Ravellings

“And that’s why we call it a drop spindle…”

I’m a sucker for pretty things, especially pretty useful things. (Bet you couldn’t tell that from the shop.) Spinning, now, spinning has lots of pretty things. Beautiful handmade spindles! Sparkly batts! So for a while I’ve been thinking about getting a few spindles etc into the shop; but I don’t like to sell anything I don’t know how to use. Well, naturally that meant I had to learn how to spin.
Claire of Sublime Spindles heard me muttering something to this effect, and very kindly sent me a beginner’s spindle to try out. Mel even more kindly volunteered to show me how, and even brought me a bit of blue-faced leicester wool to practise with.
So there we were, yesterday afternoon, drafting and twisting, drafting and twisting. And frowning. And maybe swearing a bit. And discovering the full meaning of “drop spindle” (good thing Claire’s tools are so robust!). And you know what else I discovered?
Spinning brings out the worst in me. I don’t like doing things I’m bad at, and obviously, being a complete beginner, I’m bad at it. I’m not saying I am unusually bad for a beginner, I’m sure I can get good with practice, and of course everyone needs practice. But I’m impatient. And I hate feeling clumsy. Spindles are pretty much guaranteed to make you feel clumsy, till you get the hang of them, unless you’re graced with three hands and/or an unnatural degree of co-ordination, neither of which is the case for me.
So it makes me crabby. And that actually strikes me as funny. I can just hear myself saying all those things that make me so frustrated in the mouths of stubborn non-knitters:
“Oh I don’t have the patience to do that.”
“I tried it once but it was too hard.”
“Really, why wouldn’t you just buy yarn/socks/a sweater?”
Funny, right? I am Just Like Them. An instant gratification, shallow, uninterested sort of person. Tch. Whodathunkit.
The thing is, learning to spin is so much harder than learning to knit. With knitting, the basic movements are really simple; it may take a while for them to get comfortable, and automatic, but you can make decent progress even while it feels awkward. With spinning, the important thing is to learn to control those basic movements perfectly. And man, that’s hard. I am not good at perfectionism. My socalled yarn comes out too twisty, or not twisted enough; too fat, too thin, it keeps breaking, then it’s all lumpy… I can see, sort of, where I’m going wrong, but I don’t really want to have to go back all the time and fix it. Feh. See? Hopelessly impatient.
Well, I understand the basic concept now, and I guess that’s good enough to be going on with, so yes, there will soon be spindles in the shop. (Yay!) But I’m not sure spinning will ever compete with knitting as my leisure activity of choice. This is a bit of a bugger, as (a) I really like handspun yarn, and (b) I did splurge – perhaps foolishly – on two really pretty batts that I may never get good enough to actually do anything with. (Then again, I doubt it will be too hard to find someone to take those off my hands.)
No, I’m not giving up yet. Apart from anything else, I’d feel like such a brat if I let myself be put off by the blindingly obvious fact that learning a new skill requires a little effort. And it has occurred to me that spindle practice might be just the thing to do at 4am when my sore leg (sciatica, bleh) wakes me up and demands a little exercise. I’m going to make some yarn, dammit… but I don’t have to like it.

9 thoughts on ““And that’s why we call it a drop spindle…”

  1. How exciting! Have you been trying the park and draft method at all? Also, spinning on a wheel might possibly agree with you more–my friend Mary and I taught a small child to spin recently, and apparently the advice Mary got from a lot of spinners was to let the little girl try the wheel first. anyway, there was a lot of swearing and wasting of wool for me when I started out, but at some point I finally got the feel for it and it suddenly all clicked. My thoughts: 1) try spinning some Romney; BFL is great, too, but Romney was what I learned on and it’s really, really easy to spin. 2) If you haven’t already done this, pre-draft your fiber. I didn’t learn the value of this till relatively recently, but it makes a world of difference unless you’re working with very well-prepped fiber already. 3) So far, I’m finding that batts generally seem to be airier, fluffier, and easier to spin from than commercially prepped roving/top. Maybe if you try a bit of one of your fancy batts you’ll have better luck. What do they look like, and what are they made of?
    4) I’m enamored of Turkish spindles–they’re lovely to look at, and it’s great how they make a centerpull ball at the end, ready for plying. I hope you stock some!
    Oh, and have you seen the really lovely spindles and batts from butterflygirldesigns and zebisisdesigns on Etsy?

  2. 1. Yes to park and draft, most definitely.
    2. Also yes to pre-drafting.
    3. I’m pretty sure a wheel would suit me better. But not sure I’m committed enough to this whole spinning thing to seek one out.
    4. I think I’m working from a batt, but Mel did warn me that it wasn’t a great one. Maybe I’ll tackle my next batt soon. (I have another that’s also BFL, I think, but in better condition; and one very fancy bamboo/silky thing.)
    5. Turkish spindles sound cool, can’t quite imagine how they work, but there’s a strong chance I’ll get some in.
    6. Yes to those Etsy sellers. Gorgeous. On the list.

  3. Wheels are most definitely easier for a beginner (IMO). In the US, it seems pretty common that a store that offers lessons will lend you a wheel for the duration of the class. You might want to look into that. Additionally, it seems that most spinners acquire more than one wheel and are often happy to loan a spare to a promising newbie….

  4. Oh man, I suck with a drop spindle! Of course the deal is sort of that I can’t have a wheel until I’m good with the spindle, but I remember being able to spin on a wheel when I was a tender 6 years old. I suspect it is easier to learn the drafting motions when the object you’re attached to isn’t spinning in mid-air!

  5. It is possible that you would be much better at spinning on the wheel, rather than the fiddly spindles!!

  6. Have a drop spindle kit waiting for me to unwrap at Christmas, still looking forward to using it despite this post!
    Also have you thought about Pilates, post baby I would think, as it wonderful for flexing those pesky nerves that cause sciatica. I have been to classes for about a year now and never suffer anymore. Difficult to learn though, so bring bags of patience.

  7. Hm, I’ll think about Pilates. I have no doubt it would be great, but I’m not great at actually getting to classes, especially without benefit of car. So we’ll see.
    Emma, bad lady? Moi? *flutters eyelashes* I don’t know what you mean.

  8. You have completely summed up why I will not even try spinning. I know I will get very annoyed and really I will only want to be knitting anyway. I do like the pretty things associated with spinning but I’ll just take pleasure in other people doing it and stick to the sticks.

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