension and speed of the wheel causes the fibers to twist. Once you have accomplished several nice skeins of yarns you can then be creative with spinning.

I spun this for a special project-to make a basket.
Going to demonstrations is fun.

And I have a good DVD and book to recommend.


  1. I used to love watching the spinning demonstrations at Old Sturbridge Village, other places. When was in camp as a kid, our arts and crafts instructor had a wheel so we could play around with it. You're right, it ain't easy! She also taught us how to dye wool with marigolds, taught us how to throw pottery on an old kick wheel. Miss those days!

  2. Diane, Dye wool with marigolds...that is cool. I must give that a try.
    Yes, creating with your hands using raw materials is somewhat therapeutic and definitely productive.