Monday, September 28, 2009

Great ... now I'm a spinster.

Crap. I have a new hobby.

This weekend, I drove to Navasota, TX to visit the lovely WC Mercantile and learn how to hand-spin.

Navasota is about an hour and twenty minutes northwest of Houston, and part of a lovely green farming expanse. I got to the shop a little early and was able to poke around at their nice array of already-spun and hand-spun (locally grown, of course), and their HUGE and well-priced selection of different fibers. I refrained from grabbing it all like a kid in a candy store, deciding that I should wait until after class when I could really take my time and have a little more education in my brain about what I would WANT to be spinning.
From more knitting stuffs

The whole place had this wonderful old-style farmhouse feel. There were antiques up on shelves and for sale all over the store, and creaky wooden floors and different sizes and styles of spinning wheels all over the place. It was a comfortable shop staffed with helpful and friendly folk – who were very kind to stand outside and wave until I found them.

We were learning on drop spindles, rather than spinning wheels. Drop spindles are much easier to control the speed of, so much less frustrating for a novice to learn on. The class was taught by the lovely Sue Ellen, who told us about the different kinds of drop spindles – top whorl and bottom whorl. We learned on bottom whorl, but I bought my own spindle at the end of class that can be used as either a top or bottom whorl, and I’ve discovered that I prefer the top whorl – it’s easier to control the speed and get it spinning faster, and so I find I get a tighter spin … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Check this out:
From more knitting stuffs
A table full of fiber (and water bottles)! Our class kits each came with a sample of different fibers for us to practice spinning – blue-faced Leicester (BFL), which is a breed of sheep; merino; bamboo; cotton; a type of silk; and alpaca. We started out with the BFL because the individual fibers are very long, and so easier for a beginner to get used to. Sue Ellen showed us how to wrap the leader around the spindle and attach the first bit of fiber, and how to pre-draft the wool … then all we had to do was practice.

Look, Ma! I made yarn!
From more knitting stuffs
Tradition states (don't ask me why) that you always spin your singles clockwise and you ply the yarn counter-clockwise (plying is wrapping two single bits of yarn around each other to make them stronger and give the yarn a different characteristic). The number of strands you ply together determines the number of ply – so 2-ply means two singles wrapped around each other, 3-ply is three singles, 4-ply is four, and so on. So we made two singles, and then plied them together.
From more knitting stuffs
I have to admit, I was pretty dern impressed with myself. The other women in the class were lovely to work with, and we all got the hang of it pretty quickly. It was truly cool, and I’m already at work spinning some more BFL at home and thinking about how I want to dye it … what I’d really love to do is dye two singles different colors, and then ply them together … anyone have color suggestions?


  1. Hey! I took the class with you Saturday and just wanted to let you know I stopped by! Love the blog; you have made some beautiful things.

  2. You should do black and orange and make something Halloween-y. Halloweenie?