I’m so random it hurts

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when spinning the cotton candy batt I took many deep breaths, leapt off the deep end and spun and plied it randomly? I said “No, heck no” to being overcontrolling and manipulative with the fibre. I let go. I let it be what it wanted to be. I embraced randomness. I rolled in the vague, I allowed the fibre to drift as fate would have it, becoming only what it dreamed of in it’s secret silky/mohair heart. I let the will of the wheel take it down an unguided path and left room for whatever would happen. Bring on the aimless, indiscriminate colour change, ply against yourself at will. Be whatever your little wild self wants to be. I freed it. I let go and spun in an unscientific and haphazzard way and I vowed to cope with the result. I clasped the wildness and I spun.

I got this.


Stripes. Huh. There may be the tiniest little, wee chance that I am not embracing randomness on a subconscious level.

I cannot be alone in wondering what will happen as the shawl gets larger and the stripes get narrower and narrower. Will it stop striping completely? Will the second ball of yarn not stripe? Will I end up with something only partially organized in a random way? If my randon spinning is organized, what will happen if I try to make organize the random to keep it appearing organized…Will any attempt to organize the forthcoming randomness to make it appear less random than the really random spinning which appears organized in a random way be a good idea? This is starting to hurt a fair bit.

It also makes me wonder about the yarn that I didn’t spin randomly because I wanted to knit stripes…..What was the point of that?

Gina writes in the comments:

So it’s in my mind just lately to learn to spin …how did you know? I need the wise opinion of all you spinners, please. I’m thinking of learning on a drop spindle. I’ll do my homework, get a cd or a video (cuz I’ve never seen it done), buy GOOD stuff to work with, and I’m visiting a fiber fair this fall where I hope to further things along. What do you think?

So what do we say to that? I know there’s a lot of interest in learning to spin out there…if the blogosphere is any measure, Knitters are getting lured by spinning faster than a 16 year old boy can slam his magazine shut when his Mum comes in, and I can’t resist the idea of someone else being drawn into the consuming happiness (please ignore the first part of this post) that is spinning. What is your advice to Gina? Start with a spindle? What fibre? Was there a book you found useful? A person? Lay it on. We’ll enable the daylights out of Gina.

TrickyTricot would like me to pass along the message that Menknit.net is still looking for submissions to their Zine. Hop by Tricky’s blog for details, the MenKnit submission page seems to be down. (I’ve linked to it in case it goes back up.)

Finally, to all the London (and Ontario) knitters I’ll see tomorrow…

I can’t wait. Ken’s giving me a ride and I’ll bring the sock.

86 thoughts on “I’m so random it hurts

  1. By all means, start with a spindle. But buy a well made one. Someone else can help with that. The spindle I have came in a kit from a historic site and is rather clunky (so much so that the round part falls off when I use it). But it gave me the spinning bug and that year my husband bought me a used Louet off Ebay for my birthday. (I do love that man.)

  2. I’m anxiously awaiting all advise you have for Gina because I am in the same situation. I want to learn to spin and a spindle seems the way to begin. Thanks in advance for all the insight.

  3. I’m in the same boat! I’ve eyed a couple courses at yarn stores in TO for learning to spin on a drop spindle… it sounds so fun!
    And unlike my other dreams (learning to make my own clothes and quilts) at least spinning doesn’t really add an extra expense. I mean you’re making yarn, so you don’t really ‘need’ to buy yarn anymore…. right? 🙂

  4. Yes, by all means start with a drop spindle. You will get a great feel for the fiber and how it behaves.
    A nice place to get a good one is http://www.mielkesfarm.com
    They are not cheap. I have two (easier to ply that way) and beautifully made. (I made a very large spindle with a couple of cd’s, a cup hook and a dowel and I ply onto that one.)
    Mielke’s also carries fleece. I have had really good luck with their fleece. I started with wool. Stick to fiber with a medium-to-long staple for starters (Corriedale was what I learned on). Merino is beautifully soft, but the short staple leads to problems (especially if your hands sweat.)
    Spin away Gina!!! Let us know how it’s going. Good luck and have fun with it!

  5. I was fortunate enough to meet up with someone at my local spinners and weavers guild, who showed me how to spin on the drop spindle – as well as giving me the fiber to use for practice. I’m one of those persons (through horrific personal experiences of trying to pass algebra and its word problems four times in my life and failing) that best learns through visual demonstrations. Every time I’ve hit a snag in it, I go see one of the women in the SW guild – which I joined almost immediately. What’s also nice about the guild, they’ve a large library of books and videos, wheels for loan, besides having people willing to meet up over coffee to help you out.

  6. Add me to camp Gina. I got a drop spindle and roving for Christmas last year and it’s been sitting in my “stash” bin ever since I’ve no idea what do to.

  7. BTW, I’m also one of the persons that’s viewed as a skewed version of a luddite because I don’t want a spinning wheel. I love my drop spindles, even after trying several nice wheels, I’m sticking to them – mainly because it’s so relaxing for me.
    I like to think of myself as more Zen about my spinning method: “The self is thus both the reason for the journey and the goal of the journey, both the path and the fruit of the path, both the question and the answer.”

