One year ago today, I posted a picture of my “new” spinning wheel on instagram. Sadly though, I’ve still not had the chance to really get it going. It’s a double drive, and while new models can cost $500-1000, I found this deal for ultimately around $100. She was in rough shape, and the woman who had her before me had already done quite a bit of restoration. The bits on it are leather, bone, and string, so I know it’s not one of the 1970’s reproductions. While the history of it makes it very special, it certainly has had some fixes along the way that make it challenging to learn to spin on.
It’s very similar in appearance to a wheel we saw at Greenbank Mills, on a tour there last year. With the double drive, it spins the yarn quite fast, which can be challenging at first. However, using scotch tension is an option, at least on my wheel, and I’m still getting a feel for the different ways of spinning. I moved her into my recently cleaned out office, so I’m planning to devote more time to getting her going. The theory being like a guitar- you’re more likely to play it if it’s in your line of sight. I can’t justify buying any more roving until I get some spinning done! The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool festival also has some fantastic spinning workshops I’ve been wanting to sign up for, but with our upcoming move, I was too slow and most are full already.
A drop spindle is a much less expensive introduction to the world of roving, which (other than the equipment and time expense) is much less expensive than hand spun yarns. Drop spindles are also a physically slower way to learn the concepts and principles of spinning in general, which I think make it easier than jumping onto a spinning wheel first thing. Like wheels, drop spindles can vary hugely in price and style, I got mine on etsy for $21 including a ball of roving to get started. My first attempt was a much thicker “art yarn” and my mother was very excited to see I had dyed a navy blue- always keeping an eye open for art doll materials. Despite setting the twist, dyeing the yarn after spinning resulted in a fluffy single-ply yarn which would have been a good candidate for plying with another yarn or strips of sari fabric. Knowing how the yarn performs “downstream” with thickness and degree of twist has been a valuable learning experience, and I’m currently drafting longer and spinning much thinner.
If you don’t have resources like a local spinning group or festivals nearby, there are loads of videos on youtube on everything from setting up a wheel, to using a drop spindle, even learning historical styles of spinning. Happy spinning!