Drop Spindles and Spinning Wheels

"Oh, that's great yarn you made! Mom. When are you getting a spinning wheel? Soon, yes!? But I do NOT like the smell of that wool. I know what the problem is: maybe they didn't filter it?"

Wyatt and I are just returning from ten days at my parents' house in Massachusetts. That's a new personal record for all of us. In addition to our crab apple jelly/jam concocting, we enjoyed an amazing day trip to Wingaersheek Beach with friends, blueberry picking, and visits with family. Most days, though, Wyatt stuck himself firmly to his grandparents in the morning and took the day from there. He did some work in the wood shop and garden, emptied the wading pool with water shooters, did construction projects in the sand box, tirelessly assisted in mowing the lawn on the riding lawnmower, helped with errands, and chased the dog around the yard.

My parents' place is pretty terrific, especially when you're four, and it's summertime. As an adult, I recognize I am really fortunate to have grown up there. At the same time, I vividly recall how I couldn't wait get out of my hometown, go somewhere far away, and do something awesome.

More than a month before we were scheduled to leave, I was looking at the ten days blocked-out on our calendar, and I noticed a teenager's scowl beginning to tug at the corners of my mouth. I realized I was having a tough time shaking my view of our destination as "boring." I wondered if I could plan a way to experience or learn something new while I was visiting. I started to think about New England, New Englanders, and the pleasant attributes make the people and area special. During the weeks leading up to our trip, Wyatt began to comment on all the things he was looking forward to seeing, including all of the "forests." To him, there are forests everywhere, including on the side of all the roads. 

I began to think about open space, forests and then farms, and I started to research whether there were any hyper-local farms or yarns I could check-out while I was in town. I didn't find any.* I next considered attending a fiber-related workshop. A few online searches later, I found Sheila Bosworth, who works only minutes away from my parents' house, and the Fiber Loft just down the road in Harvard. Suddenly I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to learn to spin wool in New England.

I contacted Sheila and the Fiber Loft, and both of them had good news: they would teach me to spin! Sheila would lend me a bobbin and teach me the drop spindle technique, and the Fiber Loft had room for me in a day-long beginning wheel spinning workshop. Fortunately, my parents were up for some extended grandchild time, so I was free to make plans.


My first lesson was with Sheila. I knew I was in great hands when she looked at my first wonky yarn attempt and told me, "Oh my! Look at that! You've made bouclé! I can't even do that anymore. People pay good money for artistic yarn like that." She gave me wonderfully attentive instruction, as well as little spinning mantras to say to myself to help with bringing the right amount of wool to the spindle. I bought one of her gorgeous spindles, and I left with the intention to follow her admonition to practice for 15 minutes a day.



My second lesson was just over a week later, at the Fiber Loft, with Ann Corbey. Our class was a group of four women (we all arrived solo), and none of us had ever spun wool before. Ann brought us fleece from her sheep, Lydia. 

We started with Lydia's skirted, unwashed fleece, and we learned to card it.

Once we had carded the fleece into rolags, Ann showed us how to spin it "in the grease." We worked with Lydia's wool from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. The time flew, we all chatted, learned, messed-up, and fixed our mistakes. I left with a ball of pretty good looking handspun wool and a deep admiration for Ann and her gracious, fun approach to teaching. It was magical to watch my fingers feed fluffy rolags of wool I had just carded into a wheel I was powering with my foot and have yarn come out the other end. Bonus: my hands got a lanolin treatment. 


I was hoping I'd have fun with these lessons, but I wasn't expecting I'd love spinning or be any good at it. I certainly wasn't expecting to leave these lessons plotting how I might find a reasonably price, pre-owned, (double treadle?) Louët spinning wheel so I could take up yet another craft. But I do love it, and I am plotting. In the meantime, I have my little drop-spindle to keep me busy.

My next task will be washing and blocking my yarn...

*I'm convinced there are plenty of little local farms to visit, but the farms are not commercial enough to bother with a website.