  8. Gina and all:
    I’m a very new spinner, and I am entirely web-taught. I gave my husband the directions on making a spindle with an old CD (which came off the web), and it works beautifully (and it was free!). I found great instructions, fabulous pictures, and detailed videos all over the web — just Google something about learning to spin, or spinning instructions, or spinning videos…you’ll just be overwhelmed. Someday I’d love to have real instruction from someone in person, but for now I’ve done quite well just winging it off the web.
    Shoot, I taught myself to knit off the web, so it seemed logical to me.
    And the Harlot is right — people do give you good fiber to play with (Hi, Greta!) that you would never think to buy for yourself until you “get good at it.”
    It’s really way, way cool to do………

  9. Have you ever considered the possibility that you have a magical Aura of Order around you? It might, of course, only be restricted to fibery things and mr Washie, and not to, say, teenage girls’ rooms. (Just a random example with connections to any actual persons being coincidental.)
    The shawl looks lovely, though a bit, um, stripey. 🙂

  10. Oooh, I’ll have to bookmark this page and read ALL the comments verrrrry carefully – I too, want to SPIN. I just became a groomer for two angora rabbits at our local nature park, and I get to keep the fibers. 🙂 HeeHeeHee…..so I want to SPIN!!!

  11. Knitter’s review just had a tutorial on spinning with a spindle. I don’t do code, but I’m sure you can find it if you google.
    Another one sucked into the vortex?

  12. I love how the shawl looks now, but I understand the fear of it being completely different with a different skein and/or with the longer rows. How about you work with two skeins at once, knit two rows with one than two rows with another. I have never done lace before so I don’t know how easy that would be with the edges etc. Fleece Artist has needles that are designed for that (knitting with the two skeins.
    I haven’t made the plunge into spinning, yet. The idea is in my head and I know I will succumb at some point. It was the MSW festival – all that beautiful roving.

  13. Take lessons from a local yarn spinning/weaving shop as a start. I had tried to learn by reading and visiting the web sites, however I needed to “see” how it was done and than it clicked. The 1st class was on a drop spindle – by the 2nd we moved right into the wheel and I’ve never looked back! I love using the wheel. Find a local shop and take lessons and than decide. Drop spindle spinning is okay but I really prefer to spin on my wheel (basic ashford traditional – double drive)..however I seem to be in the minority about the drop spindle vs wheel- regardless – happy spinning whichever way you choose.

  14. Steph, you made my head hurt with your randomly organized thoughts today. Love the shawl – only you could wind up with stripes after all that reckless abandon!

  15. You know, the former psych researcher inside of me would tell you that it’s really really hard for humans to be random – we are innately programmed to be patterned in our behavior. (I can look up citations if you like – but why bother). Tell folks to generate (on a keyboard) a random long string of numbers – and it’ll be patterned. So while I understand the mindbending ache in your brain – I’m grinning at the stripes.
    They are lovely 🙂

  16. I also prefer spinning on my wheels to on a spindle, but I would wholeheartedly agree with all I’ve read here — get your feet wet with a good spindle and good fiber, preferably at a fiber fair… If you can visit one of the summer fairs, chances are you’ll be overwhelmed with folks anxious to enable you in person, plus you’ll be able to try things out in person to see what works best for you. Without naming names, I can think of several vendors that have given invaluable tips and help with new techniques, often without even the expectation of a resulting sale (‘course, yes, there is the tendency for me to revisit them again and again when I’m in “purchase mode” afterwards…

  17. Don’t know nothing about spinning.
    But randomness… don’t try to control the randomness. Just let it be, and with those colours, even if it does something else later on, it’ll be lovely. And if you try to impose your will on it, you know it will just do something else anyways! The second skein will surely do something… and the different row lengths will surely affect it… but I think it’ll be just fine, easy and interesting if you just knit and see how it goes.
    Have another glass of wine…

  18. I went to the Boston Knit Out last year and saw people spinning there. Some had wheels and others were showing the ropes of how to do it with a drop spindle. About a month later I bought a drop spindle, and about a month after that I got a cat…
    Hrm. I haven’t used the spindle or fleece since, because I don’t want the cat to have another toy while I am trying to learn. I wish I had bought more interesting fleece to work with, brighter colors, softer hand, and in some ways just ignores the problems of a shorter draft. I am just not enthused by my mild brown fleece (I don’t even remember what it is, I bought it too long ago).

  19. Hell no, don’t try to learn on a spindle! Primitive tools require sophisticated techniques. You can always go back and learn them later, but find a wheel — many guilds rent them, and our Institute of Arts class allows you to borrow one for the three weeks of the class. Jeez, life has enough frustrations.
    (And if, God forbid, you actually are determined or forced to do your learning on a drop spindle, stand over a bed or couch. They call them drop for a reason.)

