I want to preface this post by stating that I am not paid, sponsored, or in any way affiliated with any of the websites I am about to mention. I am also not endorsing, making money on, or in any way profiting from mentioning them. I plan on using these posts to detail my journey toward purchasing my first spinning wheel, including links to websites that I have found helpful and explaining my decisions along the way. Everything mentioned in these posts are my personal opinions and will not reflect what anyone else thinks.
Whew, with the disclaimers out of the way, I am planning to save up for my first Spinning Wheel! Yay! Getting started, I guess one of the first things you need to know about me is that I am a Reference Librarian (I know, most people think of the old lady behind a desk that put a rubber stamp in the back of your book and made dire threats if it was late). No, not that kind of librarian, I have a Masters Degree in Library Science, MLS, (some call it Studies) from a University endorsed by the American Library Association. Oooh, fancy! What this boils down to is, before I outlay a lot of money (well it is a lot to me) I am going to research the subject to death. Learn as much as I can about it and then still mull things over for a while before I purchase my first wheel. I have already begun that process and started to research.
Most of the time you are told to go back to the beginning and start learning from there. Given that methodology I would begin researching the history of Spinning as a craft and way of life. Sorry, not really what I wanted to learn. As I get into it, I am looking forward to learning the rich history of this amazing life-skill, but right now, I want to see what kind of a spinning wheel I should get! To that end I began by looking at Spin-Off Magazine.
I have a tablet computer (an older iPad really, I love apple) and the Kindle App. Fortunately for me they offer the first 30 days of a magazine subscription for free. So I was able to check out the October 2015 issue of Spin-Off Magazine featuring 4-Ply. What it really featured, for me, were some very interesting articles as well as a lot of useful advertisements. The best way to get to know a new craft? Check out some of what is being advertised, and sign up for e-mail newsletters. This is how I managed to accomplish my next step. None of the libraries that I work at, Yes I work at more than one, subscribe to Spin-Off. Actually none of the libraries attached to the libraries that I work at subscribe to Spin-Off, so when I was looking for past issues I found Interweave. They are the company that publishes Spin-Off, but they are a store also. I signed up for their newsletter and received an e-mail about their next 50% off digital magazine sale. I was very happy since each past issue would have cost $8 and they were now $4. I picked up 6 past issues for what I would have, theoretically since I wasn’t going to pay $8 an issue, paid for 3. Thus began my journey into learning the technicalities of spinning fiber into yarn.
Two of the advertisers in Spin-Off are Paradise Fibers and Woolery. Paradise Fibers has a section about choosing the right wheel, they have a blog, and they have daily deals. All very neat and somewhat useful. Much more interesting and useful to me, they have a YouTube Channel which contains a video by Kyle about choosing a spinning wheel. Thanks to Kyle I was able to discover that if I obtain a wheel that just has ‘Scotch Tension’ I will not be able to switch over to a double drive wheel without buying a new wheel! This just greatly decreased the number of wheels I was looking at. Kyle also mentioned a couple of things such as portability, how much space the wheel would take up, and making sure you know what accessories are available for your wheel. They also have a great video about ball winders and yarn swifts, and plenty of other videos about knitting and products they sell. I really recommend checking them out. We will talk about Woolery in a minute, but I want to emphasize, I spend hours on YouTube checking out some of the videos available to get an idea of what wheels are available and how they work. There are even videos of people putting their first wheels together so you can get an idea of some of the problems they ran into. There are also videos about drop-spindles, sheering sheep and alpaca, and taking the viewer from sheep to rug. I watched a Navajo woman spinning on a supported spindle and creating thread so fine I could barely see it, it is remarkable.
Woolery is another site that I found very useful. They have a ton of shopping options and their videos tend to be integrated with their shopping sites, though they have a YouTube Channel as well. If you click on a subject, such as spinning wheels you are taken not to a sales page, not right away, but to an information page, explaining what wheels are, how they work, and the first link is how to select your wheel. Their website is dynamic and very well made. I love their Social Media links right at the top as well as the enormous selection of crafts that they are involved with. Under each section is an almost overwhelming amount of choices for shopping. The first couple of times checking out the website it would be really easy to get overwhelmed and a bit lost. At least that is what happened to me.
