Good teachers are the best tools you can have
Start with the right tools, it makes a big difference
Maggie Casey showing Eunny Jang how best to insert twist in Start Spinning: The Video.
It is starting to feel like I've always been able to spin. What a wonderful feeling! When I sit down at my wheel my default yarn comes naturally. And, well, I realize I have a default yarn! It is a sign that my spinning practice has moved beyond conscious concentration to physical memory. My hands can feel the fiber drafting through my fingers and adjust automatically to (most) new fibers to make pretty much the same sportweight two-ply over and over.
When I think back, I can remember a time when I couldn't spin. And, I can also remember the period after I "learned" to spin when I couldn't spin very well and it made me not want to spin any more. Big chunks of fiber would be gobbled up quickly and more and more twist appeared that I didn't know what to do with. It made the whole process seem unpleasant and frustrating. It was the typical beginner thick-and-thin but I didn't know enough to get it to the next level. If it hadn't been for a chance encounter where a kind stranger taught me how to keep the twist out of my drafting triangle so I had time to draft properly (and how to twist back with my lead hand to get out the twist that had snuck in) I probably wouldn't be spinning now.
It is amazing how first impressions can affect our whole relationship with a craft. That is why I feel so lucky to be part of Spin-Off and Interweave. When I look though the magazine and our books, I am proud of the great resources we create for new and experienced spinners alike. If I had known about Maggie Casey's Start Spinning and Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle when I started I feel I would have been a happier spinner from the beginning.
Abby Franquemont demonstrating the park and draft method in Respect the Spindle:The Video.
Start Spinning is, as it claims, "Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn." Beginning with why we should make our own yarn and why it is a good idea to start with wool, the book moves through the basics of spindles and the "park and draft method." (Another bit of knowledge that would have made me a happier beginner; how great to just stop the spindle so that you have time to draft without too much twist accumulating!) The book moves into wheels with details about pretty much everything wheel related. And then there is plying, finishing, different drafts, and spinning for end use. To top it off there are appendices on processing raw wool and wheel maintenance. It is all in there. And although it sounds like a lot for one book, the information is presented clearly and is easy to follow. There is also Start Spinning: The Video. The video presents much of the same information live and in person. It is a great complement to the book because Interweave Knits editor and novice spinner, Eunny Jang, joins Maggie as a real life pupil. You learn with Eunny and get to see how the lesson translates to knowledge first hand.
Respect the Spindle is my go to resource for spindling and it makes a great resource for new spindlers. Abby is so knowledgeable and covers such a breadth of information in one lovely book. The book covers the history and mechanics of spindles, gives suggestions for finding the right spindle for you (and your fiber), and starts with the basics of spinning with tons of photos and tips for common problems and then covers every detail of spindles I can think of from how to flick the spindle to where to hold it while you are drafting. There is even a selection of projects to sweeten the pot. Respect the Spindle: The Video brings the book to life. Abby demonstrates practical information on how to make spindles out common materials, how to manage your yarn as you spin, and how to use a spindle efficiently to produce yarn quickly.
We are fortunate to have these resources at our fingertips. If you are considering learning to spin (or know someone who is) be sure to take advantage of this wealth of knowledge that we are so lucky to have readily available.