Thursday, May 8, 2008

Spinning - 1, Michele - 0

Yesterday the drop spindle kit I ordered arrived. I was really excited. Though I was good and ate dinner before driving into it.

I got the kit off ebay from an alpaca farmer. I was happy because it came with alpaca fibers. And given my allergies I am not sure what spinning with other fibers might do. So I thought it was a good fit.

The spindle is a top whorl. I thought given the descriptions that a bottom whorl would be better for a beginner. But honestly, I am not sure. I think Kathy from Unique Designs by Kathy in AZ might have said I should try a bottom whorl. Though honestly, like everything involved in fiber, it seems to be largely about preference.

I read the instructions. Though they were pretty limited honestly. Though on the plus side, I had done some reading online before. So I felt prepared. So I started trying. The first few inches looked okay. But that didn't last. It got really thick with a large nub. Then it got even thicker. So I stopped. I untwisted part of it and tried again, and again.

I pulled the leader yarn off the spindle and weighed it. It is 1 3/4 oz. So it is for DK/sport weight yarn. DK/sport is a lot thinner than anything I had done. So I knew I was going in the wrong direction.

I went looking for some videos on YouTube in hopes that they would help. I got part of what I was missing. It requires both hands on the yarn at any time you are drafting it. But then I couldn't get the spindle to spin. I tried sitting so I could 'park' the spindle and work the twist into fiber that way. Again, not so good. *sigh* I just couldn't get the spindle to spin for any length of time when I did that. So it was coming out super chunky with some large nubs.

I was getting frustrated with it. So I decided that was enough for the night. I put it to the side for a bit and decided to watch some tv with my husband. I undid the fibers and tried to get it so the fiber would there to try again. *sigh*

I decided I wanted some ice cream as a reward for my trying. *laugh* So I got out the ice cream. Our freezer is really cold, so getting the ice cream out is something of a challenge. My husband suggested a butter knife to break up what was left. I said I was worried about going through the bottom. So what do I do? I picked up the container and put it onto my left hand and used the knife with my right. I proved myself right and stabbed through the container...and into my hand! *sigh* The butter knife comes to a point so I did break the skin. *shakes head*

My hubby says this counts as a fiber related accident. No, the fiber was not involved. But yes, it did mean I was frustrated and rushing. So I did something stupid.

I think the fiber won this round. I think I may wait til the weekend to try again. I think I might be better when I am not rushing it.


Michelle said...

Hope your hand is doing better. Alpaca is not one of the easier fibers to learn to spin with but I too started out with difficult dog hair.

Here's a little advise on the drop spindle. Try having just a pinch (like a half-inch thick and maybe 4 inches long)of fiber in your supply hand. I'm right handed and found that lightly holding the fiber in my right hand works better, so if you are left-handed try reversing my directions.

Now, with your left hand on the spindle shaft give yourself about 6-8 inch leader(line) off the top of the hook. Take some of the fibers (like 8 to 10 hairs) from the supply hand and overlap the leader(line) by about 2 inches.

Now, to learn a little about releasing the fibers from your right hand... roll the spindle down your left leg with the top of the spindle pointed toward the right. This turns the spindle clockwise and creates a Z twist ply of yarn. Don't release alot of fiber yet, but let the leader grab the overlapping bit of fiber, twisting it around so as to make a good connection then gently pull a little more fiber from your right hand. This is a slow way to spin but once you get the feel for gently holding the fiber in your right hand and gently allow a few hairs to slide onto the leader you should be able to start to drop spindle by rolling the spindle down your left leg and off. Learn to spin slowly at first so that your hands can get the hang of it. Try and keep on trying. You'll get the hang and then ... it's Lots of Fun!

Jamie said...

Ouch! That sounds like something I'd do! (or maybe have done...)

You've gotten some good advice already, but I'll add something too: pre-drafting makes it a little easier to get a thinner yarn. Of course, I'm not entirely sure you can pre-draft on a spindle, but if you can it might help. I like the thick & thin look of handspun, but I know it isn't for everyone.

My first fiber was Romney, and it was very nice to spin. I'm working on some Merino now, which is very different from the Romney, but I'm enjoying it. If you can, try small amounts of different fibers and keep track of what you like. Different fiber lengths appeal to different folks. Of course, then you have to work that around allergies, etc.

Hang in there & remember to laugh. Then have a beer. Or two.