The transformation of fibre into a yarn is a very satisfying process. Once the techniques have been mastered, it is very gratifying to watch a yarn form on the hand spindle or spinning wheel bobbin.
There is an abundance of information available for beginners. The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers is an excellent place to start. Local Guilds have a diary of events that include workshops and demonstrations. Information about local Guilds and their programme can be found on The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers web site.
Another good place to learn how to spin is through books. Fibrecrafts offers books about learning how to spin on a spindle and a spinning wheel. These contain step by step instruction and clear illustrations or photographs. There are also the magazine titles which include “The Journal” and “Spin Off”
Yarn can be spun directly from fleece which needs to be cleaned and carded into a roving. Roving is the pencil thin length of fibres from which the fibres are fed onto the spindle. Synthrapol can be used to degrease the fleece and wool combs are used to open out the fibre. Drum carders can be used to prepare the fibre into what is known as a batt, ready for splitting down into a roving, while hand carders are used to create a rolag for woollen spinning. Hand carders and drum carders are also useful for blending different types and colours of fibres, adding variety to spinning and feltmaking.
Pre-prepared natural and dyed fibres are readily available and can be parted easily into a roving. Wool fibres are usually sold as tops which is a hand width length of fibres. Silk, cotton and hair fibres are also available as tops, depending on the width. The prepared cotton and silk fibres are usually referred to as sliver which is about a quarter of the thickness of a top.
The choice of prepared fibres is extensive and a beginner spinner will have no difficulty identifying a long staple fibre such as Shetland or Merino for their first experience of the craft. Shorter or slippery fibres such as cotton or silk sliver will be a challenge for the beginner.
The integrity of the yarn is determined by the amount of twist. Learning how to regulate this twist is the key to a well balanced yarn.
Hand spindles come in different forms and sizes, from the tiny Tahki spindle to the much larger Navajo.
Don’t worry if hand spinning is not your cup of tea. There are also many different types of spinning wheels to consider before beginning your spinning career.