Learning to Spin
I've been wanting to learn to spin yarn for the longest time, and over the past few years I've picked up a couple of spindles and tried my hand at it a few times. I kept trying to learn in different ways, from books, from online videos, and even did a short introductory workshop. And although I was progressing and getting better it seemed like an awfully slow process.
I also really wanted to learn to spin on a wheel - especially since I was given an antique wheel last fall. It needs a few minor repairs though, and I've also read that learning on an antique wheel can be a frustrating experience. Modern wheels tend to be kinder to beginners.
So, after some investigation I found out that if I became a member of the Ottawa Valley Weavers' and Spinners' guild, I could not only take a workshop on wheel spinning but I could rent a wheel to take home with me. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any organization like this in Montreal right now, but I decided that it was worth the trip to Ottawa and I went ahead and signed up.
I asked to rent the sturdiest wheel they had, since I would be taking it home on the train with me, and I ended up with this lovely Louet. It's been great to have it around to sit down at for a few minutes here and there. Since I've only got it for a few months I've been pretty motivated to use it as much as I can while it's here!
These photos show some of my spindle-spun yarn (above) compared with my first yarn spun on the wheel (below). The wheel-spun yarn is quite loose, as I found it hard to judge how much twist I was getting at first. It is more even though, probably because I did it all in one afternoon rather than putting it down and picking it up days later which I tend to do with the spindle.
My second attempt, using the same Corriedale fibre, is still on the bobbin. You can see I'm starting to get more twist in it, but it's not very even so now there are lots of lumps - always something to improve!
Once I'd used up all the Corriedale from the workshop I really wanted to try spinning some of the Norbouillet roving I'd kept aside when we spun our Norwood and Elora yarns last fall. I decided to make the singles for this a bit finer, and I might try plying three of them together depending on how much length I end up with.
I was making quite good progress on this when a friend happened to mention seeing an ad for a Canadian Production Wheel for sale. This is a type of wheel that was popular here in Quebec about a century ago. The one advertised was actually very similar to the antique wheel I already had, but from the hot pink yarn on the bobbin in the photo I could tell it had been used much more recently!
I couldn't resist and ended up buying it so now I have three wheels at home, at least until the Louet goes back to Ottawa. The new antique wheel needed a little oil, but other than that it's in great condition. I did a bit of a test-drive with it using some roving I'd bought a while ago from Wellington Fibres.
You can still see a bit of the hot pink underneath, I was too anxious to try it out to bother taking it off. This wheel is fast, and puts in much more twist more quickly than the Louet, so it will be another learning process to make the switch, but it's one that I'm excited to start. I'm really enjoying finally making some progress with this skill, although I have a feeling I may soon be making more yarn than I have time to knit...SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
Yes, I’m still spinning! I honestly don’t have as much time for it as I would like, and I think I’ve produced an average of about 1 skein/year the past two years… I was lucky enough to be able to bring my antique wheel up to a cottage with me on my vacation last summer, and it was lovely to have a bit of dedicated time to get back into it. I think honestly if I were not in the yarn business I would spin more, since many of my knitting projects are samples or designs using our hand-dyed yarns, and I don’t always have a lot of crafting time left over.
I really do enjoy the process though, and think it’s a fabulous way to learn more about yarn construction and materials. Depending on where you are you may be able to find a local store or spinning guild that will loan or rent wheels to get you started with before making a big investment.
Good luck with your spinning journey!
Interesting to read about other’s learning to spin. I’m in the same boat of wanting to but being unsure whether to make the leap. Are you still spinning?
Hi Debbie , would you happen to have the coordinates for those courses in Ottawa by chance ? tks ! Linda
Thanks for reading the blog! There aren’t a huge amount of options for classes in Montreal (which is why I went to Ottawa a couple of years ago), but there are a few. To get started you could try this drop spindle workshop at La Societe Textile: https://www.lasocietetextile.com/etceterah19/filage-au-fuseau. It looks like there are also sometimes spinning workshops at the Centre des Texiles Contemporains de Montreal, although the ones currently listed are for more advanced spinners (https://www.textiles-mtl.com/ateliers-grand-public/).
I hope that helps, good luck with your spinning journey!
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experience. I also live in Montreal do you know if there are any courses available anywhere?
Would you be willing to teach me or travel to Ottawa together?
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