the spinning wheel, the spinning chairI did a good bit of research prior to such an investment, but was not able to find a local guild or a local store where I could look at wheels and actually give them a try. And I didn’t want to spend the wheel money unless I was really going to take the time to learn and use it. A conundrum.
I am fortunate to live relatively close to the AMAZING Xiane, and she drove out of her way to meet me at coffee shop so that I could watch her spin with her new Ashford wheel. I did a tiny spin on the wheel although I was pretty nervous, but it was exciting! Xiane was generous with the information and her time, and talked to me about the infamous niddy noddies and how to manage and process my yarn. We talked and visited and spun a bit for several hours. I am totally indebted to her for her help! You can see some of her spinning endeavors here, and also look at her other products here.
I also went to the web and etsy for more research, and read every word written by the Blond Chicken at her boutique. Her "local spun" series gave me so much information that I was really more inspired every day. I also checked out her etsy shop, and loved the style and the “feel” of the yarns that I saw there. Her work is exceptional and locally organic - and she had my hands just itching to work a wheel.
And then I found the incomparable Dody. I simply LOVED the style of her yarn (worsted) and the way it looked like it would knit and crochet into anything. Dody and I talked through etsy and the internet, and she gave me some great insight. She is a researcher at heart, so helped me look into more information as I considered what wheel might be right for me. I finally decided on a Fricke S160 DT wheel for my first beginners investment, and we purchased it through etsy (free shipping!).
The Fricke S160 DT, assembled
The wheel arrived about a week after we ordered it, along with a generous package of fibers of many varieties from Artclub. Thank you Thank you Thank you for giving me a start! While we were waiting on the wheel, Mr. Bryant had taken me to the book store for the excellent book by Maggie Casey, “Start Spinning.”
With the help from these dear friends and the information from the book, I was ready to start spinning :) as soon as the wheel was put together.
Here is my very very first wheel spun fiber. I was super excited and mostly just happy that I didn't break anything. Hmmmm.
Thick and thin, first wheel hand-spun
And then I spun some brown and plied it together. Hmmmm.
not quite "art yarn," first plied wheel spun wool
I spun more from the sample fibers I received when I got the wheel – I could barely spin the incredibly silky black merino wool, and I simply LOVED the green alpaca. It felt like heaven in my hands. But I was all “thick and thin,” and “should I pre-draft or is that cheating,” and “how do I regulate this scotch brake,” and “how do I keep a reasonable speed and what does that look like,” and “how thin is right” and “what wheel ratio is right” and so on.
a bowl full of handspun
More internet and etsy chats with Dody, and she sent me some colonial fiber to spin. And then we had a talk. On the phone. For about and hour and a half. Oh my, what I learned. Dody helped me understand how pre-drafting brought air into the fiber, making it light and soft. She explained how to stop relying on the scotch brake to pull the fiber on to the wheel, and how to look at well spun yarn to guage appropriate thickness. She talked to me about the speed of my pedaling and the speed of my drafting. She sent me links from YouTube that demonstrated good worsted drafting technique. She taught me how to wrap my fiber on a nostepinne made from a cardboard paper towel tube. She gave me permission to relax. Serious, this lovely woman simply transformed my experience.
Here is the first fiber I spun after our conversation (colonial wool), wrapped into a center pull ball.
Colonial Wool hand-spun, single ply
Here is my second fiber after our talk, spun and plied. This is Blue Faced Leicester wool, and was honestly a joy to spin. The fibers were long and soft and with all of the coaching that I had by this point I was really having a good time. I think I can actually start to make some things from this yarn!
Bluefaced Leicester hand-spun, 2 plySo I am on my way, and though I wish that I had a guild to learn from, I am amazingly blessed with these wonderful people. I thank Xiane and Tara and Dody for their time, their information, their willingness to share, and their great craft ethic. I thank Artclub for the great wheel and the great deal and the fiber to start with. I thank Maggie Casey for taking the time to share her love of spinning and her simple and clear instructions. And I thank Mr. Bryant, as always, for this life and time together - and for giving up a corner of the living room for spinning. I adore you all, and thank you for these simple gifts.
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.