I finally did it. I broke down and bought a spinning wheel. It was only a matter of time, really. Ever since starting the Sweater from Scratch project I have been toying with the idea of purchasing a spinning wheel. If you don't know what Sweater from Scratch is you can click the highlighted text above and read about this crazy goal I have to turn a raw alpaca fleece into a sweater with a simple drop spindle.
So now I have the beautiful spinning wheel in my living room and I have to figure out how to use it. I bought it from a nice lady through Craigslist and she also gave me a couple books. After watching a few Youtube videos I had the general idea of how to use the wheel but actually being able to produce yarn took some real work.
I happened to have two ounces of spinning wool on hand and set to work trying to figure out how to use my new machine. It took a lot of tweaking and some frustration but I did manage to make two strands of yarn which I then plyed into the yarn you see below.
I like to give myself credit that I actually managed to make yarn but I will admit that there were issues with the consistency of thickness. As you can see there are some very thick sections and some very thin sections which I think give the yarn a funky bohemian feel. (I know I'm stretching here but give me a break. It was my first attempt at using a spinning wheel.)
After plying the yarn I knitted up a swatch to see how it would look. I started with size 10 needles and then went to size 17 and then 19. (Those are just the sizes of needles I had on hand.) You can see how the top section is much smaller and tighter knit while the middle and bottom sections are looser and wider.
After I did this test batch of yarn I started reading some of the spinning books which came with the wheel. With in the first few pages I realized that I had spun this yarn with two different fiber preparations. They were both white wool but one was combed top (smooth fibers aligned in the same direction) and a woolen preparation (haphazard and fuzzy fibers with no directionality).
As the complete novice that I am I had no idea of the differences in fiber preparation and how it impacts the finished yarn. I had really only spun with the alpaca which I carded myself so to find that there are so many options out there was eye opening. I still can't give you a concise definition for all the options but I figured out pretty quickly that combed top wool seems to be the easiest to spin with. Everything is already aligned nicely and you can even peel off sections of fiber and have to do very little drafting.
After I used up the fiber I had on hand I bought some more. This time I acquired some lovely combed top merino wool, grown in the US, from Beesybee on Etsy. (I was distraught to find that the only physical store in my area that sold roving had closed.)
Here are the two skeins I have made so far. They are both roughly two ounces each of fiber. The wool came in one long piece of roving and I pulled off one ounce sections. I then spun one ounce at a time and when I have two ounces on two different spindles I plyed them together. The left skein was the first and the one on the right was the second. I like to think that I am becoming more consistent in my thickness but that might just be an illusion.
Overall this new spinning wheel has been great fun. It is insanely faster than the drop spindle but that was to be expected. I am still working out how this will impact my Sweater from Scratch project but for right now I am just trying to improve my spinning technique and learn the intricacies of spinning on a wheel.
Are you a spinning? Have any tips for newbies like me? Then put them in the comments sections or share photos of the yarn you have made. And then stay tuned for more adventures from a novice spinner.