  20. I’ve got the spinning bug. I tried (don’t laugh) to make a drop spindle out of my son’s tinker toys (OK – somebody’s laughing – that’s OK) and that failed miserably. I want to start with a wheel, but can’t bring myself to make the purchase. I know in my heart I need to start on a drop spindle (or do I?). I’m waiting for Rhinebeck to see and make some purchases. I can’t hope I will park next to you again and I don’t want to stalk you. What do you recommend?

  21. It looks beautiful. I love the way the colors are working. I suppose we should have known all that stuff about being free wasn’t completely true. Crazy thing that subconscious.

  22. Learning to Spin on a Budget.
    This might not be the best way, but it certainly taught me alot.
    Living on a budget, makes purchasing more expensive fiber a bit of a challenge. SO, I went down to my LYS, and began to talk to the owner who teaches spinning and knitting. And, being the kind of person who likes to teach herself. She introduced me to a fairly priced Ashford Drop Spindle, and a “Mystery Batt”.
    A mystery Batt for those who are learning are bits and pieces of spinable fiber that for some reason didn’t make it into a bundle of combed and dyed roving. Sometimes it was just plain excluded because what it came from met it’s weight for sales. Then this leftover stuff is recarded and then sold in 1 ounce batts.
    So far the Batts I have spun, have included, Wool of various types, angora, silk, soy, possum, and what feels like a variance of other fibers.
    Mind you each one drafts differntly and spins a little differently. But all in all what you wind up with is something that is wholly unique in texture and color.
    IF you go this route I recommend that when you bring the batt home, you sit somewhere comfortable with a light colored towel. Pull apart, feel, and pre draft your fiber. (It can get a little flat) This will help make you more comfortable with what you have, by seeing how the fiber pulls.
    Whatever you do, don’t go into this with a preconcieved notion that you are going to spin out the ultra lace weight. Accept that your first time will be weak in some spots, wholly slubby in others, and even awkward. Remember that there is no such thing as a BAD yarn.
    There is an unsound yarn, that is either too twisted or not twisted enough. But never a bad yarn.
    Good Luck

  23. Well, I’ll be damned…my oversized tinkertoy on a stick makes me sophisticated. I don’t even have a beautiful spindle–it came with the kit and I really have to be careful that it doesn’t disappear into the toy bin–but I did get the “deluxe” drop spindle kit from an online vendor. Basically, that meant that the spindle came with some really nice roving that was fairly easy to draft, plus the book entitled “Spin It!”…and so…I did 🙂
    There are no lessons nearby, and the closest place to get a wheel is a hell of a drive away. I’m relying on the web and peer pressure for the learning bit. That, and the fact that this is really fun, watching yarn happen.
    The stripes…I’m dying laughing…I was wondering, the first time you posted a pic, if it was my imagination or was this random act of wooliness taking a rather organised turn…
    You *tried* to be random. Uh huh. So did Fibonacci. 😉

  24. Learning to spin …
    There are great tuturials online. FREE videos at http://www.icanspin.com http://www.joyofhandspinning.com and still pictures at http://www.graftonfibers.com
    There’s also a yahoogroup “Spindlers” — they’ve helped launch quite a few new spinners. =)
    And there’s my best advice yet … remember that there is NO right or wrong way to spin. If the spinner likes they yarn they made, and they liked the process they used … than its PERFECT no matter what anyone else says!
    Love the random yarn and not so random stripes! Great combo =)

  25. I’m sure there is something about the chaos theory in all this. Is there really any such thing as random? Can our brains really do random, or is there always a pattern and a reason? Hmmm….
    As I’ve commented before, I don’t spin but I’ve heard that some folks get discouraged when they start on a spindle, but as I’ve read here in the other comments, some people love it. So, maybe the deal is to try a spindle and a few wheels, if it’s possible.

  26. I agree with Rams… forget the spindle and go for the wheel. You’ll be happier. Check local guilds and fiber shops for a weekend workshop. I just took one a couple of months ago and I am now hooked on spinning too. Now, I’m looking for a spinning wheel to come to me, and now I can’t wait for the fall Sheep and Wool Festivals so I can actually THINK about obtaining and entire fleece! If I could only win the lottery just once.
    And thanks Steph, I got sucked into obtaining some Zephyr Wool-Silk to try my hand at lace knitting. I ordered the Lady Slipper Pink – and it came yesterday. It is really lovely and I understand why you tore the house apart looking for it. 🙂

  27. I just started spinning myself, and I’m learning on a drop spindle. I don’t find it difficult. You’re basically just twisting fibers together. I’d recommend having someone show you (or watching a video) and then just trying it out. Probably, your first few tries will be lumpy and bulky, but you can still use that yarn anyway.
    My main advice is to be patient with your spinning, and not expect perfection with your first yarn. Dye it a pretty color with Kool-Aid or buy dyed roving, because it’s more fun that way.
    I’m using an Ashford drop spindle. I think it’s a good spindle to learn on. It cost $6, and I would recommend that over some of the more expensive spindles. Also, splurge on some nice fiber to spin with. Roving isn’t too expensive, and you can get a little bit of merino to play with for $5. It’s way easier to draft than other kinds of wool, so that can be helpful when you’re trying to figure drafting out.
    Also, the website, joyofhandspinning.com is very helpful.

