Learning to Spin

99153616_2713637718895488_4027873102451965952_nI bought this Ashford spinning wheel second hand via Facebook Marketplace. I found it surprising light in weight for a wheel as I thought it would be quite heavy.  I bought it last summer and thought that the Guild might reopen for meetings, but that never happened.  The lady who I purchased it from never used it, but she had good intentions.  She bought it second hand and it just sat in her living room, so her hubs gave her an ultimatum.  This wheel is from the 80’s and as you can see, it has been used.  The hubs and I took it apart and gave it a good clean and service.  You can download instructions from the Ashford website.  It used to clack on the treadle, but it is oh so quiet now.  The wheel also came with a lazy Kate and three bobbins and some spare parts.  I ordered an extra bobbin (I might need to order another one).  As is usual for me, I also have some books on spinning and had watched many videos.  I even joined a spinning group on Facebook.  However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the hang of it, so my wheel just sat in the living room (which was already over crowded).  Not having someone to show me was really frustrating as I couldn’t work out if it was the wheel, or if it was me, or both.  This is my first attempt on the wheel with some Corriedale or Shetland I got in a mixed bag.

IMG_0724This is a single, and quite chunky.  

So, the wheel just sat in the living room, reminding me every day that I would either have to learn how to spin on it or sell it.  You can’t do everything, right?  Then recently my friend Anna from the Guild contacted me via FB and it was like the Universe was in alignment.  In exchange for teaching me how to spin, I was going to help her dye some wool and yarn.  We were going to finally find out if there was anything wrong with my wheel.  There wasn’t.

After dyeing the wool, we had a look at the wheel and I gave her some more of the gold roving I had used for my previous spinning.  Anna showed me how to draft it for spinning and then just got to it.

IMG_0723As you can see, there is nothing wrong with her spinning.  It is nice and thin, and not twisty. Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with my wheel either.  I apparently didn’t have enough tension on it.  You can watch as many videos as you like, but I think having someone to show you is the best way.  It is like driving a car.  So, I took over the wheel and to be fair, I wasn’t getting the hang of spinning from the roving.  Anna thought it might be easier spinning from a batt or rolags, so we made a batt of the gold roving and combined it with the batt that she had made from the mixed breeds I gave her at one of the guild meetings.

IMG_6805I had re-carded the batt as I was going to use it for a felting project (re-carded on the right), but we used it for spinning.  We made rolags (I forgot to take photos) and Anna showed me how to spin from them.  I found spinning from the rolag a lot easier than from the roving and it got my confidence up as I was slowly getting into a rhythm with the treadle and pulling the wool.

In the photo on the left is what I managed to spin before my hand got too tired.  I then finished spinning the rest of the rolags the following day.  It is still very twisty, but not as thick as my first attempt.  As I still had some batt left over, I decided to add some blue Corriedale that I got in a mixed bag.

AFZO0943Here are the rolags I made.  It is a bit tricky pulling rolags off of the drum carder compared to the blending board as the drum likes to move while the board is static.

IMG_0759And this is what I spun from all of those rolags.  I am quite pleased with how it turned out considering I only learned how to do this last week!  It still isn’t as thin or consistent as Anna’s, but one can’t expect miracles overnight, and like everything it does take practice.  I have some very thin bits and some thicker bits, but it is still thin compared to my first bout of spinning.  I am not going to sugar coat this and say it went swimmingly.  I did have issues with tension and the wool breaking off and trying to join it again.  I also had issues with pulling the wool from the rolags.  I think the batt may have been over carded and I ended up with a lot of very short fibers that also may have been a bit tangled, so I struggled sometimes getting a nice consistent pull, while other times it seemed to be going really well then I would get into a snag.  I shall probably need to practice making rolags too!  Now I just need to ply everything and then we can start again!

6 thoughts on “Learning to Spin

  1. Arlene, you’re moving ahead by leaps and bounds. I went to my very first session of learning to use my spinning wheel on Wednesday and unfortunately my wheel has a part missing now that I have to chase down. So I learned the proper way to spin on the drop spindle which was a blast as the way I had been taught previously never worked for me. I then learned to use the Navajo drop spinner and just loved every second of it. I do know now I will be buying a Navajo spinner and eventually a new double treadle spinning wheel when I find one I can afford. I like the idea of spinning from rolags! Keep up your good work!

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    1. Thanks Carol. Sorry to hear about your wheel. Hopefully you can get the part you need. One of the ladies in the guild gave me a quick lesson on a spindle, but it does hurt my arm and I can’t hold it too long, so learning on the wheel is a blessing, even though I can get other pain! Little and often is the way to go.


    1. Thank you! I think I am good at following instruction. Plus I can be tenacious when learning something new. I guess that is how my brain works. The goal is to make something nice enough to knit with. 🙂


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