I am thinking about going to the dark side and learning how to spin. Any input and/or advice you might have would be most appreciated.
Do it. But beware: The term spinster (for an unmarried woman) is derived from the story of women far too taken with the art of spinning to find themselves suitable husbands. Perhaps it is a practice that should only be persued when one is happily afianced. LOL. I do it, I love it, but now in addition to the collection of yarns, needles, knitting machines, blocking tables, I have a drum carder, a spinning wheel, and a cabinet of fleeces...all cleaned and packed with bars of Irish spring to keep away moths: My flat smells like a freshly washed Donegal Rugby team. (dreamy smile). There are a lot of good books: I recommend the Ashford book of spinning, and Spinning Designer Yarns. Of course, the best way is to learn at the knee of a talented spinner.
I'm a novice spinner, too. I started with a drop spindle and recently bought an Ashford Traditional on eBay that I'm learning to use.
I'm generally pretty good at learning on my own, but would have appreciated the guidance of an experienced spinner. I'm still not confident that I'm putting enough or too much twist in the singles.
I have two drop spindles, including one that I made from a CD which turned out to be a great learning tool because it spins longer, so you can take some time to draft before you need to give it another spin.
DONT DO IT!!! YOU"LL NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE AGAIN!!!
ok, now that I have warned you, first think about how much $ you want to throw down to start - keeping in mind that once you find that you love it you'll eventually end up throwing down a lot more.
I started with a turkish spindle I made out of clay and a few globs of roving. Then I moved onto drop spindles and started harassing my friends with livestock to save me fleece.
Now I am funneling every spare dollar I have away to save up for a big-boy wheel. I was planning to get one of the PVC wheels from babes fiber garden, but I am thinking I should just admit that I have a problem and get a wooden wheel.
If you are handy, there is a really neat book out that shows how to make one from an old bicycle. or from an old treadle swing machine.
I am not handy, so i took it back to the library.
If you want to get really hardcore there is a six year program out of canada you can try. You take classes 1 week each year, the rest of the year you work at home.
I plan to do that once I finish my "real" degree.
Please remember: I have a collection of needles and a history of violence
I LOVE LOVE LOVE spinning. I learned to spin so I could afford to keep myself in good wool yarn. My great good friend Katharine Cobey writes on her website "Before Peg Fike taught me to spin, I was sure that it was too hard, that it was necessary to look exactly like a fairy godmother to qualify, and that spinning would take too much time away from knitting. That was when I was forty-six. Now at sixty-three, I know that my students learn the basics of spinning in three lessons, that I still look like myself, and that spinning my own yarns has liberated my knitting."
That's exactly how I feel. I don't look like a fairy godmother, and it has definitely liberated my knitting.
I spin on a Louet, the same one I've had for almost 20 years.
Jonathan in DC
Think less, enjoy it more.
We have a wonderful woolen mill where one can buy a variety of wheels, including taking some used wheels there on consignment out for a spin. I tried some wheels made from the PVC kits; I highly recommend NOT wasting your money. Yes, with careful planning and jury-rigging they will work, but get yourself a base ashford or louet, and enjoy for the rest of your life. I prefer the double belt drive myself. I did a great deal of production work on a "danish modern" 1962 louet transverse double-belt drive at college (UW:River Falls) I LOVED that wheel, especially since it would break down and set up in seconds, and looked so very plain, like a piece of furniture. Such a wheel would probably sell used today for about $100 and I would buy it in a snap.
Drop spindles are easy to make, but very inexpensive to buy. I recommend the latter.
Spinning is so incredibly addictive. There's a hypnotic attraction to it, like a meditative thing, the same reason why some people love to knit nothing but scarves, but its more than that. You get to make exactly the yarn you want to make without having to settle, but that's still not the whole reason. There's just an amazing sense of accomplishment when you've spun and knitted your own item. And while most people use processed wool roving, driving out to a farm, meeting a sheep, buying its fleece, sorting it, cleaning it, dyeing it, carding it, spinning it, and knitting it up, while INSANELY time intensive, brings such an unparalleled feeling of accomplishment since you've made that item as much from scratch as you could possibly have without actually owning the animal who made the fiber. No non spinner will get it, not even fellow knitters, its not something you get until you do it.
Cd spindles are great, they spin forever, and are pretty well balanced and hard to screw up when making, just don't use a giant cup hook. Either look for the smallest cup hook you can or get a small (.75 or 1 inch) eye hook and open it with roundnose pliers. I know that interweave has cd spindle plans on their site.
Nothing though beats a well made, hand turned spindle, even if you're paying $30-40 easy for an ounce or two of wood.
Spindling in public garners alot of stares and attention, far more than knitting in public, and even though spindling takes forever compared to the wheel, if you spindle everytime you walk somewhere, yarn starts accumulating in your stash pretty quickly.
If you spindle in public enough you're sure to meet at least one south american person... bolivian, peruvian, ecuadorian, guatemalan... who will recognize what you're doing, and not just as something that his/her grandmother did but something that his/her grandfather did too.
For books, check out the alden amos big book of hand spinning, most spinners dislike it as a beginner book because it throws so much at you but well, its a man's spinning book.
My advice, would be to start with something simple, with a decent amount of crimp, like coopworth. The fiber grabs onto itself, making things much easier when you're getting started. But, don't go for the *really* cheap-o stuff - I started trying to learn on some rough wool, and it put me off spinning for a while because it was difficult to draft and didn't make nice yarn. Stuff like Bombyx silk or angora is wonderful to spin, but can be challenging if you're just starting out.
If you can beg, borrow, or buy one, a *good* spindle makes a huge difference. The balance of the spindle, and the shaping of the hook, is very subtle, and a lot of the least expensive versions will make it harder for you to spin smoothly. Lots of people who get really into it, will have several, or even dozens, and might be willing to loan you one. If you have the opportunity, try a few different ones; differences like top-whorl and bottom-whorl can be strong personal preferences, and you'll find some that you just don't like for no reason. Same with wheels - if you have the opportunity to test-drive a few wheels before getting one, you'll probably be happier.