  28. I know a lot of people say that spinning on a wheel is easier than a drop spindle, but I’m sure there are difficulties in wheel-spinning too. The major advantage of a drop spindle is in initial investment. If you hate spinning, at least you haven’t spent $300 on equipment.

  29. Hi Gina,
    I have a drop spindle, and was shown how to use it by the very kind and patient Sheila Bosworth at the JourneyWheel booth at Rhinebeck. I liked the idea of learning on a spindle because the inve$tment was a bit more reasonable to start out.
    I would highly recommend Bosworth spindles (so pretty, so balanced!) and would really try to sit with someone to learn to spin. I would have gone crazy trying to learn from a video!
    But you also have to be patient with yourself, and keep finding spinners to sit with, before Sheila, three people (all good spinners) had tried to show me and I couldn’t get it and felt like a total idiot. Then, voila! It clicked.
    As far as fiber: Buy something you love, not “beginners wool.” You will want to spin it, and be inspired to get better, and love the bumpy, slubby results much more.
    Good luck! Can’t wait to hear how it goes. 🙂

  30. Hmm.. mabye I should get that 3 oz of alpaca fiber out and give it a whirl.. now that I know I was trying to use the spindle upside down!

  31. I spun for a year on my Louet drop spindle before buying my Ashford wheel.My local yarn store owner gave me the best advice and I tell it to my students now…spin every night for 1/2 hour on your spindle for 1 week. The time frame is to get you over the “hump” of frustration, by all means, spin longer once you have overcome the urge to plunge the pointy end in your dear beloved’s neck. By the end of the week, you will have yarn…and if anyone (namely someone you married alllooonnnnggg time ago) looks at the yarn and asks “Is it supposed to look like that???” you have the right…no the duty…to look at them with nothing but pity at their insurmountable ignorance. Then you awnser scornfully, “yeah…it’s called novelty yarn! Geesh! EVERYONE knows that!”

  32. I get the feeling I’m not the only one who is occasionally accused of being “rigid”… LOL. Love your “random” stripes!
    I have a spindle but never really “got” it and I’m jumping right into wheel spinning. So Gina, if you don’t like the spindle, don’t give up!

  33. I’m very much with Rams. Drop the spindle idea, go straight for the wheel. I know my local shop will rent a wheel for $10/month to get started on. I never did get past the frustrations of dropping the drop spindle, but then the only one I tried out was (sorry, cinnamontree) an Ashford. Big, clunky, ridiculously heavy, and impossible to work with. (Maybe Ashford makes smaller ones too now?) But the wheel! It was as addictive as knitting!
    To get the hang of keeping the feet and hands in rhythm, a good thing to do is ply coned yarn, thin as thread. I’ve gotten 90% brown cashmere as cheap as $15/lb in that form, and plied it into a nicely usable knitting yarn. Once you’ve gotten the plying down pat, start spinning fibers. You’ll get some tangled rope at the beginning, but it doesn’t take long to smooth out to what you want. Good luck!

  34. “And unlike my other dreams (learning to make my own clothes and quilts) at least spinning doesn’t really add an extra expense. I mean you’re making yarn, so you don’t really ‘need’ to buy yarn anymore…. right? :)”
    Bwaahahaha! Right.

  35. I want to spin, but I have to say – what you said in that paragraph about being random – it just flat out scared the hell out of me!
    I have a friend who is going to enable me with a spindle, I just need to find a little fiber to fondle/spindle.
    If I like, then I’ll get a wheel. The current threat around my house is if my man buys the Xbox 3, it’s a done deal.

  36. THANK YOU ALL for your incouragement and websites. Now I can’t wait to start and will look forward even more to Rhinebeck this fall! I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

  37. Thankyou for the link to Tricky Tricot! His post about drugs was very moving and insightful. I urge everyone to visit his blog and follow the links.
    I like the stripes on the shawl…reminds me of a sunset.

  38. I’m totally jealous. Why can’t you come to Chicago? We have TONS and TONS of EAGER, MONEY SPENDING, YARN CRAZY, KNITTING-RELATED ANYTHING BUYING peoples here. We have stores and yarn shops and knitting guilds and well, you get the picture. I’m originally from New York so I get big. And there is a big, HUGE even, population of women who knit too much here. So what do you say Stephanie?
    P.S. I sent your book to a guild member who recently had a double masectomy. She loved it. During her recovery her attention span was limited so the format was perfect.

  39. It’s so exciting to have a new spinner in the crowd! If you start with a drop spindle, just get a well-balanced, medium weight one. My favorites are Bosworths but there are many less spendy. If you decide to start out with a wheel, see if you can’t find a good teacher or mentor to guide you along. You’ll feel like you’ve got two left feet & 12 thumbs at first, but it gets better quickly with practice (about 20 min/day for two weeks & you’re pretty comfortable. . . at least that’s what it took me). I’d recommend a Romney or Border Leicester roving for beginner (not merino sliver – too slippery for a newbie). Good luck!

