Monday, March 2, 2009

Spinning Practicals - Part 1

Sometimes when you are on your own, its a bit daunting to pick up a (another) hobby, especially spinning, which seems to need a lot of expensive equipment to get started. I am not good enough at spinning to write tutorials, (I've only been spinning for 2 weeks!), but I am good at sourcing supplies and things on the cheap. So, I thought I would write up Spinning Practicals, ways to make spinning cheap and cheerful, with a variety of bits and bobs, hints, tips, etc that I come across as I learn to spin.

Buying a Spinning Wheel

Do a google search for spinning wheels, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of wheels on offer. First thing is to read through a few websites, find a few spinning forums and ask questions. I will update this regularly as I come across new websites, books, etc I think are good.

I bought my wheel from the Buy and Sell. It was a gamble, but it paid off, I got a beautiful wheel, with lots of accessories for a very reasonable price. If you are buying a 2nd-hand one, be prepared to ask professional sounding questions. Even if you don't know the answers, you will be able to tell if the seller is a genuine spinner selling a wheel, or someone who doesn't have a clue. This will help you in haggling the asking price..You could even place an ad of your own in the paper. Someone might see it, and remember their mother's dusty old wheel in the attic, and decide its time to sell it on.

You have your wheel, now what?
After you buy your wheel, whether it is new or second-hand, I would recommend you get an experienced spinner to check out it out before you start. Just to make sure it is in working order, and to help you get on your way. Check out the Irish Spinners Group on Ravelry, or The Guild of Weavers, Spinners, or Dyers, to see if you have anyone local.


Before you start spinning, especially if you bought a 2nd-hand, you should do a maintenance check of your spinning wheel. Working parts must be properly oiled.

OIL: Official spinning wheel oil, or any good quality oil will do. It must be oil grade 30 or higher. Sewing machine oil is the same grade, and I got some for 3.50euro from a local sewing supplies shop. Do not use Vaseline or it will become sticky. Neatsfoot oil (from a Saddlers Store) was recommended in one book, as its made especially for leather. I will have to check this out.

Clean and Oil the following parts:
(A) Axle bearing on the wheel
(B) The 2 bearings on the maidens carrying the spindle assembly
(C) The 2 Bearings carrying the treadle
(D) The leather connection between the footman and treadle
(E) The length of the spindle on which the bobbin rotates. this only needs to be rubbed with an oily cloth: applying oil to it can swell the wood of the bobbin, causing binding.

Starting to Spin

As I said, I do recommend you get someone experienced to check out your wheel for you, and give you one lesson. Somethings are hard to learn on your own.

I got my experienced spinner to check out my wheel and one lesson, I knew technically what I should be doing, but the hands and feet were not very co-ordinated. So, feeling frustrated, I checked out YouTube to see if I could get a better take on this. My fleece is pre-carded so I could, thankfully, skip over the carding thing. After watching lots of well, crap videos, I mean they were nice but not very educational, I settled on 3 videos I really liked.

Drafting the Fleece
If you are hand-carding you make rolags, but with the pre-carded fleece, I'm told its not necessary. However I found the fleece difficult to manage, especially while trying to work the feet at the same time. Megan LaCore has a video of how to draft the fleece for spinning. As she says, some people might think this is over-preparation, but I did what she said, and I found I was able to spin much easier and better.

Learning to Treadle
Sue Mcniven has a 2 part tutorial on learning to spin. But its her advice on how to control your treadling and how to check the tension of your yarn that is very helpful.
Sue is a renowned spinner, who runs workshops in Scotland. Her website is

Short Draw Method
I though the tutorial by Ruth McGregor was one of the nicest I have seen. She doesn't speak, you simply just watch her hands. She also has some great articles about yarn blocking on her website, Spinningforth, which is the next step!

Enough banter, time to get spinning..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn´t know you have an ashford wheel! I got the same one from the flee market a long time ago. Lovely! How old is yours?