Become part of the circle sharing inspiration for spinning and other fibre crafting. It is a warm and reassuring place, sort of like a favourite chair near a cosy fireside, where beginners and experts come and go as they please. It's a place to share what we know, learn from each other and display what we've created -- while supporting and inspiring each other on the wonderful journey associated with handspinning and wool-related crafts.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Thank you and Woolly Wednesday button

Thank you to everyone for following the blog and welcome, what a wonderful circle of friends. We do hope that you will join us on Wednesday 2nd March when we do our first "Woolly Wednesday" post. Woolly Wednesdays will be on the first Wednesday of each month, and we'd love you to share with us anything you've been doing with wool.

We shall be adding a linky to the post on Wednesday for you to post a link to your blog post of what woolly adventures you have been up to recently, whether it be preparing fibre, spinning or anything else. You will see in the sidebar that we have added a Woolly Wednesday button, please feel free to grab the picture and pop it in your blogs sidebar with a link to Spinspiration, a lovely way for us all to link together, holding hands in the virtual world.

Here is our Woolly Wednesday image, we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.
Kelly and Dawn x

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Beginning Spinning - Dawns story

It all started on a lovely sunny day in May 2009 at a fayre. I'd only been thinking over the previous few weeks or so that one day I would love to have a go at spinning wool.

Actually, it started a few years before that because we already had sheep's wool in our house, used mainly by my husband who started making peg loom rugs with washed wool. We were shocked back then at just how cheaply fleeces were priced or, often, even just discarded. These fleeces were from organically raised sheep too. I had also been using some of the washed fleece to stuff small toys, knitted Christmas decorations and a doll I made for my daughter.

So anyway, on arrival at the fayre we saw that there was a spinning and weaving demonstration stall so we started to walk over to have a look, but before we even got there I found myself drawn to a stall selling second hand farming implements, etc, And there, right in front of us was a spinning wheel. The lady whose stall it was spoke of having more than one wheel so it was time to sell this one.

It was funny because I had just put in a reservation request at the library the week before for some books on spinning, and was thinking of purchasing or making a drop spindle, and now here I was standing in front of a very reasonable priced, second hand spinning wheel. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn't have any carders to prepare the wool properly, but, well, you're not going to let things like that stop you are you?

 The wheel I bought second hand

I bought the wheel, obviously, and started trawling the internet for advice on how to use it. It was in the process of this search that I came across a "Woolly Weekend" at a local farm and the next thing I knew I was talking to the ladies from the Guild demonstrating in one of the barns. I remember being really inspired meeting one lady as she was making yarn even though she hadn't been spinning very long and marvelling at other guild members using drop spindles, weaving and finger knitting. It was meeting another lady spinning on her wheel that made the biggest impression on me though. Within minutes of meeting her, she had shown me the processed of carding and spinning, and how the yarn plies, then offered to let me have a go on her wheel. I was thrilled to take her up on her offer. I took to it quite well, "a natural to spinning" she said. Although I felt I had little control of what was going on it was great to have a go. It gave me a real appreciation of the craft and the people who spin wool so well. I was given a copy of the Guild leaflet and she encouraged me to go along to the Guild meetings.

My Inspiration
Me having a go on her very expensive wheel!

Around this time I also got in touch with the Secretary of the Guild who told me about another member, who hosts a spinning class on a Monday evening. My details were passed on to her and she got in touch with me. I went to my first class with her a few days later. My first lesson was great (as they all were afterwards too) - she explained all the parts of the wheel and how they work before going on to the various ways that wool is prepared and then it was time to have a go at spinning. By the end of the evening I had spun wool on my bobbin of various thickness and felt encouraged that I could pick it up over time.

The first bobbin of spinning

That week I also spent a day with another tutor which I had pre-arranged, a little treat for me, so went along to that with a little knowledge gained from my first class. Hilary (the tutor) had a large Kacobs fleece which she laid out and explained the different parts, and how to sort the fleece. We did some sorting, carding, some flick carding and combing and lots of spinning, plying and washing. I had had a great day again and felt I had improved over the day, taking home 2 skeins of washed plied yarn home to dry. I was also able to pick up a 2nd hand pair of carders there, so now I could practice more at home too.

The first skein

I went to the Guild meeting in June and met lots of lovely Guild members, and learnt about Dorset buttons. There were also sheep's fleeces on sale and I went home with a Dorset hon fleece to go with a Jacobs fleece my husband picked up for me that day where he and my daughter had spent the day.

At my second Guild meeting I found myself volunteering to become the newsletter editor at the Guild AGM as the previous editor was stepping down. I thought I could spare some time to have a go at this, could use computers and thought it would be a great way to learn more myself and get to know Guild members better.

I have progressed over the last 2 years, first mastering the short draw method (push and pull), then long draw, lying two or more bobbins together and Navajo plying from a single bobbin.  I have also picked up other bist of equipment, often from the sales table, and learnt other crafts. Other equipment has been made my myself or my family, you don't always need to buy things as handmade will work just as well.

