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How I Learned to Spin

My spinning life started roughly around the same time I started visiting the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. The very first time I went with my mother was 1990-something, and we came away with fiber, something called an X-spindle, yarn, and sensory overload. Seriously, we were overwhelmed by what we saw and experienced.

The X-spindle and starting fiber was purchased at the Marr Haven booth, along with an instruction sheet listing the steps to start spinning. We also had a short demonstration in the booth of how it worked. We went home, pulled out the instructions and read them thoroughly, then started experimenting. We also purchased a book with pictures that shows how to start spinning on spindles AND spinning wheels. Wow! Spinning wheels!

So, after quite a few months of spinning on the X-spindle, and dropping it, I acquired a couple other spindles (Hatchtown makes very nice wooden ones). Then after dropping any spindle I was working with too frequently, my father grudgely allowed us to bring spinning wheels into the house to live with us.

My first wheel: the Ashford Elizabeth wheel. I bought it in the plain, unfinished wood, and spent the time sanding and rubbing the wood with mineral oil before I assembled it. At that time, spinning wheels only came with single treadles, and after I had it for a couple years, double-treadles started making an appearance. Call me a crazy traditionalist, but I prefer a single treadle.

I used that poor Elizabeth so much that there was a major amount of chatter and rumble every time I spun on it. I tried oiling where the bobbin might be rubbing. Nope. I oiled where the whorl rubbed and spun. Nope. I oiled everything that could possibly be oiled within reason on the mother-of-all. Nothing stopped it from rumbling. Even replacing the whorl didn't stop it for long.

Next try, another wheel. This time, the Schacht Matchless. Again, a single treadle wheel, and before Schacht offered it as a double-treadle wheel. Wheee!! Multiple whorl speeds, it spins quietly, quickly, and hey, look! Hi-speed whorls and bobbins! Just my thing! The Schacht wheel became my go-to wheel and favorite (sorry Elizabeth) for spinning anything. Literally.

The Elizabeth still has fond memories for me. The first wheel I spun alpaca on, the first wheel that I tried navajo-plying on, the first wheel that I discovered how fine I can spin and that yes, I can spin sock-weight yarn on. I still have all the bobbins and the lazy kate for Elizabeth, but they languish with her under a cloth in the living room.

My Schacht wheel is waiting for me to pick up where I left off with a merino roving, in a blend of colors that spins into an interesting blue shade, with hints of red and maybe a wee bit of purple blended into it. Very pretty. I think it has been at least 2 years since I last spun on it. At least I know I can pull it out, clean the dust off, oil the wheel up, and after a few seconds of handling the yarn and the wool, be spinning away again.

I still spin with spindles. I still have my X-spindle, and it has a navajo-plying project still on it. Merino roving my mother dyed for me in many colors, single-spun on my Golding spindle. So actually, it's a two-spindle project, one for the singles (Golding) and one for the plying straight off the other spindle (X-Spindle).

As for the actual spinning, I am a largely self-taught spinner. First from the directions that came with my X-Spindle, then from that first how-to-spin book, and from various other books and magazine articles I have since read. When I was first attempting the actual spinning, YouTube was in its infancy and there were very few videos available either on tape or DVD. (I think DVDs and CD-ROMs were in their early days too...)

When I compare the how-to-spin information available to anyone today to when I was first learning, I am amazed at how our access to spinning information has changed over the years. Websites with videos, YouTube, DVDs and CDs with step-by-step information, and many many more books available in print than I can imagine. Classes and in-person lessons, not to mention folk schools and seminars or spinning retreats that were only in a few areas are becoming more wide spread today.

And now, a local spinning group, Carroll Spinners. I sat in on their recent meeting on March 1, and I plan on attending every meeting that I can. Yippee! A good reason to spin, and talk with others who like to spin (not to mention talk and laugh and have fun!)! If you have access to Ravelry, you can find us there, as well as information about the next meetings.

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