I know you will all rejoice with me as I accomplished a lifelong goal this past week. No, I did not scale Mount Everest or hike the Appalachian Trail. Neither of those items has ever even gotten close to making my list of things to accomplish before I perish. But I have mentioned to you, my faithful readers on more than one occasion how I hoped to someday spin fleece into yarn and indeed this has happened!
It was a grand experience and also quite a challenge. My instructor has been spinning fiber into yarn for ten years and made everything appear to be a walk in the park. Thatís the deception of a particularly skilled teacher. You become deceived into believing that just because SHE can create beautiful strands of finely would filaments that wrap gently in swales around the bobbin at lightning speeds that it can be accomplished by anyone. Tsk tsk. This temporary delusion evaporated faster than sidewalk chalk after a rain shower and reality settled heavily on my optimistic shoulders.
Everything was going pretty fine in the beginning. See, we started with the raw material. A big hunk of lovely brown fuzz that used to be the brown and grey coat of an alpaca. She laid it out on the skirting table and instructed me in the fine process of judging and choosing a fleece. Then we started carding the fibers which helps position them all flowing in one direction in preparation for the actual spinning process. The carding went pretty well, especially with some mechanical help. I enjoyed the hand carding, but if I had to prepare an entire fleece in that manner you would never see my column in this paper again as I would still be there doing it! We used a drum carder which creates a bat of fiber ready to be worked into a strand of delicate yarn. Or something like that.
Moving on in the lesson my patient teacher allowed me plenty of time to sit at the spinning wheel and get the feel of the treadles under my bare feet, pedaling away and watching the bobbin spin with no fiber involved at all. Then she showed me how easily the fleece became transformed from a fluffy pile into a sturdy thread. Just a firm pinch here and a gentle pull there and voila! We have yarn! Now itís your turn. No sweat, I thought.
Man did that humble pie taste mighty delicious. I made a complete mess of that yarn. It looked like something Dr. Frankenstein would have spun. Big blobby wads flowed directly into skinny winding coils that ebbed out into fuzzy pipe cleaner like stretches with which no knitter would ever be foolish enough to cast on! But my patient teacher encouraged me to continue. Itís the wool she said. Itís a bit stubborn at first. Letís try a different strand. Oh how gracious was this dear woman who very easily could have tossed the whole basket in the air in frustration I am certain. So on I spun. And Iím glad of it indeed.
We did switch fleece a few times. I tried the Jacobís wool and the Leicester wool and then the lovely alpaca which slipped onto the bobbin like silk. It was truly fascinating to experience how each different material responded differently to the wheel and how I had to adapt my technique, what precious little of it I had, to each new feel. In spite of all my beginnerly setbacks like spinning the wheel in the wrong direction and constantly switching hands (I thought she might faint whenever I did that) and blasting the bobbin clear off the spindle due to the knotty mess I created, I did manage to spin up about an ounce or two of extremely rare novelty yarn. (ahem)
Of course the trouble is now that I have a great desire to get better and you know what that means donít you. I need a wheel. If anybody out there has a spinning wheel in the attic that youíve been meaning to get rid of, look no further because Iíd love to take Ďer for a spin!