I’ve been without a spinning wheel for quite a while now and have been missing playing with fibre so much that I’ve even tried learning to use a spindle. However, I never got along particularly well with that, until a very fantastic person gave me a 10 g spindle which revolutionised the whole process. If you’re a beginner at spindling, don’t like making aran-weight singles, and don’t enjoy putting dents in your floor, try a lighter spindle. I promise it’s good!
Around the same time as this discovery, I had a second stroke of luck which was coming across a second-hand spinning wheel going for a reasonable price. I don’t actually know what kind of wheel it is… I’d guessed an old Ashford Traditional from looking at it but there’s no markings on it to confirm this. It’s a little fussy to set-up, woe betide if the bobbin isn’t exactly in the right place, but it spins, and it spins well.
It’s not quite my adorable little Ashford Traveller, with its double-treadle set up, but with a little bit of patience I made a start on my first ‘getting to know you’ yarn, a.k.a. just trying to work a skein as quickly as possible for debugging purposes. I had some nice bright merino that I had lying around intended for use on the spindle, but why not have a little more fun than just spinning plain top and head over to the blending board to make some monster rolags?
I think you’re supposed to pull several, small sensibly sized rolags that are a bit easier to spin off the blending board but I often just make one huge one but roll it quite loose so it’s easy to break down the fibre a little more if I was a different preparation. The large rolags are also a bit comical which brings me far more entertainment than it reasonably should.
I ended up splitting it in half and trying to spin onto two bobbins approximately the same amount of yarn. I will admit I was more focused on getting a skein made than making something beautifully spun with lots of love and care, as well as getting used to a single treadle and all the quirks of a new wheel. I really, really enjoyed the zingy orange, yellow and white (I think these are Clementine, Jonquil and either the undyed or bleached stuff, from the ever-wonderful World of Wool). I like watching all the crazy colour combinations you can get from a relatively simple blended rolag too.
Luckily, I haven’t been so spoilt by my lovely Traveller having an in-built Lazy Kate that I didn’t have a stand-alone one. I tend to ply from it untensioned and it is an advantage being able to move it around to where I’m least likely to end up incorporated into the yarn as well. I had a great mental blank trying to get started in the right direction with the treadling – it feels so much more intuitive on a double-treadle machine but it didn’t slow me down for too long.
I usually try and leave my yarns to settle down before plying but I was too impatient to see what this was going to look like as a skein to wait this time. I really love plying, particularly on a wheel, and this one was quite fun as it was rather springy and lively to make sure I was staying awake during the whole processes.
There’s a few undertwisted parts in the singles but that was mostly down to drafting errors. Much as I find the giant rolags comical, they’re not the easiest things to draft from without a little predrafting just to loosen up the fibres. However, I love the yarn, it’s bright, cheerful and very springy. There’s not enough for doing anything useful but, as the colours remind me of a silly cartoon lion, I think this skein is destined to be a cute little yarn pet.
Overall, I’m happy with the wheel too and very excited to be back to spinning. I need to get it out of my head that a wheel is more ‘productive’ than a spindle, though it definitely is in my hands at this moment in time! I’m still feeling like everything crafting-related is needlessly frustrating and a bit blocked at the moment, as I blogged about here, and I think some fibre prep and spinning is a little better for that than other techniques. Little bits of randomness or small ‘mistakes’ give handspun some of their charm and it’s usually fairly untraumatic to pull out a bit of fibre that’s gone astray, as opposed to a region of wonky long and short stitch.
I suddenly feel the need to get back to some dyeing…