Between Spin-Off, Paradise Fibers, and Woolery I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. There are so many choices, so many different types of wheels and things to keep in mind (Aaah!). I needed to take a break and rethink where I was going with this. Several of the sites and crafters were talking about ‘the yarn you see in your vision’ that ‘yarn you are just dying to work with’. Well, that is not why I wanted to spin my own yarn. I mostly saw that these yarns are like $30-50 or more a hank and if I wanted to play with them I had to pay a ton, if I wanted to make something like a shawl I felt that I had to be a master knitter just to get started or I would be throwing away an expensive hank of yarn. This way I can spin the yarns that I want to play with, at the thickness I want, in the colors I want, and eventually at the rate I want. Instead of paying 30-50 for a single hank I can invest in a wheel and crank out as many hanks as I want, eventually. Okay, so I am going forward with this project. Crisis Resolved.
After that crisis I still wasn’t ready to go back to my perusing shopping sites and hankering after different tools, I decided to go back to my research. Reading articles from my Spin-Off magazines and using Kindle Unlimited to get Start Spinning by Maggie Casey. I am also currently reading Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. This, combined with an offer of buying me a new drop spindle for Christmas, and the visions of the Navajo woman spinning beautiful yarn, helped to rekindle my interest in the tool I had been using but only as a stop-gap measure. I had been steadily using my drop spindle to deplete my supply of silk hankies, bought years ago, so that I would have some practice drafting when I had gotten my new wheel, as well as some fiber to ply with. With all of this floating around somewhere in my mind I decided to look at some drop-spindles. Paradise fibers has a few that are neat, but they all tend toward Top-Whorl spindles. Meaning that the weight of the spindle is up near the top, right by the hook. When you spin, they spin faster and when you have enough fiber you fasten it off below the whorl. It is a very popular type, and I have one…somewhere. When I started spinning I learned early I like the bottom whorl spindle better. I cannot really say why, I like how it feels when I spin it, it doesn’t spin too fast or too slow, and I find it easy to pile the spun product up above the whorl. So I decided to check out Woolery next, to clarify I have looked at other sites and will continue to do so these are just the two that I have found most useful thus far.
Woolery has an amazing selection of drop spindles as well as Supported Spindles. Oooh, something new! Actually the Navajo woman was spinning on a supported spindle so I was vaguely aware of them. With a Drop Spindle you spin the spindle and draft the fiber from the top, wind the yarn on and repeat. The main support for the spindle is the yarn being created, if you create yarn that is too thin or you overspin the very thin yarn then your yarn will break and your spindle will, well, drop to the floor. With a supported spindle you are using one hand to constantly, or nearly constantly, spin the spindle while the other hand drafts out the fibers. At this time I think that is asking too much for my hand eye coordination, I’m having enough trouble with drafting fibers for the drop spindle when I have two hands to work at it, though both books have given me a lot of tips and I am getting much better at it. I thought I might have to skip a supported spindle altogether, when I found out that Woolery has two kinds of supported spindles that do not require one hand for keeping the spin going. One version is machined from brass and costs almost $100. Ow, if that were my only option I might be going with it, but someone thought up the Spindolyn. This is a hand made version of the supported spindle that can be customized between spindle and support, there is even an extension option so that you can set this spindle on the floor and use it sort of like a tiny spinning wheel. Okay, so I had to find the creators site to discover about the floor option, it is not available through Woolery at this time. This is going to be my next purchase while I save up to buy the wheel of my dreams. Using this I should be able to utilize some of my bamboo stash to create a beautiful silky yarn, or maybe mix some fibers together and experiment.
So far, the conclusions I have reached:
- My drop spindle is actually great to learn to draft on
- A supported spindle, Spindolyn in this case, will help me get used to drafting finer fibers
- When I get a Spinning Wheel I will be getting a Double Drive wheel
- When I select a Spinning Wheel I will make sure that it has sufficient attachments to allow me to create any kind of fiber I will desire.
That has been my journey toward purchasing a spinning wheel thus far. I hope to posts pictures of my first Plied Silk from my drop spindle soon.