Getting Started Spinning

Edit: Oh my! I just looked up the Lambtown Festival in Dixon, Ca. If anyone is going to this, let me know! I will be making an effort to be there Saturday and Sunday! The spinning classes are booked up sadly, but I am going to sign up for an Indie Dyeing class.

I am contemplating learning to spin and I need resources and stories of how all you lovely spinners got started. I live in central California and have heard that Dixon has a lamb festival of sorts that could be helpful. I have heard that Macedos Mini Acre out in Turlock sometimes teaches as well (and they have lovely yarn too!) Any tips you have for me would be greatly appreciated. A few questions/concerns i have are:

-where to learn
-where to buy a wheel
-what kind to buy and how to know which is best for me
-where to buy roving
-how much should i save up for classes, materials, tools, etc.
-is there a market for homespun yarn
-what do you make with your homespun yarn

Thank you, cant wait to hear your wisdom and about your experiences! Any information is welcome!

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Contact local shops that sell wheels. They may offer to teach you - and for free!

Don’t assume you have to buy a new wheel. If you have a friend who spins, have the friend accompany you if and when you investigate used wheels, to avoid those with warped wheels or missing parts (some antique stores with non spinning owners have been known to offer [unwittingly, I hope] wheels without flyers, or with bobbins that don’t fit, etc). A good source for reliable used wheels, and for buying advice for new and used, are fiber festivals.

Do you want to start with a wheel, or would you like to start with a spindle? The latter are less expensive. The advice I offered above about how and where to search, lessons, and new or used, also applies to spindles.

Try, try, try before you buy! Different wheels “feel” different when you spin. Some, because of size, may be more comfortable for you, because of the location of the orifice, their height, weight (do you plan to spin in one place or do you want to pick your wheel up and spin with other enthusiasts?)

This reply is getting long so I’ll continue with more later.

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Picking up where I left off (sort of) (remember especially to try, try, TRY before you buy!), now let’s cover roving.

The best place to buy roving is where you can get up close and personal with it. Fiber fairs are great locales - there are usually lots of vendors. You can touch the fiber to learn what its texture is like, see whether it’s matted or felted (unfortunately, this sometimes happens in the dyeing process if the dyer isn’t careful), and find out what the staple length is. Some folks say (and I italicized that phrase, because as sure as some folks love double-treaded wheels and others swear by single treadles) that a beginning spinner should use Romney breed roving and avoid Merino, because the latter has a short staple and can be slippery. Other folks say (which includes me) what’s easier for some may be challenging fiber for another - and if you don’t like what you’re spinning, you won’t practice your craft.

Which brings me to another point. Practice. Yep. Did you ever take piano/flute/soccer lessons? Didn’t your teacher/coach tell you to practice, preferably daily? Yeah, it’s essential for spinning too. Unless you’re one in a thousand, your first spinning will be -ah- variable. Don’t despair. Don’t give up! Practice. Daily. One of the best advice your spinning instructor(s) and friends will give you is to practice daily. So for this, you’ll need lots of roving. I recommend a pound of roving. I find Romney, Corriedale, Shetland and Jacob to be easy spinning fibers, and comparatively inexpensive.

Next reply, I’ll write a bit about costs - if another openraveler doesn’t beat me to it.

Would something like this be a good start?

I am going to a fiber festival in October, so I may be able to find some of these “drop spindle” kits. Am i on the right track here?

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Fiber fairs often offer classes. If you try one spindle/wheel and it doesn’t feel right, don’t despair. You may need to practice or that particular spindle/wheel might not be a good fit for you. After all, did you learn how to knit and do complex cables in a day? A week? A month?

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You asked two monetary related questions-

  1. Cost of spinners (I’m grouping lessons, equipment and fiber in this)
  2. Marketing handspun

Well guess what - you could shell out thousands of dollars for this hobby annually. Some wheels are quite pricey (check out the Schacht Matchless or any Majacraft wheel for example) Some components, like the pretty sliding flyers that make the singles on bobbins wind evenly up and down the bobbin, are costly too. Even if you find a used wheel in good condition (like my “new to me” Ashford Traveler I bought seven years ago, you’ll need at least four bobbins, but you don’t need a lazy Kate right away (you can make one from a shoebox!) or a niddy noddy (you can make this cheaply too). You’ll get a sense of what decent wool roving costs from surfing Etsy or craft stores like The Woolery or Flying Fibers, and from going to those fiber festivals.

As for a “handspun market.” well, there are folks who sell handspun. But imagine you’re a potential handspun buyer. You’ll want enough decently spun yarn for your shawl/ or scarf or sweater etc That’s a lot of yarn - at least 200 yds of worsted weight to 1500 yds or more of fingering. Factor in your cost of buying the roving ( or a fleece, which you scour and card or comb [hmm, better factor in the cost of Dawn or Unicorn Power Scour and the cost of combs or cards] and your labor. Whew. I don’t think you can consider making handspun a profitable enterprise. (After all, how many of us have been casually asked “what would you charge me to knit/crochet me a x?” and when we tell the questioner a reasonable price, they gasp or say “why, I could buy that at Target for a fraction of that price!”)

So sorry for the long-windedness, but I’m just hanging out waiting for the NHS latest report on when Dorian will be coming to visit and with how much wind and rain.

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Oh no! Good luck to you and be careful over there!

Thank you soooo much for the advice! So much work goes into the end result and it amazes me. Im very excited to get to see the Sheep to Shawl competition in October - i have no idea how its even possible in 4 hours - so that i, as an end result knitter, can appreciate how much hard work and real passion goes into one skein of yarn.

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When the competitors are finished, ask them all the questions you’v posted here. Some may be willing to give you a quick spinning/spindling lesson (or offer to give you lessons elsewhere). Some may give you wheel/spindle what to look for/used items for sale advice. Some may have fiber to sell. All will be great crafters to get to know.

I wish there was a fiber festival close to me. The nearest is a six hour drive, which means a motel stay $$.

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