  40. Gina, I hope you check back. What I want to add is “If you want perfectly uniform yarn, buy mill spun”!!!! That’s what my wonderful spinning teacher/mentor/enabler/friend told me. I didn’t have much luck w/ the drop spindle, but at a fiber festival, aforementioned enabler taught me on the wheel I now on- and I had the moment of “Ah ha!” when it clicked that very day. No matter which method, be gentle with yourself and enjoy!!
    BTW Steph- yarn (tee hee- random) and shawl look stunning!

  41. Start with a drop spindle, I like the Emily’s from Mielke’s Farm as they are wonderful to spin on, beautiful, and not too expensive. I started on Coopworth a little over a year ago, but a lot of people like Romney to start too. I also joined the Spindler’s group on Yahoo which is VERY helpful as far as any kind of fibery thing, not just spindle spinning. I asked for a wheel for Christmas and knowing how to draft and spin on the spindle, it was super easy to spin on the wheel. Love the striped shawl Stephanie!

  42. Ok I’m convinced. I gotta learn to spin. I often seem to make my own colours by knitting with 2 different colours at the same time anyways. Spinning sounds more fun.

  43. Random thoughts:
    I don’t like stripes. I saw that sunset-y looking pattern developing and just knew you were in trouble but kept my big mouth shut since you would continue anyhow. Variegated yarn and pointy shawls do not a good mix make.
    I bought a drop spindle off EBay. A handmade, beautiful spindle, with pretty leaves and flowers painted on it. I bought some beautiful cashmere roving. I sit and pet it, since I tried to spin but failed miserably. I will attempt it again, I’m sure. I have a book and have printed out all instructions I’ve found online. I figure if I read them all a few times something will sink in.
    I have finished a lovely baby coat in (horrors!) pure white dk cotton. I finished a stultifyingly boring baby blanket (it’s a little bit short because it was either bind off or suicide). I’ve started my granddaughter’s Christmas gift, which will be a tam and lace scarf set (no mittens since her middle name is “Lost”). I am nearly 2/3 done with my forest shawl. My KSH waits patiently for its turn. I want to learn how to knit in the continental style. I hate birch needles.

  44. Aw gawd. I really didn’t need this. I’ve been resisting since Rhinebeck last year, just by a hair. This’ll do me in. OK, bring on the info.

  45. Wow, this is a great post! I’ve been itching to start spinning myself, but I don’t know anyone else that knits muchless spins . . . I would love to just jump into it and buy a wheel but I think Mr. Hubbers might just jump at my neck!

  46. Wow, this is a great post! I’ve been itching to start spinning myself, but I don’t know anyone else that knits much less spins . . . I would love to just jump into it and buy a wheel but I think Dear Mr. Hubbers might just jump at my neck! (sorry about the post above . . . I mistyped my e-mail address)

  47. I don’t know anything about spinning (yet) so I got nothing for you there.
    As for the stripes, I thought that WAS the yarn that you didn’t spin randomly because you wanted to knit stripes. Who could have seen this coming?

  48. But those are *random* stripes. See? You achieved randomness. Maybe that wool wanted to be striped. Maybe the wool ended up with you precisely because it knew you would help it in it’s persuit of all things stripy.
    (consciously avoids all talk of spinning, as her budget can’t afford one more hobby)

  49. Don’t know nothin bout spinnin, but maybe I’ll get to see some when I visit a friend who spins the end of the month? Uhoh… lol
    As far as the *ahem* random yarn… it’ll be when the shawl gets wider and you add the second skein and it STILL stripes perfectly that you’ll know you have a problem. 😉

  50. I’m loving the striped shawl, but then I’m all about the, dare I say it, pooling/flashing/striping of seemingly random variegated yarns. I’m also very interested in what the border will do against the random stripes. Can’t wait to see.
    I’m a new spinner, spindle style, too. I have a couple of spindles, and my favorite is the one I got off ebay not too long ago. I also have an older and heavier Schaught or something like that. I’m just starting to get lengths of smoothish DK weight in between all the slubs and hollers, which I find most comforting. I noticed that the current issue of Spin-Off has a great pictorial teaching the basics of spindling. I aspire to a wheel, but must work up a certain percentage of stash to make room for one.

  51. I taught myself to spin on a drop spindle. I bought a book with the spindle at a local knitting/spinning store, but ended up finding the instructions I found on several web pages much more helpful. I now own the book “Spin It”, and I think it is a pretty good book. But the internet is almost as good. When choosing a spindle, definitely choose one that is of medium weight. And don’t try to spin yarn that is too thin. It is OK if your first try is bulky weight. In fact, you will probably get less frustrated aiming for bulky weight yarn than you will if you try to make something thinner. I would recommend making your first spindle out of a dowel rod and a toy wagon wheel from the unpainted wood shapes section of your local craft store. I now have a Bosworth spindle that I love, but your first spindle should be something that can get thrown around on the floor without you feeling like you are ruining something that was expensive. If anyone who wants to learn to use a spindle lives in the Boston area, I’d be happy to show you what I know.

