February, 2011 I’ve had two workshops this month, which was an enjoyable way to spend two weekends. I am always interested in how people find me to ask to learn to spin wool into yarn, and the ways are many. Some have an old brochure they picked up at a fall festival somewhere years ago, which finally they have time to enjoy. Others clipped a news article at some time in the past, and contact me. Some find me through a web site or blog, where others have been here to learn to spin.
We begin by spinning on a drop spindle, because the motions used are the same as for the spinning wheels, but far more manageable. When that is accomplished, we move ahead to using a spinning wheel for wool first, and later students spin many other types of fiber, from alpaca to dog hair. Some unique types of fiber come in with students who want to learn to spin them, including llama and cashmere, or fur from a pet that died years ago which they’ve kept from the many brushings over the years. It’s always rewarding to me to see the progress of the students as they gradually learn to manage both fiber and wheel, and at the end of the second day have a colorful skein of yarn to admire as a result of their efforts.
An added bonus is being able to go to the pasture, or the front yard, depending on where the sheep are grazing that day, and scratch them around the ears, and see the fleece growing on the sheep. I don’t know of anything nicer than putting my fingers down into that warm fleece, having them immersed in lanolin and heat, and coming out with my skin conditioned and water-proofed! That lanolin keeps the sheep warm after shearing when the nights are cold. Shearers will leave around 1/4” of wool on the sheep, so they have some “insulation.”
Sometimes students want to visit a neighboring farm, or the spinning shop that’s 1/2 hr. away, to check out roving for sale, or a spinning wheel they may want to bring home with them. When consensus dictates, off we go on Sunday afternoon for a field trip for a couple hours, with our sandwiches in hand. And often, students will join our local Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild (see Yahoo groups–you too can join us!) and continue to use and enhance skills they’ve learned here.