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February 19, 2012

During the last week, I have barely knit an inch. There are no completed projects, no freshly wound balls of yarn for new projects nor are there  15 printed patterns out for my consideration. Nope. I have not been knitting. Don’t worry. I don’t have any broken bones, I am not deathly ill and no one has stolen all of my yarn and needles. The reason for my lack of knitting is simple and can be summed up in three words: curiosity, education and learning. Normally, something that invokes those three words together would promote joy in my house, but when applied to me, well, they may be cause for concern.

The curiosity started off innocently enough. I am a Facebook fan of one of my favorite LYS, The Knitter’s Palette in Lakeville, MN. Last month they posted a listing of all the new classes they were offering this spring. One class caught my eye. Learning to spin on a drop spindle. Whoa. A class where I can learn to spin my own yarn? Sign me up! I told my husband about it, and he encouraged me to go for it, all the while knowing full well that this could lead to another crafting obsession for me. My daughter Alea decided to accompany me to the class, because, as she put it, “I’m not doing anything else Saturday afternoons.”

Saturday came, and we got to the store early. A simple class needed tools such as top whorl spindles and two braids of hand painted merino roving and we needed to buy new things! Our first day of class was interesting to say the least. There is a whole heck of a lot that goes into spinning yarn. I was having flashbacks of all of those physics lessons from Dr. Paige in 11th grade. Terms like mass, rotational dynamics, torque and centripetal force were used with frequency. This age old art, the way that every fiber has been prepared since the beginning of time, involved a lot of science. Factors that I had taken for granted when knitting with store bought yarn were brought into sharp focus.

After the initial education into the hows and whys of spinning fiber into yarn was complete, it was time for the hands on learning to take place. The first method we learned was the park and draft method of spinning yarn. This involved spinning the spindle, creating energy in the leader, parking the spindle between our legs and drafting fiber. Needless to say, my first attempts at spinning were awful. I was convinced that the fiber and the spindle hated me. Every time I got a draft started, every time I thought I was creating yarn, the fiber would break and my spindle would drop to the floor. And the yarn I did manage to get on my spindle? It was so over and under spun, so thick and thin, it couldn’t even be classified as art yarn.

My 11 year old daughter, on the other hand, was able to get a consistent spin and draft going, within 30 minutes of learning what to do.

We left that class with instructions to work on our spinning for 15 minutes a day and assurances from our teacher that we would get better at this. I wasn’t so sure, but I was determined. I had other spindles at the house to play with, other sample braids of roving to practice on. I spun and spun and spun. 15 minutes a day turned into 1 hour. One hour turned into entire evenings.

Guess what happened? I got better. Not great by any means, but better. By the second class yesterday, I wasn’t so ashamed of my attempts.

As all the students in the class were comparing our yarns, we all noticed that we had about the same learning curve. Our thick and thin yarns, full of slubs and blobs of fiber, were gradually thinning out. We were getting more consistent thicknesses across all of our yarns. More importantly, I was learning to love spinning. Next week, we will learn to ply. I can’t wait. I am now dreaming of exotic fibers like yak and camel, bookmarking Etsy retailers with beautiful hand dyed rovings and lusting over hand carved moose antler spindles. All this before I have even successfully plied my first yarn. Am I getting ahead of myself? Maybe. Or maybe I am just preparing for the future where I will be an accomplished spinner, spinning my own yarn and knitting beautiful things from it. I think I am going to need a spinning wheel . . .

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