Why You Might Want to Learn to Spin
This irresistible baby schnecke of my handspun might be all the persuasion you need to take up spinning, but I’ll outline a few more of the benefits for you.
Every step you take in spinning will make you a better knitter. Learning to spin as a knitter makes the knitting part of your brain light up like a pinball machine. You will become intimately acquainted with fiber, draft, and ply, and see and feel how they interact and affect your knitting.
If you are interested in history and textiles, the evolution of spinning is rich—from the first spindles through the industrial revolution. If sustainable fashion is your thing, you can’t go wrong with wool. You can buy wool to spin from a shepherd in your area from a sheep named Mabel, and create beautiful knitted things that will last decades while keeping your carbon footprint small.
Mabel, is that you?
Choice and Creativity
What is it you want? Yarns that behave in a specific way, cables that pop, lace that stays open, a sweater that has heirloom quality, a yarn that doesn’t pill, colors that flow?
It’s all in your hands. Granted at first it may seem a little overwhelming, but as with learning to knit, if you go about in steps and enjoy the process, you’ll be spinning for any project you can think of in no time.
If texture and color are more your thing, you can create loops, spirals, and add beads and flowers to your yarn. Your color could be a quiet gradient or an explosion of color confetti. Think of all of those braids you’ve seen at fiber shows. All that color could flow through your hands in myriad ways.
And—since I’m riffing on reasons to spin that start with C—how about cure? You can spin to relax. You could wake up and have a morning yarn meditation, or you could smooth the bumps out of your day by spinning into the night.
You can spin just to make yarn; you never have to do anything with it except enjoy the process. Worried about yarn piling up? Your knitting friends will line up to get their hands on your handspun.
Spinners, shepherds, and dyers will enlarge your craft family, and they will snuggle up nicely to your knitting circle.
Going to fiber events will change for you. You’ll want to participate in what goes on in the barns and buildings that aren’t yarn booths—you’ll find yourself in line for the fleece sale, taking spinning classes, and hunting for beautiful carded batts and dyed braids. You’ll speak intelligently to shepherds, and teachers, and ask anyone and everyone their opinion on which spinning wheel you should buy next.
I won’t deny that spinning is a rabbit hole of epic proportions and that, like fellow knitters, spinners are world-class enablers. Before you know it, your house will have spinning wheels, spindles, and fiber sitting next to your yarn stash. Along with your new toys and tools, you’ll be headed out each week for a spin-in with your new friends.
Once you knit with your handspun, there’s no going back. It feels more alive that commercial yarns, and you can make it look any way your heart desires—plus it plays oh so nicely with your commercial yarn stash.
How to Spin, Right Now
Spin a little! Just like learning to knit, learning to spin is easy and it’s not. The concept is simple, but it takes practice. There are classes at yarn shops and at fiber shows. There are also books, videos, online classes, and blogs, but nothing beats sitting shoulder to shoulder with a person who can demonstrate, observe your spinning, and answer questions.
You could try a little spinning right now at home. Get some cotton balls (the cotton from a pill bottle also works) and preferably a large paper clip.
- Open the paper clip until it forms a hook with a handle.
- Fluff your cotton. You want to loosen the fibers and open them up. It’s OK if they tear a little. I used three small cotton balls.
- Hook your paper clip into the cotton.
- Now here’s the tricky part—it’s all about finding the balance in tension and twist. Start twisting the paper clip away from you, and at the same time slowly pull the cotton mass away from the paper clip.
What you are looking and feeling for is the twist to catch the cotton fibers and twist them together.
You want a balance between the amount of twist and the spooling out or drafting of the cotton. If you pull your cotton too fast or twist too slowly as you pull, your yarn will break. If you pull your cotton too slowly or twist too quickly in relation to the pulling of your cotton, your yarn locks up and it’s hard to pull your cotton. You want to go to that Goldilocks zone of just right.
I made a teeny tiny video for you here. (Please don’t mind my digging-in-the-garden hands.)
You will feel it when you get it, just like knitting. Your little cotton yarn will be lumpy and bumpy, but it will be yarn you made, and you might just be hooked.
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