What do a vacation, a sweater pattern, and a llama named Uncle Larry have in common?

Tell us your learning-to-spin story

Our April 20th newsletter introduced our new special issue Interweave Knit&Spin, which is geared toward the comfortable knitter but beginning spinner. We asked you to share your beginning-to-spin stories, and you responded with such enthusiasm that we wanted to take a moment to say "thank you" to everyone who took time to share. It was great to read about the wide variety of forces that led you to learn how to spin. As a small token of our thanks, we randomly selected these four spinners from the many who responded to receive a free copy of Interweave Knit&Spin. Here are their stories:

Trish with her (almost) Easter lamb, Bunny, and Bunny's mother, Lucy.

Trish Sparling:

"When my children were young, I went to a local craft fair that was selling handspun yarn in a sock kit. I was enchanted, but not having a lot of money at the time, I couldn't justify the expense. I went back a few years later but couldn't find the same vendor. I think that experience first planted the seed of learning how to spin. Two years ago, I found a delightful yarn shop while on vacation in Klamath Falls, Oregon, that carried knitting and spinning equipment. The owner sold me a drop spindle, showed me how to use it, and gave me a few ounces of wool top with some grease still in it. I spun all of it that evening and came back to buy more the next day. I was hooked. Now I own eight Shetland sheep and spin my own fleeces. I'm still enchanted when I make socks from my own yarn." 

JoAnn McKey:

"About five years ago at Christmas time our church built an interactive Bethlehem exhibit and invited the community to journey through it. Both the actors and visitors had a great time, and everyone was excited about improving things for the next Christmas. I had never seen anyone spin with a drop spindle but offered to try to learn to add to the display's authenticity. With a library copy of Lee Raven's Hands on Spinning, a pile of polyester stuffing, and two pencils duct-taped together end-to-end and poked through the lid of a cottage cheese container, I began my own journey. I'll never forget the thrill of success that evening—and all inspired by a few feet of ugly lumpy polyester yarn. Once I realized my goal was actually attainable, I made a Turkish-style drop spindle and bought some wool roving at the local fair to add a touch of authenticity to our Bethlehem exhibit that year. My husband gave me a spinning wheel, and I have been happily spinning (and knitting and weaving and crocheting) ever since."

JoAnn spinning in her first interactive Bethlehem at her church.

Three spindles and a distaff JoAnn has made and uses during her seasonal "time travel" to Bethlehem. The distaff is modeled after one in an ancient Egyptian wall painting and the spindles are designed to be authentic to the time.

Alison during a visit to a scenic vineyard in Germany. 

Alison Wiediger:

"I was a knitter first. Back in the late 1980s, I wanted to knit a particular sweater pattern in a handspun brown yarn. I went to several craft fairs looking for the yarn I had pictured in my mind and never found it. However, the spinning wheels at the fairs fascinated me. Living in Virginia at the time, the River Farm was just a couple of hours up the road from me. I mailed a request for a catalog and bought an Ashford Traditional kit and several pounds of covered fleece. When it arrived, I assembled the wheel and proceeded to teach myself to spin. Eventually, I got good enough to make the yarn I had first envisioned. Lessons at the River Farm followed, as did interest in dyeing, and then I bought a loom to use up all the yarn I was spinning. Just last year, I upgraded my wheel to a Schacht Matchless. It is a wonderful way to spend my 'free' time."

Al and Mary Jo, the goat that started it all.

Al Nuckols:

"I owe my love of spinning to an orphan baby goat, Mary Jo, my boss Mary Orr, and a suri llama named Uncle Larry. Mary Jo was raised on a bottle in the house. She loved to ride in the car. We got some strange looks from folks when they realized she wasn't a dog. When Mary Jo was five months old it was clear her time as a house goat was coming to an end. The thought of just putting her out in the pasture was unbearable, so I started looking for a guardian for her. Enter Uncle Larry. He was the first llama that I looked at in my search. Since he loved Mary Jo we brought him home.

There was only one 'problem'—what to do with his long snarly coat. My boss, Mary Orr, is a spinner and expressed some interest in his fiber, so I cut some off and took it to her. She was thrilled with the texture and luster. The next day she brought me a drop spindle and gave me a lesson with some wool that was much easier to spin than Uncle Larry's. I started making lumpy yarn, but the hook was set. I haven't been able to stop twisting fiber since. Mary took some of my first bumpy llama yarn and knitted a little square, and I was amazed that my bad yarn could make something so beautiful.

Uncle Larry, the guardian of the goats.

Spinning with the drop spindle was too slow, and I remembered there was an antique spinning wheel in the archives, abandoned by my mother. I dug it out and refurbished it. That was two years ago. I spin almost every day. I had to figure out something to do with the yarn I was making, so I started to knit and later got a loom and started weaving. We started collecting fiber animals, Angora goats, Jacobs and Leicester long wools, and alpacas. I quit my job (it's all your fault, Mary) and am now a very happy full-time yarn farmer. I'd like to thank Mary for turning me on to such a wonderful art and giving me a reason to work outside with my hands in the dirt or feeling a lustrous fiber slip through my fingers and into the orifice."

We hope you find these stories as inspiring as we do! Please add yours below. And if you know someone who is interested in spinning (including yourself), be sure to spread the word about our new free eBook on drop-spindle spinning that can be downloaded at spinningdaily.com/drop-spindle-spinning.

Happy spinning,

Spin on,



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