Brain Spinning

I have long wanted to spin yarn — because now that really nice yarn is readily available, why not make my own on a fiddly machine that will likely engender much cursing?

Actually, it would be neat to take fiber all the way to yarn and then knit that yarn into a scarf or shawl or socks or whatever, and, like the nicotine addict who rolls his own, I hope spinning my own will slow me down — because how many scarves, shawls, blankets, socks does a person really need? (I do donate quite a few items, and gift even more, but still.)

Plus, I’m fascinated by fiber/textiles, I love learning new things, Iowa winters are long and dull, and summers, well, I’m not a big fan of gardening.

So I have some $ coming in mid-June and I’ve earmarked some of it for a spinning wheel. I’m planning to attend the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival in early June to try out some wheels, since the nearest dealer who carries more than one brand is 5.5 hours away, north of Minneapolis. In the meantime, because it’s so much more fun than grading or vacuuming, I’ve obsessively been researching spinning wheels online.

For most of human history, yarn was made on spindles, including drop-spindles, which I have used, but I’m much more adept at the DROP (clatter, roll away) than the spin. No, as the Chinese discovered early on and Europe figured out by around 1200, spinning wheels are the way to go. The first ones were just a more efficient way to turn a spindle (this would be what did in Sleeping Beauty), but they soon became more sophisticated, both spinning the yarn and winding it on a bobbin.

Speaking of fairy tales, traditional spinning wheels have the coolest names for their parts — maidens, mother-of-all, footmen — and for the wheel styles: saxony, castle, great wheel.

Today, wheels come in tons of styles: saxony, castle, modern castle, direct drive. They are also made from lots of different materials: rare wood (multiple thousands of dollars per wheel), hard wood, plywood, even PVC pipe and wheelchair wheels.

Based on my obsessive research, there are four wheels I’m considering. One is the best all-around, most sensible deal: the Fricke S-160 double treadle. But the romantic part of me wants a Bluebonnet Shamrock castle wheel (still a good deal). The cutesy part of me wants a folding Thimble. (an okay deal). And the gadget-loving part of me wants a Queen Bee, but that part, luckily, is not going to pay so much for a hobby item.

A used wheel purchase is, of course, possible, but wheels tend to hold their value, so when you factor in shipping to the butt-of-nowhere, Iowa, you might as well buy new and get the warranty.

Until then, the weather is nicer, school is almost over, and I have a novel to plan. Summer! Sabbatical! Sheep — I mean, Sleep!

One response »

  1. It’s great fun spinning your own yarn. I very recently won a spinning wheel and have been happily creating yarn ever since. Have you ever tried a drop spindle? It will help you get used to drafting the fibre which is a great help before doing it on a spinning wheel. You can make a drop spindle pretty easily yourself, or buy one fairly cheaply. I have a Bliss spinning wheel ( and it’s so easy to use. The only thing I haven’t done yet is knit with my yarns as I’m too busy making more! Would love to see how you get on. 🙂
    PS( Spinning is addictive, next you will want to dye your wool, and then blend it and then… the list goes on, haha).

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