  52. I say start with a spindle. It’s cheaper than wheel, if you can’t borrow or rent one, and the skills you learn carry over to wheel spinning. If you decide you don’t like spinning, you haven’t invested a lot of money. I found it easier to learn to spin on a spindle than a wheel but some people are just the opposite. If you’re going to a fiber fair, try both.
    I started with a Grafton Fibers spindle and some bluefaced leicester fiber. Both are still among my favorites. Nannette gave the links I used. I also used the book “Hands on Spinning” by Lee Raven. It’s a small book but covers spindle spinning and wheel spinning.

  53. Well, Jeez Louise, I thought you were using the stuff you purposefully striped. What a funny yarn world it is.

  54. After reading yesterday’s post I went to the one place in St. Louis where I know to get a drop spindle, and was shocked at how inexpensive they were. $6??? So shocked that I was afraid that maybe they were junk and didn’t purchase one. So, not knowing what makes a good spindle, I was very happy to read all the comments today regarding what makes a good spindle. However, I’m just as helpless, since I don’t know what constitutes “medium weight” nor how to tell if a spindle is “well balanced.” Help? Thanks!

  55. I bought a beautiful spindle right before my mom passed away–now things are settling down and I don’t know where to start.. Any good book or website suggestions??
    The shawl is beautiful —

  56. What I hear: if using a drop spindle, start with the tiniest, lightest weight one you can find. It’s supposed to be easier than using a big heavy one.
    I love the way the shawl is coming out. It _is_ random – there’s purple in the green, blue in the pink, light blue in the purple… it’s _subtly_ random. Once it gets wider, the larger color waves will spread out and it won’t be striped, and that will be beautiful too.

  57. Stop obsessing and enjoy the beauty! It’s absolutely gorgeous as it is. Don’t try to control it, let it do what it wants. It’s fabulous and stunning.
    Just my 2 cents.

  58. The hardest part for me in learning to spin was drafting the fibres well. Once I picked up on that (thanks, Steph – you showed fluffy stuff and I realised I had not pre-drafted enough) spinning became really easy!
    I’d recommend learning how to draft and make yarn before getting on to a wheel. A spindle is easily portable. Working out how to treadle, get the tension right and draft is a lot for a beginner. If you know how to draft and make yarn, it is much easier to move to a wheel. IMHO 🙂 I started spindling 10-11 months ago, now I am spinning up so much yarn….
    (Steph, if you really hate the shawl, I love it. 😉

  59. Spinning is zen for me…..
    I “NEED” it now.
    My spinning teacher told me you need to spin a mile until you get any consistency. She was right. In the meantime, embrace the blurby/slubbiness.
    good site?

  60. I can’t take it any longer, I just have to tell you how much I enjoy reading this blog!!! I bought your book as a last minute (and small book junkie) birthday gift for a friend and one for me ,and this is how I got hooked. I look forward to every entry and I am trying to catch up with the archives. I am going Harlot crazy, I make everyone listen to me read the articles. Thank you for your wonderful sense of humor with a unending obsession.

  61. um, honestly, I was kinda hoping for more of a pooling or wavy effect with the shawl, especially since you said you were going to purposely stripe the border. If you do that now, you’ll end up with vertical and diagonal stripes and as much as I’ve loved all the stuff I’ve seen you create thus far and have even taken up socks because of you, and sincerely covet the pretty yarn you’re playing with, I’m just not so sure how this is all gonna work out…

  62. I learned on the wheel first. At first it is like trying to walk, talk, chew gum, pat your tummy and your head all at the same time. Then it “clicks” in your brain.
    If you are going the learn on a spindle route, this is my advise. Most important :if someone is teaching you, ask them if they like spinning on a spindle. The first 4 people to show me didn’t, and nothing worked. Stabbing the instructor with the spindle seemed like a fine option. Last week, someone who loves it showed me, and it is so easy! Second, get a spindle that is balanced. If you are in a store (rather than online) ask them to demo it for you. Watch it go around. It should spin evenly, not wobble back and forth (unbalanced) It should also spin for a decent length of time. If you aren’t sure what “medium” weight means, ask the seller. If they can’t answer, buy from someone else. Everyone recommends Romney to start with. I didn’t care for the feel (it wasn’t a great fleece) I learned with Polwarth from Rovings in Manitoba. 100 grams of fleece will spin a lot when you are learning. Last, go to Stephanie’s page on predrafting and do it.
    Another great suggestion is to check out local guilds. No one is such an enabler as an avid spinner. Also guilds are reasonably priced to join and now you have all those books etc as well as the resource of the people.
    If you want to get more technical with your spinning Olds College in AB has a great week every year at the beginning of July with spinning etc called Fibre Week.
    Barb B.

  63. I hate to eat up YH’s comment space, especially as everyone here has posted excellent resources on drop spindles… however, this was helpful advice to me too… (this excerpt)
    “Drop spindle weight depends on the type of yarn you want to spin� heavy yarn, heavy spindle.
    A drop spindle that weighs more than 4 ounces (the weight of a medium- sized apple) is too heavy for general use. And hold off on the 1/2-ounce drop spindle (with a whole walnut�s amount of gravity) until you have some experience.
    Look for a weight between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces (with the heft of an apricot or a plum).
    Balance is essential. The location of the whorl on the shaft affects the drop spindle�s balance, as does the shape of the whorl itself.”
    You can click on my name to head over to my LJ blog for the rest of the information on drop spindles.