Most of my spinning has been using wool in its raw natural state rather than bought commercial roving or tops. There is something very pleasurable about taking wool sheared from the sheep full of lanolin, dirty and smelling of its owner and going through the whole process to create a yarn. I've skirted fleeces, sorted and picked them; gently washed, dried, carded and spun the wool into a yarn and then used it to knit or weave. It doesn't get much better than that.

I have collected many fleeces (I hear my husband laughing uncontrollably at this point!) of different British breeds and it's amaing how differently they spin. More on the different breeds (fleece, not sheep) I have another day.

Dawn x

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Drop Spindling

This is what is on my drop spindle at the moment.  Rust coloured merino that I am spindling up to knit a fox.

Drop spindling makes a good starting point for anyone wishing to try out spinning.  It is an incredibly simple spinning tool which has been used forever and is still used as the primary spinning tool in many remote areas world over.

These are my favourite YouTube spindling videos showing incredible women spindling so naturally, so simply..

There is something very freeing about drop spindling.  They are small enough to fit into a small bag or tucked into a large pocket.  Not only are they a simple tool but they are simple to use too.  What I enjoy about spindling it that is is so easy to fit around the children.  I can take my spindle along with me to the woods and do a bit there, standing amongst the trees, or sitting on a tree stump, then pack it away so easily and be on the move as the children run off to explore further.  I can sit in the sun, or walk about the garden.. I can spindle anywhere, fitting in a little here and there and therefore fit more spinning in.

I started spinning using a drop spindle and then moved on to a spinning wheel when I could afford to get a good secondhand wheel.  I found it relatively easy to transfer the techniques I had learnt on the spindle over to the spinning wheel without much trouble at all.  I use both now.  The drop spindle to spin on the go and for smaller projects and the wheel when I want to settle and get lots of spinning done.

I find I can control my spinning more precisely too and that the drop spindle offers versatility in the yarn I create.  

Great information here:

I would recommend these books:
Spinning in the old way - I love this book.

Instructions to make your own drop spindle look here:

There are all manner of designs, shapes, sizes of drop spindles available.  Some are works of art - fantastic!  There are quite a few basic spindles about.  For example here is a basic starter set.  
Starter pack with spindle, book on spindling and fleece - 

Spindles will always be used just as they always have been used for many, many years!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Beginning spinning - Kelly's story

I first learnt about the world of spinning and wool related crafts through this book, 'Winter Nature Activities for Children'.   The book has a whole section for the month of January on working with wool with children.  Before reading this, I had never come across hand spinning before and I was fascinated.  The scope of activities to try for myself and with the children!  The section has a great general overview  about the history of using wool for clothing, shearing sheep, cleaning carding and spinning methods and also knitting, weaving and felting.  Just the quick, ininformative overview I needed to be inspired!

Since I didn't have any sheep fleece or anything to spin on, we took a walk to the nearby fields and plucked up bits of sheep's wool off the grass and off the fencing.  Then, having got the idea from the Winter Nature Activities book, I cut just the right branch with a smaller branch, a good 'V' shaped hook at the top, and cut it down to form a branch hook spindle. And I was off, spinning in this most basic, primitive way!  It was a good introduction.

Soon after that I bought a drop spindle and managed to source a big bag of organic raw fleece from a parent at our home education group whom I discovered was a spinner after chatting to anyone who would listen about my new interest!

I spun solely on a drop spindle for at least six months and taught myself via books, YouTube videos and through trial and error.  The following Spring, I went along to a spinning day held by our local spinning guild and met a wonderful woman there who had been spinning for over forty years.  Francis was so incredibly helpful and she offered to sell me a spinning wheel and give me a spinning lesson thrown in.  The introductory lesson was invaluable.  It really helped me consolidate and correct my self-taught spinning techniques.  The biggest tip she gave me was to practice for half an hour every day.  That really helped me.

I mostly spin with raw fleece and mostly English rare breeds that I source locally here in the Cotswolds.  I enjoy natural dyeing using dyes I can find in the garden or around the farm.

I enjoy the whole wool process from dirty fleece onwards. On occasion, I do get a bit of prepared fibres for special projects.  Right now I am drop spindling rust coloured merino wool to knit up a fox for a learning block the children and I will be starting on soon.  I still use the drop spindle regularly and feel it is a great place to start.  It is so portable and simple.  I can take it anywhere and get a little spinning done on the go.  I do love my wheel though!

I go through periods of spinning regularly and other times when I don't spin for weeks on end.  At this stage, it is not easy for me to join in with Guild meets or go on further spinning lessons as I have four young children whom I home educate.  There will be other times in the future for this.

It is wonderful though, to enjoy spinning and wool related crafts as there is so much the children can be included in and so much they can learn too with working with wool.

I still have much to learn and that is the attraction of any craft.  There is always more to learn.  Having this space to share, to support, to encourage and to learn from each other is very exciting to me.

I have lots of spinning to get done to make room for Spring shearing time.  Always something to look forward to!

And that is my spinning story!


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Woolly Wednesday (post from 9th February 2011)

Here we are at Spinspiration, Kelly and I sharing our love of fibres and spinning. I have copied across my blog post from recently to start us off with some hints and tips I have found useful and some useful websites. We would love you to join in and share your spinning experiences however long you have been doing it, or join in if you are interested in spinning in the future.

