Since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with spinning wheels. It began while being read to, or reading – fairytales, I’m sure. How did they make the gold, the rope?... Also as a child I was always making things with my hands – sewing clothes for my dolls, untangling yarn and rolling it into neat balls, things like that. As I’d play/create, I’d ponder - thread was so thin, how could you possibly spin that? Yarn made sense, but I didn’t understand if I would “unwind” a section, why I couldn’t get it to look like it did before it got unraveled. Then when I was twelve my family visited Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. While there we saw a man spinning. He was demonstrating how thread was made and then woven into fabric. I wanted to do that! I wanted my parents to buy a spinning wheel right then! Didn’t happen.
Over the years I thought about spinning, but for some reason I told myself when I retired I’d look into it. Life happened. Interestingly, shortly after I retired my local yarn shop was offering a deal too good to pass up. It was a one time offer – basically if you wanted to tryout spinning and/or weaving you could buy the equipment at a nicely reduced price. How could I not take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity? I thought for sure I would end up with a traditional style wheel, but since we were beginning to travel I wanted something that I could take with us. So I ended up purchasing what’s referred to as a castle model. It would strap onto one of the car’s seats via the seat belt. Yay! I bought the wheel, in a box – not pre-assembled - to save a little bit on the cost. When the box arrived I’m sure I squealed. I immediately opened the box and laid out all of the pieces. And yes, I read all the instructions. I then waxed all the wood and assembled the wheel. And yes, I did ask my husband, who has helped build and work on several homes, if it was sturdy. He was impressed! I was ready to spin!
I had read a couple of articles on how to spin and watched several You-tube videos. Next I took a deep breath, sat up on my chair, positioned the wheel, grabbed some fiber and “took the position”. I first just worked the treadle, like the reading and videos suggested. Then I became familiar with the fiber and pulled it gently to “draft” it. There seemed to be a sweet spot where the fibers drafted quite easily. I learned later that the staple length of a particular fiber was the knowledge I needed to easily discover the sweet spot when drafting any fiber. Next I made sure the tensions on my wheel were where I hoped the fiber would just twist right onto the bobbin. And I was off. Not! My husband and I laughed pretty hard at my first attempt to spin singles. But, for me it quickly turned into frustration. The reading and the videos spoke of how relaxing and enjoyable spinning was. In one video, a woman was on the end of a pier with her basket of fiber and wheel just spinning to her heart’s content. Why did she make it look so easy? For me at that moment it was like patting my head, rubbing my stomach, and hopping on one foot all at the same time. Why was I struggling? I kept at it, but it wasn’t coming together. I asked the yarn shop owner to give me some pointers. I learned there was going to be a class for those who bought the wheels, but in the mean time she inquired if I had ever spun fiber using a drop spindle? I hadn’t. So I went home and tried that. For some reason that’s what it took for my brain to click. There was no treadle, just the spindle, fiber, gravity, and me. I quickly got the hang of the spindle. Drafting and twist made sense. Now to add the treadle. Have you ever had the experience of learning to drive a manual transmission or use a clutch on a motor bike? It was kind of like that for me. In my head I knew what I should be doing but until my brain and my foot made the connection of that place of tension - in this case the fiber grabbing, twisting, I hadn’t been able to progressively spin. Once that connection was made I was off and spinning and I haven’t looked back. And yes, it is an enjoyable, relaxing, creating experience. I feel like I’m spinning gold at times.