A couple of years ago, I enrolled in a Saturday workshop to learn how to spin yarn on a drop spindle. We also got to try to use a spinning wheel. I did okay on the drop spindle, but it wasn’t a big thrill for me. And I sucked on the spinning wheel, my suckage being a combination of my natural lack of rhythm and the less-than-helpful suggestions of the sarcastic woman looking over my shoulder. I *HATE* trying to learn fiddly new skills in public.
Now, however, I live in quiet little Storm Lake, IA. I just finished a 5 week winter break and I’m faced with 3 months off this summer. I’m not complaining, mind you, but one does need to fill the time with some kind of hobby and I can only knit so much. And I loathe gardening and George Clooney is taking his own sweet time coming for a visit. So I decided to try to spin yarn again. On a spinning wheel. Which are hideously expensive. What to do?
I love the Internet. After an hour’s search one afternoon, I found Babe’s Fiber Garden, makers of spinning wheels that get good reviews from spinners and which are constructed mainly from PVC pipe and wheel chair wheels. They cost 1/2 to 1/3 of the least expensive wooden wheels on the market and I ordered one last Monday and it arrived on Wednesday. The wheel I got, Babe’s Production Double Treadle in black sheep color, is a castle-wheel style. It’s pictured below next to a wooden castle wheel:
Schacht Matchless Wheel, $895.00
Babe Production Wheel, $185.00
So, I’ve had the Babe less than a week and I’ve spun 2 bobbins of yarn. Well, "yarn" is perhaps too charitable a term. My first bobbin looked like the result of a bizarre sheep-on-wheel crime* and has been disposed of. The second bobbin, pictured, here, is somewhat better. Notice that last bit near the front (where the wooden flyer forms a V) that looks rather yarn-like?**
And so that’s what I’ve been up to. I have visions of buying a complete, skirted fleece*** this summer, cleaning it, carding it, spinning it, and dyeing it. Perhaps I’ll eventually convince my landlord that the newest cat is supposed to say "baaaa"?
*A drive-by sheeping?
**The literature that accompanied the spinning wheel says that handspun yarn, esp. that produced by a beginner, shouldn’t be expected to look like store-bought yarn. It goes on to say, "You will never again be able to recreate these first yarns again….enjoy them. They are unique!" Imagine such a text in 2105, appended to the instructions of the Acme Home Cloning Kit: "You will never again be able to recreate these first abominations…"
***"skirted" means that most of the dried sheep shit has been cut away.