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So remember the bobbins from the other day? Beautiful Zwartble spun mostly by myself with a little help from Imogen.

I meant to take a close up of the singles on the bobbin but forgot. With both of these bobbins I decided to Navajo ply the wool, this makes it a lovely 3 ply yarn just from one single and is a lovely way to ply, often used when doing colour work as this method of plying keeps the colours looking good rather than plying with another bobbin and creating more variety. I've done it with this as I want this to be a quite chunky yarn and I spin quite thin singles generally.

There is a great video tutorial for Navajo plying here, it takes a little getting used to but once you have mastered it, it is easy to do. There are other videos but I think this one explains and demonstrates it well. It basically uses a loop and you draw the single through the loop - a bit like a crochet chain stitch, and continue to do that - drawing the single through the loop and pinching and releasing the yarn in front as it is plying (with the spinning wheel spinning in the anti-clockwise direction).

Here it is, plied and wound off the bobbin onto the niddy noddy, and tied at four points with a figure of 8 tie of contrasting wool (I use acrylic so it doesn't blend or felt onto it) - this helps stop the strands tangling when you come to wash it and then wind it up into a ball.

Navajo plied zwartble yarn

The next picture is some previous spinning, washed and waiting to be made into lovely balls of yarn. Not sure what to use these for yet as they are odd balls now as the fleece is all used up. The zwartble is going to last a while though so a bigger project for that one I think, just got to decide what.

Zwartble (grey) Jacobs (humbug) Dorset horn (cream) Portland (white)

So tips and all that, for all those new spinners out there (you know who you are) - there are some great video tutorials on the internet if you get a little stuck and it's a while before your next spinning meeting.
This is a great site for advice (and pictures) and some videos - Joy of Handspinning . This is a good basic how to spin, how to control the wheel video here. I also think the Ruth MacGregor videos are good (carding, short draw and long draw) - no words though but set to lovely music, and you can pick up what she is doing and there are written words every so often. Hope some of these help. Alex has pointed out that a glossary of terms would be useful too - here's one on our Guild website, and another comprehensive one here - actually that's another good website of how-to.

Tips are probably hard to explain in writing, much easier to pick up when you are with someone guiding you but I'll have a go at a few:
  • Practice treadling with no wool on the bobbin, get your rhythm consistent - not having to battle with the wheel going backwards when you introduce wool will be easier once you have the rhythm of your wheel. Slow and steady - learn to recognise how slow you can go without it reversing.
  • The single biggest tip that helped me when I was learning was to pinch the wool going through the orifice to stop the spin going up into the rolag or batt of wool (whatever you're spinning from). I knew nothing when I bought my wheel but found the lovely people at the Guild and found one of the members taught and got myself on her lessons. Very thorough and very experienced - learnt all about the wheel and sheep and different qualities of wool from different parts of the sheep. But the pinching of the wool was either not mentioned or I didn't hear it. But the very next day I had booked onto a one day course with an experienced spinner and learnt loads more, and this "pinching" was the best advice - I was away ... "a natural" in her words and came home from that buzzing and with two skeins of plied washed wool. So long story - short conclusion - pinch the wool in front of the rolag and don't release until you have drafted (pulled) back the rolag - then I gently follow the spin in the wool back to where I want to and pinch again. Pinch and release.

  • If it starts going out of your control - stop! Stop the wheel and recover. If the spin has gone into the roving, stop and untwist the rolag if you can or break off and rejoin.
  • Bet confident at short draw spinning - push and pull a little at a time (also called inchworm) before trying long draw. Although long draw has it's benefits (more consistent even yarn), it can be frustrating when learning.
  • When you lose your end - fibre breaks and the end winds onto the bobbin - it can sometimes be hard to find it. A small piece of masking tape can help you find it. Edited to add: wrap a little masking tape around your finger and run it gently along your spun wool on the bobbin and the loose end will stick to it so you can re-thread it through the orifice with your threading hook.
  • Remember to stop from time to time to check where the wool is winding on and change the yarn to another hook as necessary (unless you have a lovely fancy wheel with a sliding hook flyer!)

I will think about any more tips I can share, hope these help - not sure if I can explain them well enough in writing, but hopefully it makes some sense.

So what are you spinning? Share your pictures, don't be shy, would love to see your work whether you're new to spinning or experienced. I'll share with you this which was my first effort in spinning from the archives!

first spinning an plying

And this after my Spinning Day tuition where everything just clicked.

See it does get easier and better with time and practice.
Dawn x


Through our love of spinning fibre, Dawn and I decided to start this blog together as a place for spinners to get together to share their spinning journeys.  We hope it will evolve to be a source of information and a place where we can learn from each other, to offer each other support, encouragement and a place to show what we have achieved.  We'll also host  a Spinning Circle - a place where we can all share our posts about our spinning and related crafts.
We hope you will join us around our virtual hearth, under our virtual tree, as we spin along together and offer each other spinning inspiration!

Happy spinning!