I am a history buff. I can’t keep my hands out of the pie. I have done everything from medieval recreation to taking an archaeology-themed vacation. When I was 16, no less.
The ingenuity of people in the past is endlessly fascinating to me. I love to discover how similar we still are in all the little ways that matter most.
I am drawn to stories and depictions of how people survived, thrived, lived, loved, and fought from neolithic England to colonial Michigan.
I think my interest in history is entwined with my interest in homesteading skills, like making jam, growing vegetables, sewing, knitting … and spinning wool into yarn.
The funny thing is, I resisted handspinning for more than 10 years. A friend tried to teach me on a drop spindle, but I didn’t take to it and chose to focus on weaving for a while instead. As I got deeper and deeper into knitting — and reading blogs about knitting, and looking at pictures of handspun — and began to think I might want to try spinning again. Maybe I was more of a wheel spinner?
I looked into taking classes. The Spinning Loft was still located in Michigan then, but I had very young children at home and it seemed impossible at that time to get to a class that was 40 minutes away. I went to check out a local fiber guild, Spinner’s Flock, where they plopped me in front of a Louet S10 and gave me a quick lesson. My friends and I practiced treadling and drafting, and we spun some spectacularly chunky, uneven “art” yarn. I went home with a fire in my head and practiced spinning on a drop spindle. It wasn’t so bad after all!
At next month’s meeting, I signed up to be a member, paid for a wheel rental, and took home the Louet where I promptly spun up some lovely singles — then accidentally plied in the same direction and got some super twisted funky art yarn that is pretty much unusable. I suppose now I know how to fix it. But it’s nice to see where we’ve come from, eh?
Renting a wheel every month wasn’t feasible for me because I couldn’t go to every guild meeting (those darn kids!). I resolved to spend more time with my drop spindle, which although slower production-wise, was making me MUCH better at drafting. Ultimately I was getting more yarn for my wool by slowing down.
At a Spinner’s Flock Fleece Fair sale, I bought myself a colorful braid of hand-dyed combed top and spun it up on my drop spindle. Determined to try plying again, I wound my first two cops off onto toilet paper tubes. I then turned a shoebox, a couple of 14″ knitting needles, and the cardboard tube bobbins into a rustic, homemade lazy kate and plied off onto my spindle. It was so exciting. I felt like I was finally, really making my own yarn.
And I had no idea what to do with my new handspun! I could only guess at the gauge and it was obvious that I didn’t have much yardage. Excited to keep playing with spinning, I shrugged this problem off. I would figure it out later. (And I did. Am.)
I eventually borrowed a wheel (an Ashford Traveller), gave it back, borrowed another wheel (the Majacraft Suzie Pro that I am still using), and was gifted a broken wheel that I quickly got repaired (the Louet S15 that I still use).
I spin on my wheels more than I spindle, but I have great respect for the power of the spindle. For thousands of years, people made clothing by hand — starting with fiber and a spindle.
Today I know spindlers who can really cruise and it’s not always an obvious equation that wheel spinning is faster than drop spinning. For those of us who don’t do this for a living, production has a lot more to do with how much time you spend at spinning than how quickly you can crank out the twists per inch.