A while ago Bear surprised me with my very own spinning wheel and loom. I was thrilled! Spinning and weaving is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I remember being enamored by pictures in my fairy tale books of women in lovely old cottages in the woods churning out skeins of yarn and beautifully woven blankets. I was thrilled, yes, but also bamboozled. I had no idea what to do with either wheel or loom.
Last week I got to spend a day with my new medieval friend, Mim, who volunteered to teach me how to spin wool on my dear but unused spinning wheel. She is a highly skilled spinner and weaver who has mastered drop spindles, spinning wheels, and looms, creating stunning works of art based on medieval patterns and techniques. She comes by it naturally for her grandfather made spinning wheels and her grandmother taught her how to use them.
I, on the other hand, have not mastered anything related to spinning, and have no experience turning wool into yarn. Although I come from a long line of fabulous knitters – mother, aunts, and grandmothers – the only knitting I’ve mastered is finger-knitting. If you ever need endless lengths of finger-knitted cord, I’m your gal.
Thankfully Mim is a patient teacher, and soon helped me navigate the unique vocabulary of spinning and knitting. Before long she had me carding wool for the first time, using firm rocking motions to transform twisted lumps of tangled wool into smooth, knot-free batts of wool ready for the spinning wheel.
Mim showed me how to take apart the wheel for cleaning, where to rub with lanolin to keep things running smoothly, and how to adjust the tension.
Then she showed me how to spin. It looked so easy when she did it. Fingers expertly stretching the wool so it fed in evenly as her foot pumped rhythmically, keeping the wheel going at a steady clip.
Then it was my turn. Within seconds the wool I was holding was a mangled bunch of fibers, the spinning wheel was running backwards, and my “thread” was a lumpy, bumpy mess. Clearly I am not a natural.
But that’s OK. Mim assured me that I will get better with practice, and that it’s perfectly normal to thoroughly muss everything up the first time around. Bless her for that.
I’m going to keep trying, and try again until I learn how to coordinate everything, figure out the feel and give of the wool, and remember to keep the peddle going so it doesn’t suddenly lurch into reverse. I’ll get there.
And if I keep messing up for a good while, that’s alright too. There’s always the Russian bakery near Mim’s where I can drown my spinning sorrows.
Have you ever spun wool before?