Sunday, March 6, 2011

Learning to Spin!

A couple months ago, I posted on the community board in my building, looking for people who might be interested in playing board games (like Settler's of Cataan) with me. A few people responded, one in particular who clearly knew what kind of games I was talking about. She and I have since played a lot of board games, and gotten to know each other, and one of the things we discovered pretty quickly was that we were both Raveler's, though in different areas (and, in fact, neither of us knows the others skill!). She's a spinner (and a knitter), and we'd each talked about teaching the other our craft.

This leads to earlier this week, when she invited me to a Spin In that she was planning to attend, taking place yesterday. The wonderful thing about this March is I'm less busy than I was in Jan and Feb, so I could actually say YES! And commit to going to an all day event. ;) I was excited, too! First, I packed up a project of my own - a plan that will get through a significant amount of my stash yarn, yay! (I'll talk about it more on either WIP Wednesday or FO Friday or both, depending on my progress... ;) ) and then we headed out!

I've wanted to learn to spin for ages, partly cause it's all cool and historical and stuff, but also for a kind of silly reason (that one person I met yesterday could relate to, which made me feel a bit less absurd). You see, I sometimes wonder what would happen if technology went away and we had to manage. I think at that point we'd all have to have some damn useful, semi-primitive skills or else we'd just be a burden on society. Now, I'm not about to go live on a commune without electricity or nothing, but it'd be nice to think I could do something in case such a horrid thing came to pass. But the only really useful non-modern skill I have (other than knowledge and writing...) is that I can sew, knit, and crochet, and I think I'm smart enough that I could improvise the equipment for doing this even if I lost all my needles and hooks and such. What I didn't know how to do, though, is come up with my own raw material. I don't know how to grow cotton, and I couldn't make thread. As such, I've wanted to learn to spin, so that if I could get my hands on a sheep (or alpaca, or any other natural fiber) I might actually have a prayer of being useful to anyone. (of course, I still don't know how to care for a sheep, or how to shear one, but one step at a time, right? It's not the apocalypse yet). How serious am I about this? Not terrible - I mostly just thought learning to spin would be fun - but hey, it never hurts to be prepared, right? Now, perhaps my post-apocalyptic fellow survivors will think I'm useful enough to feed! ;)

My friend has an awesome portable spinning wheel (as did most of the people who were present at the Spin In), but she brought a spindle and some plain, undyed wool for me to use. Now, I'm going to apologize in advance: I had a full tutorial yesterday but I've already forgotten a lot of the vocabulary (generally a weak point of mine) so I may call things the wrong thing, or just not try to name them at all. :) Bear with me! :)

First, she introduced me to the yarn and it's various properties, like how I would have to draw it and how the fibers are held together.

She showed me how I have to figure out how far apart to hold my hands in order to draw the fibers apart, and demoed how once you get good at this, you can do it as fast as you spin! I was impressed, especially once I tried to do it myself. She also told me that until I get to that point, I can pre-draw it, which is what I did most of the rest of the time (I tried the other, way but failed completely, I couldn't seem to get the spindle to spin enough while getting both hands on the yarn to draw it...)

Next step, she showed me how to use the spindle to spin the wool!

I wasn't too impressed with this at the time, but after I tried it I realized just what a feat it is! Her thread was so nice and even! on the left you can see her wheel and a little of the lovely purple, red, yellow, and other colored fiber that she was spinning... (oh, and her ravelry name ended up in the shot cause she has a button on her bag with it....hmm...I'd better go obscure that...). I mean, there's clearly some trick to getting the spindle spinning just right, so that you can move both hands away, and the amount of spin as compared to the length of the thread you've got dangling and the speed at which you can draw, cause she was doing it all at once, whereas if I moved my hand away from the spindle after setting it going, I inevitable ended up having it start spinning backwards before I'd hardly started drawing. Practice is clearly needed. :)

However, despite those challenges I set to it with a will. I apparently semi-independently stumbled onto a "method" by which you hold the spindle between your knees while you draw. I don't know if something this self-evident should really get to be called a technique...

So I would get a whole bunch of fiber ready, and then I'd go ahead and spin it!

I definitely overspun instead of underspun; my friend said that if I hadn't been spinning it enough, the spindle would have kept dropping. I instead had kinks in the yarn, like over on the top right, from spinning it too much...

Anyway, these weren't the only pleasures of the day. I got to meet some wonderful people (Ravelers, spinners, knitters, and all!). I didn't take any group shots cause I didn't want to post pictures of people without permission (hence no shots of my friends face) and didn't want to try to get permission from everyone, but I figured that one of our companions didn't need to sign a waiver...

A little of Venus' wonderful "fiber" ended up mixed in with my spindle. :) There was some delicious snacks that people brought, too, whereas I brought my usual reduced cal type sweets - brownies, this time(and made a diabetic very happy, since I always use splenda instead of sugar so she could actually have some!)

I also got to see the awesome studio where the Spin In was held. Like there was this machine that blended the fibers, it was awesome!

In the end, I got through all of the fiber that my friend brought for me! (I think she said it was close to 2 oz.)

Most of the thick parts are where I had to join to sections together (but not all of them...) and I don't really know what I do next (she mentioned plying, and also getting the fiber to remember the spin, I'll have to ask next time I see her...) but I definitely want to keep trying, it was fun. :) It required a strange combination of concentration and coordination, and I couldn't really muster the mental energy to do anything else while I was spinning, but I bet that gets easier with practice, too. :)

After doing all that spinning, my left hand (which had been spinning the spindle) was aching a bit, so I stopped and switched to the crochet project I brought (okay, first I grazed the goodies table, then I crocheted ;) ). There's another Spin In next month, and I'm definitely looking forward to it! I had fun! (Just what I need - another hobby! ;) )

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