Break the Rules! Spinning with Joy

What if most theories you’d heard about spinning were wrong?

What if woolen and worsted didn’t mean anything, there was no correct amount of twist, and it didn’t matter whether you drafted forward or backward?

And what if the person who said this wasn’t a casual novice but one of the most respected, meticulous spinning teachers of the last half-century?

That would be Rita Buchanan. Other surprising opinions in her video How I Spin: You can make a huge range of yarn sizes without ever adjusting your wheel. It doesn’t really make a difference whether you comb or card fiber. You should predraft.


Rita Buchanan shows the range of yarn she produced just by changing the amount of fibers she drafted.

Yet Rita backs up her controversial statements with rigorous sampling. (This is, after all, the woman who wrote the columns that became Taking the Measure of Handspun Yarn. That collection includes a brilliant twist gauge design that Rita developed with her husband, Steve Buchanan.) She delights in producing the most careful, bountiful, well-documented spinning samples you’ve ever seen.

Brand New Spinning Drafts

Watching Rita spin and explain her approach, I chuckled at the drafts she names: The stand-up draft. The talk to your neighbor draft. The rolag evaluation draw. “It’s all yarn, it’s all the same,” she says. “Can you tell where you did long draw?”

But the biggest surprise may be right in the video’s introduction: “I also like to spin because it takes a lot of time.” (Most of us would say that we find time to spin or enjoy spinning, but how many of us like it because it takes a lot of time?) She goes on: “The time I spend spinning is time away from the hassles of the world, and it’s time to be calm and peaceful and to be joyful and to enjoy the beauty of the material and the skill of my hands . . . .”


Spin the way it feels good.

“It’s your yarn,” she says. “Make it the way that feels good.”

Anne Merrow

Featured Image: A visit to Rita Buchanan’s studio is full of delights.

Prepare to be surprised by Rita Buchanan!


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