On Teaching Spinning

Spent more time this week spinning Dottie singles on Elsa.

a darker shade of Dottie

And it’s gotten me thinking about the upcoming WSU Country Living Expo, and the classes I’ll be teaching. Particularly the spinning class.

It’s a two-hour class. In the first hour we generally go over the wheels that students have brought to class and make sure that they are set up to spin (drive bands, brake bands, yarn leaders, tension adjustments, alignment issues, lubrication). We also go over general wheel mechanics, and the basics of yarn structure.

In the second hour we get hands (and feet) on the wheels and start playing with wool. It’s always a bit daunting for folks, so usually we start with treadling, making sure that everything is moving smoothly, and that they are able to find a comfortable rhythm that they can sustain without taking up much of their focus.

Then we move on to the hands. For beginners, I find that the hardest part is getting the hands to keep us with the feet. There is a tendency to want to hold on tightly to the wool and not let it draft. So in past years I’ve introduced an exercise that I think is helpful to get a feel for how the hands need to move to keep up with the feet.

I give everyone a substantial length of sacrificial yarn to “spin” onto their bobbin, permitting them to sense how quickly the spin is entering the fiber, and how strong the take-up is.

When they think they are ready, we move on to drafting from carded batts (probably Esther, and easy-spinning girl with nice long staple length)

getting Esther cleaned up for the Expo!

This is always a major leap. Drafting is really the meat of the subject, but it’s something that only really comes together with practice, and familiarity with the fiber. And there’s only so much of that you can squeeze into a two-hours class.

So, I’d like to ask those of you who are spinners- what was most helpful to you when you were first learning to spin? I’d really appreciate any hints or strategies that you think might be helpful getting newbies started and building their confidence.

Thanks in advance for you input, and have a great week! 🙂

Back Behind the Wheel

Spent a little quality time with Elsa this week

And turned out probably about 500 yards of Dottie’s lightest silver shade.

I’ve got most of her 2019 fleece left, so I thought I’d separate it out into maybe three different shades and spin it all up so it will be project-ready.

I hadn’t spun all that much on Elsa yet, so spent a little time getting her all adjusted and lubricated, but then she just flew! Was so nice to get back behind the wheel and just let the wool flow through my hands. Almost like meditating.

And out in the pasture it was a beautiful day- almost 50 degrees!

I took the christmas tree out to the sheep, and they seemed to enjoy the piney treat.

Dottie’s 2020 fleece is shaping up to be really lovely- and darker than previous years from what I can tell. Tried to get a closeup to share today but she wasn’t having any of it.

Frank and Felix fleeces are also looking nice- so maybe we’ve gotten their itchy skin issues sorted out (?) So far they don’t look like they’re felting like they have in the past (fingers crossed that it holds into the spring!).

I’ll sign off for 2019 with a little bit of gratuitous chicken footage

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Home Sweet Home

Sorry I missed y’all last week- I was away in Florida doing some pre-holiday visiting.

Now I’m back, but am kind of too wiped out to do much Christmas prep.

So if you’re someone who would normally get a Christmas card from me, sorry in advance. Probably not going to happen.

I got a tiny tree up

But that’s about as far as it’s going I think. I had this fleeting thought that I might do another batch of gingerbread for local consumption over Christmas and New Year’s, but the opportunity has passed.

I am very happy to be home with The Man and our critters, and thankful to be looking forward to a low-key holiday of knitting by the glow of the pellet stove

Textured Lace Cowl, cast on for my trip last week-

After that, perhaps I’ll have the energy to focus on some new year’s resolutions…..

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas 🙂

After Market Report-

Thanks to everyone who made it out to the Bow Market Holiday Festival yesterday. It was a lot of fun and I was able to find good homes for quite a few hats and six of my sheep puppet friends!

I chatted with a couple of folks who were interesting in learning how to spin or aspired to have some sheep of their own someday, and wished I had brought some brochures for the WSU Country Living Expo with me, so just in case those folks find their way to the blog I’ll post a link here-

WSU Country Living Expo, Saturday, January 25, 2020

I’ll be teaching two classes again this year-

Basics of Wool Processing (2 hour class, sessions 1&2) – We’ll talk about skirting, washing, drying, and in the second hour lay hands on washed fleece to get some experience with picking, carding and combing.

Yarn From Scratch: Handspinning on a Wheel (2 hour class, sessions 4&5). This class with include a brief intro to wheel mechanics and tuneup session on wheels brought to class. Then we’ll move into basics of yarn construction, drafting techniques, and then get busy spinning! Class size is limited in order to provide as much individual instruction/troubleshooting as possible to each participant.

And they do a really good Prime Rib lunch!

Just for good measure I’ll send you off with a neat chicken picture that The Man took this afternoon-

Have a great week!