Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hand spun yarn

(1400 yards of two-ply- destined to become a Gansey)
I've been spinning a lot lately. I love spinning. I first learned how in college, but I picked it up again about three years ago after a long time away. It's mostly a very soothing thing to do (well, unless the roving is crappy-- lumpy, oily, badly carded, full of vegetable matter). Honestly, I prefer it to knitting. Knitting requires far more brain cells, which I don't always have in ready supply at the end of the day.

Starting in January, I'm teaching a spinning class twice a week, and I've been working through the verbiage of the process in my head. Spinning can get very technical, but beginners can't be bothered with crimp-to-staple ratios and other such nonsense- heck, I don't bother with them, either. New spinners just want to make enough yarn to knit a hat or a scarf. So, how to explain what is really very non-verbal? What's important? I do have a handle on a few points.

Pre-drafting is important. Pre-drafting is loosening the fibers before spinning them into yarn. It's probably the single most important thing you can do before spinning.

Treadling as slowly as possible, and in rhythm, is also important. I was told by an experienced spinner to sing a song, such as "Happy Birthday", very, very slowly. Since I can't carry a note in a bucket, I'll probably tap a stick on the floor a la an old-school ballet teacher. And anyway, the first class will be taught on drop spindles.

Sending the new spinners home with some kind of yarn from the very first class is important, too. Even if it's just one measly yard. The first yarn a spinner makes is precious stuff.

I'm open to suggestions. How do you teach something that is really rather intuitive?


PJ said...

I used to spin eons ago, I remember it as extremely satisfying.
I think this is probably a d moll lac question but, when I have taught in various capacities I've always made sure I kept talking on topic, had visual cues, something tacticle people could manipulate, and never let 'em see me sweat.

My question is whether you are working some of your bunnies' fur into your yarn? Oh, please say yes!
(claps hands gleefully)

ilex said...

"Never let 'em see you sweat" just might be the best advice, ever.

No bunny hair, sadly- their hair is too short. It makes excellent dust bunnies, though.

PJ said...


Carolyn said...

How cool! I would love to try spinning.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Oh goodness I have been quoted in my absence. I had to look up Gansy LOL. I have never spun, but as far teaching something that is intuitive....well.....reminding your students that is is intuitive, but give them some basic physical guidelines, maybe have them hum a tune to distract the conscious mind. I read a book once in which on of the characters would fall into an oracular trance while spinning. Bet you will do a great job, that is so cool.

MOTM said...

When you figure it out, let me know, I've been wanting to do my own canning classes. And I feel the same way about knitting! My mother was trying to teach me, speaking about counting, loop over this finger, dive through this hole, (What hole, I don't see no hole or I see a dozen holes!) Good luck with your class. Wish I lived closer cause I'd be there in a heartbeat. Spinning does look relaxing. Seen a clip at Garden Girl TV where she spins from her rabbits brushed hair... er... fur.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Oh boy this is going to be fun to follow!

I agree .. getting their hands on the tools and materials and actually doing it asap will be good. They can get better as class progresses. Too much lecture, history, stories, and yak yak would probably go over their heads at first.

Hopefully the class will be small and so you can give lots of one-on-one help and attention.

If you wear a big bunny suit too, well that will ..... too bad a bunch of us don't live closer .. we could light that class up!

Maybe I should send a big blob of Goldie's fur!

PS .. at the little rabbit show we visited last weekend there was a lady in the corner with a wheel, just merrily spinning away ... just being able to see it happening explained away quite a bit of the mystery.

Good luck!

Kateri said...

I learned to spin as a little girl with a drop spindle made from a potato on a stick. LOL. I now have a nice spinning wheel, but haven't touched it pretty much for the past seven years. You are making me want to get it out again. My problem is I don't knit or do anything with yarn. I loved spinning yarn, but I never had the patience to learn how to knit...maybe I should try again? Spinning is definitely very therapeutic.