I haven’t really done much spinning in a while (not that that fact has slowed down my fiber purchasing). I still greatly enjoy it, but I tend to get into a kind of endurance test with myself, where I’ll spin for an hour, realize my shoulder is starting to bother me or my back is starting to spasm, so I’ll sit for a bit. I’m usually back on my feet within a minute because I can get more done that way – I’d rather wind on 7 or 8 feet of singles than 3 or 4. Then I’ll keep going until I get to a stopping point or I get frustrated because I’m spinning too fine and dropping constantly. Plus, I’m moving around more when I spin, so I get warm and occasionally a bit sweaty.
I still enjoy it, even though I’m not really especially good at it. My first whole skein of handspun it more like twine, and no amount of soaking or shocking or thwacking is going to make it pleasant to work with. It’s disappointing, but live and learn, right?
I finished another skein of handspun, the 2 ounces of alpaca silk fiber I bought at the Carolina FiberFest. I have been working on it in spurts: I got most of the first half done in Indiana, then I had to order another Turkish spindle after the paddle-style one I had broke its tail and proved to be nearly impossible to remove from its cop. I kept moving the project bag around, intending to work on it but never really getting around to it, and then a couple weeks ago I just decided to power through it.
I ended up with 330ish yards of a 2 ply laceweight, which after some soaking and thwacking, ended up being incredibly soft and lovely to work with. I balled it up almost immediately and cast on for a lace scarf, because Danie of the Prairie Girls suggested that you should knit with your handspun sooner rather than later – the more you spin, the less impressed you will be with your earlier efforts. I’m definitely still in the honeymoon phase with this yarn. It’s light-years ahead of my first full skein, which is overspun to the point of being appropriate to truss up a turkey.
I doubt that this had anything to do with my skills. I think it would be very difficult to overtwist this particular fiber blend, and alpaca is known for its softness. It’s kind of like making an awesome meal or dessert from a recipe. I did put in the manual labor but I can’t claim a huge amount of credit. I think I’m more proud of myself for having followed through and finished at all. (Plus, I’m trying to keep my expectations low, because I’ve started on a braid of BFL using a new-to-me technique: plying on-the-fly.)
The thing is, I don’t really have much spinning skill. I learned from videos and books, and I still somehow can’t figure out the mechanics of a wheel. I hear people talk about worsted and woollen and long and short draws and different types of fiber prep, and while I understand the concepts in an abstract way, I still can’t put them into practice (and I can’t entirely keep all the terminology straight). If you’ve ever been a nursing student with a strong ICU/CV background trying to muddle through a L&D course, you know what I mean.
What I need to do is knuckle down and attend a class. Thing is, I’m not really a class-taking person. I am primarily an internet-taught knitter. Technically, I learned the backwards-loop caston and the basic knit stitch from my mom many years ago, but I didn’t really do anything with it until I made some innocuous comment about knitting rectangles on a Fark thread a few years ago. This sparked the fire that became my obsession, and I sometimes wonder if we lived in a time when everything you’d ever need to know wasn’t a few keystrokes away, what would I be doing with my time?
It’s hard for me to get the full experience out of a class, because I am simultaneously afraid of being the slow student who monopolizes the teacher’s time and still just doesn’t get it, or getting it so quickly and being so far ahead that I feel like I wasted my money. (Yes, my miserable self-esteem is complemented by a bizarre level of hubris. It’s like a delicious peanut-butter-and-gravy sandwich.) I also sometimes require a different perspective, which is why I may have passed algebra I on the first try if I’d been able to learn it from Youtube. I didn’t get chain plying until I’d seen four different videos (with four very distinct levels of skill in videography).
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need some kind of face-to-face instruction if I’m going to progress as a spinner. Even though I don’t have a wheel, or any place for one in my budget, I feel like knowing how to use one would be a good skill to have in my wheelhouse. (Ha.) Also, I think it’d be nice to be able to make yarn sitting down, and be able to go from sheep to skein inside of a week. I’d also like to learn about drafting, and how to do it consistently and intentionally.
It would seem that I’m in luck, as SAFF is only three months away. They offer a number of spinning classes, so my biggest issue will be choosing whether to take a class specifically to learn the wheel, or one specifically for drafting. (I doubt I could take both, since my husband will be with me, and while he could entertain himself for a few hours, I doubt he’d be thrilled with hanging around a fiber festival alone for two classes’ worth of time.)
My second biggest issue will be that I can’t seem to save my allowance, because I keep ordering off Etsy. But a fiber-stuffed mailbox is a happy mailbox, right? And you do not want to make the USPS angry.