My trip to the British Wool Show last weekend inspired me to try spinning. I looked up the local branch of the guild of spinners, dyers and weavers and they were nearby (yay!), had a spinning group (brilliant!), actively encouraged complete beginners to come along (perfect!)…. but they meet only on Wednesday mornings…. so just a group for retired people and those without jobs then.
This is a brick wall I repeatedly run into. Any new art or craft activity I become interested in I look up local groups and most of the time there are a few but they only meet during working hours. There is a regular knitting & crochet session just a stone’s throw down the road every Tuesday morning that I’ve never been to and plenty of arty stuff going on around Berkshire but it’s all midday, midweek unless it’s part of a special one off festival and these are often centred around families and art for children.
It makes me very sad. I don’t want to have to wait until I retire to enjoy my creative interests with other people.
I’m really happy to have found the Reading Sketchers group, as the organisers seem to also have regular jobs so meetups are predominantly on weekends, but anything wool related and it seems I’m on my own for now. YouTube will need to be my guide and community. In particular, I’ve been finding the introduction to spinning videos from Abby Franquemont very helpful.
So, I set about making a drop spindle to give spinning a try. Essentially you can spin with anything that resembles a stick – I’ve seen people do great things with just a chunky knitting needle or a chopstick and toy wheel or door knob. I searched all over the house and couldn’t find any ready made round thing that I could use. I did have half a box of resin though so I mixed some up and poured it into makeshift moulds (the pink is a silicone soap mould, the top one is the bottom of a 2l fizzy water bottle and the bottom left is a little plastic container lid. I added various stuff into the resin, partly for interest and partly to bulk up the resin so I didn’t need as much.
I bought a length of dowel from a little hardware shop and I already had a threaded screw hook. The length of dowel was £1.09 and long enough to make 3 or 4 spindles but I also found a tapered chopstick that I thought could be good.
Once the resin had set (24 hours +) I removed the pink one from the mould and cut the plastic on the other two close to the resin (the plastic would sort of come off a bit but not easily so I just decided to leave it – it doesn’t really make any difference)
I then drilled a hole in the centre of each, slightly smaller than the dowel diameter and pushed it on. Because of the tight fit I didn’t need any glue to fix them but I think the thinner one below on the dowel might work loose over time as the resin piece is quite thin so I’ll add some glue in the future.
I ended up with one large top whorl and one smaller bottom whorl spindle as you can see here. These two are pretty much the same weight, around 32g each which is the recommended weight for a beginner spindle so that worked out great :)
The large, flower shaped spindle didn’t work out because the hole I drilled was too large for the dowel but also because it was very heavy – over 50g on it’s own – so I didn’t bother trying to make it into a working spindle.
of the three lots of fluff I got from last weekend’s show I decided to try out spinning using the grey Swaledale, shown below at the bottom packaged into a little bundle.
when unravelled, the air floofs back into it and you end up with quite a large cloud to play with :) This is 100g
I’ve discovered I prefer to spin anticlockwise, contrary to how everyone seems to say they do it, I’m thinking likely due to being left handed. I doubt it matters though – it’s just for me to play with and use anyway. It seems to be going well so far – I’ve mostly been trying park and draft as I’m quite slow at drafting so if I try to draft as it spins then I hardly get started before it’s spinning back the opposite direction. It’s making my back ache quite a lot – I’ll need to look at my posture :) I think I will not try to be too adventurous and will just leave this as a single ply – It’s fairly thick and not wonderfully even but in a charming way (I like to think!)
I’m not sure if I’m putting the correct amount of twist into it – I guess I’ll find out when I try to use it and it either breaks or goes twiddly. I understand that after it’s been spun you then soak it in hot water and do other things to set the twist – I don’t know how much twist can be set this way though, or if that’s even a sensible question.