When I started spinning…

Oh my, Abby, you do know how to hit the nail on the head about the early days of spinning.  Thus was the world that was right before I learned to spin.  By the time 1985 rolled around.  SpinOff had expanded from an annual to quarterly, Knitters magazine had published it’s second issue, and I had learned to knit. 

In that fateful second issue was an article called “The Handspinners Choice” by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts.  Now I had read Foxfire 2 in high school so I was familiar that spinning was done in the rural south in the recent past but I had no idea that others still make their own yarn because they chose to, not for survival or at places like Conner Prairie Farm where they reenact the past.

 Being a poor undergraduate and happily living on campus of a large university I pursued the resources available making numerous phone calls until I got the information about a local spinners guild and paid for a lesson that included hand cards, crappy unwashed wool, and THE SPINDLE.


It weighs somewhere between 3 and 4 oz and I spun that awful wool and then corriedale on that spindle.  The university had Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot in their collection, Spin Span Spun, and Allen Fannin’s book as well as a few others about weaving with short sections about spinning.  My first spinning book I actually owned was the slender Fleece In My Hands.  I really honestly believed I could make my own yarn cheaper than buying it at the yarn shop….um…yeah…right….. 

A couple years later I received my 19″ Reeves Saxony wheel when I graduated with my bachelors.  I put down the spindle and didn’t look back…for a long time.  But of course in 1987 that was expected.  The spindle was to find out if you liked it or not and then you graduated to a wheel.  End of story.

 But it wasn’t.

Fast forward to the mid 90’s, somehow I got a top whorl spindle spindle.  I have a suspicion Susan had something to with it as during that time I had moved back to the Midwest and I was like a kid in a candy store in her shop.  What really meshed things with me and the top whorl spindle was me going back to graduate school.  Yes, I know what does -that- have to do with spinning.  Well, the quickest way for me to drive from my house to graduate school went right by The Fold.  Being in school and  having a career in which I earned $8K a year, I didn’t exactly spend a lot of money there then, but I’ve made up for it since!  At that time she was a dealer for Hatchtown Farm Spindles and having been raised by a carpenter I knew good wood when I saw it.  Soon I was the owner of several finely turned spindles and I was spinning my way through graduate school.  I found I could actually enjoy spinning on the top whorl.  It felt more stable and in control.

On a whim I taught Jer to spin.  Well, I didn’t really teach him, I gave him about 30 seconds of instruction and walked away.  Ahem, not only is he a better spindle spinner than I, but he also has a spindle named after him.

 Now I am coming full circle back to learning to spin again on low whorl spindles.  My Turkish spindle in all of its fine wood sits languishing.  I have a couple bolivian pushka.

This one is in my bag right now.  The whorl is crooked and I need to fix that so it spins better.  Plus I have a low whorl in the file drawer behind me, waiting for me to forget my knitting projects I take to work every day.  THE SPINDLE will be brought out and shown at Abby’s workshop on spindles in Michigan.  And perhaps I’ll even ply with it.  But I think I’ll replace the acrylic leader.

In the rest of my life.  Danny is burning up the agility ring.  Despite my handling he’s managed to earn two more titles in CPE agility and is more than 1/2 way to his level 4 Standard title.  In fact we are in level 5 now for everything but Snooker and Standard.

It’s hard to believe he will be 9 in May. 

 Roo is also having a good time, we are doing some agility, but he is more confident in obedience and rally.  He still needs one more leg for his APDT RL3 title.  Luke is now on the hunt for his ONYX title in flyball.  I’m still hoping he earns it before I have to retire him.  He is still running 5.2-5.4 seconds which is great for a 9 year old sheltie.  Daisy is slowly working on her rally titles, she had a setback late last year, but seems to be recovering from that nicely.  And Adam?  Well, we will see.  He’s been a visitor at Danny’s agility class and I think he will go with me to Danny’s next agility trial.    I have many hopes for Adam but its all on his time when he is ready.

Hopefully I can get everything together and tell you about the finn I’ve been spinning next time.  But until then I have yarn to spin, geocaches to find, and dogs to train.


6 thoughts on “When I started spinning…

  1. I first took a spinning wheel class and spent about 2 weeks lamenting that I wanted a wheel. Searched all over for a used one that I liked…it was right before Christmas and money was tight. Finally, in desperation I bought a spindle (huge Ashford low whorl) b/c it was less than $20 and it might tide me over until I could rent a wheel in the new year. Well, now I have about 8 spindles, mostly high whorl, and don’t care much at all about getting a wheel!

    Beautiful pup!

  2. Heh. My first book was “The Joy of Handspinning.” That would have been in 1978 or 1979. I attempted to fashing a spindle out of a wooden coaster and a dowel. The art supplies section of the university bookstore had some roving-like substance. I had never seen anyone spin. I just knew that I wanted to do it.

    But I couldn’t figure it out on my own. I didn’t have the critical bit of info on how to add twist before the fiber came apart. I could get the twirling-the-spindle going, but failed to get enough twist into the fiber to make a decent yarn. I remember watching the spindle fall to the floor time after time, and being utterly baffled about what I was doing wrong.

    Fast forward a few years. I was in Atlanta, and I found out that a local group of handspinners had been getting together for a while. I hied myself to a meeting, saw and UNDERSTOOD what was going on, and never looked back. Not long after that, we had a spinning workshop with Celia Quinn, and I saw how to spin fine and smooth, and I was totally hooked.


  3. funny thing is that I never have spindle spun, I just went to a wheel. I bought a spinning wheel before I even knew how to spin. I was already weaving for about 10 years so I guess I thought… how hard can it be? I taught myself to spin, and I spun very badly for another 10 years before taking classes. I took classes for 2 years, and learned it was my fiber prep, not my spinning that needed improvement.Well now I’m going to learn to spindle spin, and it’s because of meeting people just like you, Abby, and Phredde. . Inspiring… There is something to be said about simple tools.

  4. Spinning and dogs, does it get any better? We had to retire our Ariel (Border collie-ish, ILP listed) from agility and obedience (after she got her first title) because of her knees. She’s 13 and still ready to go anywhere, any time. Although she doesn’t always wake up immediately any more when we get home from trips that don’t involve her. Our other foundling prefers to be a couch potato. So I enjoy vicarious dog training. Thanks. (The spinning goes on here, so it’s just good to hear about yours and I don’t need vicarious activity on that front.)

  5. Dogs and spinning, as good as it gets! We tried agility but I wasn’t agile enough and she waited for me to catch up to her. We tried fly-ball. She is FAST! She LEAPS! but fetch? …she could never figure out what other dogs found so interesting about that little round ball. But in spinning, I think we’re matched. It cools her down to give up her undercoat and I get to spin it. Tropical Twister http://Seabreezespinners.com/ (Lacy is featured on my blog.)

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