  64. By all means start with a spindle. Something top whorl and not too heavy. Start with a nice fiber, Romney or corridale or a blend but don’t go off the deep end and try silk or mohair roving or even merino, it is too slick for a beginner and a heavier spindle. However a dyed silk bell or hanky stretched out to an even thickness is very easy to spin for a beginner!
    Spinning for me is Zen. It isn’t about the end product it is about the journey. It is about that fiber sliding through your fingers and the rhythm and the zoning out. It is meditation at it’s best once you get the hang of it.

  65. Thanks for all the great advice and encouragement. I just ordered a spindle spinning kit and I have the added bonus of having a very generous knitting pal who has offered to show me which end is up. Knitters and spinners are remarkable folk.

  66. It’s not that I’m surprised at all the comments since my question…I knew you’d offer all kinds of help….it’s just that now I’m thinking I’ll become as obsessed with spinning (once I start) as I am with knitting. (You know Steph – “um, a yarn closet? Where you keep your yarn?”) So thank you all again and again. I REALLY can’t wait now!!

  67. Advice to Gina: pre-draft, go slow, don’t forget to keep spinning in one direction until you ply, then reverse direction, and when you get to the stage of spitting curses and slamming things in anger, put it all down, take a break, and don’t go back to it until you’re calm. If you get your knickers in a knot very quickly, just put it down again.
    No difference if you start on a spindle or on a wheel; the wheel will give you faster results and thus faster satisfaction, but you might find the spindle easier.
    Most important: love the lumpiness. It is precious. Your early efforts will be hard to duplicate once you’ve become proficient.

  68. Karma. That’s what it is… those stripes… and it may not even be YOUR Karma, perse. I wouldn’t take it personally…. but there’s a challenge! I like the pattern and that’s what I noticed first. Would it help to wind the yarn into two balls and alternate which ones you use… If you decide to frog, that is…. or just remember it for next time if the life lesson here is “Full esteem ahead… never look back.”

  69. I am going to agree with Rams too. Start with a wheel- AND, not just any wheel. You’re a knitter. What sort of wool do you like to knit with? Bulky singles ala Lopi? Get a Louet, not an Ashford (unless you can find a country spinner). Want to spin sport weight yarn but with several plies (look at your knitting yarn- it’s almost all three or more plies. This is because three or more plies make a round yarn which make the stitch definition better.) Any Ashford will spin fine to medium yarn. There are multiple basic wheel makers. You might as well learn on a wheel which easily spins the sort of yarn you like to knit. Try to find an unbiased resource person. Go to a fiber festival and try all the wheels then buy a used wheel if you can’t afford a new one- Check out Kathleen Bruce’s housekeeping pages for used wheels: http://homepages.together.net/~kbruce/kbbwheel.html
    If you want to start with a spindle- same thing goes. Heavy ones are for bulkier yarn. Lighter ones are for thinner yarns. What sort of yarn do you want? How many plies? I agree that Jonathan Bosworth makes a lovely spindle but he isn’t the only one. Skip the really cheap spindles- you get what you pay for and $6 will buy you a lot of frustration.
    Either way, it can take a while to get good at it. Have FUN! I’ve been spinning for 17 years- and it’s still addictive.

  70. OT: I finished the Snowdrop Shawl last week and sent it to my cousin as a wedding present. She loves it! I made it in white alpaca, not as thin as laceweight.

  71. Save and label (with date) ALL your beginning skeins, wheel and/or spindle – its a great way to watch your progress and it’s “designer” yarn that most likely you won’t be able to duplicate later!
    I learned and spun on a hand spindle for about a year and just recently invested in a wheel. The great thing about the spindle for me was that it was portable. I got one that fit in my purse and carried a small bag of colored mohair locks and plain wool roving with me. First really small projects were spinning, then plying and re-plying roving and bits of colored mohair into wool bracelets for the little kids who watched me spin while standing in line or riding the subway.

  72. Add me to the list of new spinners. I stopped in at a yarn store about 3 weeks ago to see if they had drop spindles. They did and also were offering a three hour class next weekend and a day long beginners spinning wheel class at the end of August. So needless to say I am spinning away on my spindle, signed up for both classes, and just received the used Ashford wheel I ordered off ebay. My husband is a patient man… My kids think I’m kind of nuts although they are very interesed in the colored rovings that keep coming through the mail. I have an Ashford spindle which is pretty easy. The wheel and I are still kind of eyeing each other.

  73. I read your latest to my chemist husband and he got to thinking about randomness and chaos theory. Actually, we should leave the chaos theory to our 20-yo physics-major knitting daughter, but she’s not here. He was also pondering how randomness appears different at different scales, how at one “magnification” it can really appear random while at another “magnification” it can appear organized. And how the level of randomness in the original fleece can affect the results. Interesting. And I love your branching into the philosophical realm of randomness v. organization.
    Can’t wait to see you at Stash in Berkeley (not San Francisco) on Aug. 2 (I think). I’ll bring MY sock to meet your sock. Maybe we can get a group sock photo.

  74. The drop spindle taught me how to draft- a very good thing-but I could never get the thing to spin. Not good. I now have a wheel and LOVE it. If you are teaching yourself, you would probably want to start with a spindle.

  75. People are always divided about learning on a spindle vs wheel. There is no right answer. But a spindle is a cheaper approach. Many spinning guilds have wheels to loan/rent.
    It is best to have more than one drop spindle. They should be balanced and on the heavier side, like a 1.3 – 1.5 oz and a 1.7 to 2 oz to begin. People usually start making thicker yarn. Too heavy a spindle and you will understand the drop thing 🙂 Too light and it will reverse directions on you all the time. If you have 2 you can experiment. With experience people usually work towards lighter spindles. Spindlers normally own a lot of spindles, because each one will be perfect for some weight/fiber combination. As you get better, you will pick a spindle to match the yarn you want to make (worsted vs lace weight). In the beginning you try to match the spindle to the yarn you are making. It is hard to predict what each spinner will start out with.
    The spindle I learned on had an obvious pattern (ying-yang) on the top. That made it easier to see if the spindle was still spinning (and which way) in my peripheral vision. Therefore, I recommend a spindle top with some patterning, or put a little electrical tape on the top.
    I learned to knit from a book, but failed to learn hand spindle from a video. I think it is easiest to learn from someone, vs video or book. Try posting to find someone near you. You will probably find several takers. Spinners love corrupting the uninitiated 🙂
    Spinning takes hand/eye coordination and it will take time to learn. Even when you intellectually know what to do, your hands will lag, needing experience to catch up. Allow several days to weeks. With that expectation you will not get so frustrated.
    Fiber – no one agree here what is best. But I recommend wool or wool blends. Start with a longer fiber, at least 3″ long. People usually recommend sticky vs slick wools, i.e. how easy does it draft (pull apart). I found the drafting part to be the hardest, so I liked merino combed, which most people would not recommend to a novice. I went very quickly to silk, another item not normally recommended for a beginner. Combed roving will draft easier (slicker) than carded batts. Corriedale, colonial, African, Shetland, Icelandic are all good choices. Only buy fibers that are well prepared. Hand-dyed fibers will help keep your interest. Get a couple ounces of a lot of stuff. Some Internet sources sell samplers. Experiment. Only spin stuff that feels good to your hands. Avoid cotton and really short fibers as a beginner.
    Sorry this is so long. Just cannot resist converting another!

  76. I have followed with interest the comments about learning to hand spin. I am of the opinion that learning to spin on a spindle teaches the spinner more control and makes it easier when graduating to the wheel. This is the way I learned almost 30 years ago.
    In one of the comments, the writer talked about using two spindles to ply the single spun yarn.
    There is an easier way. Try a “Turkish” spindle. It comes in three parts, the staff, and two curved cross pieces which make up the whorl. The yarn is “stored” on the whorl a little differently than on the shaft of a simple drop spindle. It is wound in a criss-cross pattern on the whorl. When the spindle is full, take the spindle apart, carefully removing the two cross pieces to reveal a yarn that can then be plied back onto the same spindle by bringing both ends of the single ply yarn together to begin the double plying (this should always be in the opposite direction to the direction used in spinning the single–known as “S” and “Z”.
    Hope this helps.

  77. For me, learning on a spindle was the only way I could do it. I had to learn to draft and treadle separately. I know other people who got as frustrated on a spindle as I did on a wheel, but who finally put it all together when they finally sat at a wheel. My strategy for teaching is to get some really nicely drafted fiber (or predraft it for the person if no nice fiber is available–so much of what a beginner might encounter is really crap to spin), and start them on a spindle. I start off just having them focus on drafting and letting the spin into the wool, and I keep the spindle spinning for them initially (I never found park and draft to be helpful for me, though I do tell people about it as a footnote). Most people do well that way, and it’s a low investment, portable, etc. Just more practical. Then if they’re struggling with coordinating the spinning of the spindle, I’ll introduce park & draft or, if practical, show them how to spin on a wheel.
    Cool about your stripes. I love it. I wish my random spinning of my Indigo Moon batt had come out like that! I do have some stripes, but yours are just lovely. Any specific randomnesses you’d recommend for my second batt?

  78. Yes–learn to spin. A good spindle is a pleasure, after you get the hang of it. I have a wheel, but my spindles get so much more use because I can take one with me as I follow around my kids thoughout the day.(It’s only minor neglect.) An excellent book to learn from, if you don’t know anyone who spindles, is Connie Delaney’s “Spindle Spinning From Novice to Expert”. In it are instructions for making a cheap but decent spindle, as well as inspiration to make you want a “Hell Yah I Spin” t-shirt. Once you get going, there are so many great spindle makers out there. Steve Kundert made my favorite one. Start with wool roving, if you can. Enjoy!

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