Thursday, December 11, 2008

Instrument of the Devil

Remember the play The Bad Seed? Several movies were made from it as well. You know the one, with the little girl who looked so angelic and sweet but who was evil to the core?

Well, my own little bad seed has crept into my happy home:

It looks so inviting and lovely! What could be better than a bag filled with fiber and two drop spindles? Ahhh ... looks can be deceiving! This is no doubt an instrument of the devil.

I don't know what possessed me to buy this. I've never spun yarn before, either on a drop spindle or a wheel, and never really had a great desire to learn. It always seemed like it might be fun, but with limited time for knitting I just never saw the point in learning to spin. It would just eat into my knitting time. So why, oh why, did I suddenly decide to make this purchase?

The spindles and fiber came with a little instruction handout. It's a one-pager that uses words like carded, combed, and draft (which, of course, is a foreign language to a non-spinner). I found myself completely unprepared to even give it a whirl (sorry for the pun ;) based only on the instructions and so I set about doing some online research. After watching a few video clips, I was ready to give it a try.

The result was a half hour of frustration that yielded zero of anything that could remotely be called "yarn." I did, however, produce a wonderful array of little bits of fiber clinging to every nearby surface, including myself.

It's quite clear that I'm not a natural at this! The part that I find problematic is this whole idea of "drafting." In the videos, it looks so simple. Left hand holding right below the "draft zone" and right hand moving upward after giving the evil device a spin and then drawing the fiber down from the draft zone as it takes the twist. Well, it just didn't work out so easily for me. I thought the fiber would pull and stretch out of the draft zone easily, but I found it to be more of a game of tug o' war. The stuff just doesn't pull apart the way I imagined. I suppose that makes sense and is a good thing, as if it pulled apart that easily the yarn created likely wouldn't have much strength.

I also found that the sites I reviewed didn't address at all the question of how much fiber should be worked with at any one time or how thick the little strip of fiber being worked should be. I know that probably depends on the thickness of the yarn one hopes to create, but a little hint or clue would have been nice. I tried different quantities and widths, all to no avail.

Yes, I think this thing is an instrument of the devil. Rather than the pretty picture above that looks so inviting, I think this photo comes closer to the true nature of the beast:

In this photo, it looks more like what it is: some sort of torture device designed to inflict great pain.

For now, I've set this aside and am allowing it to look pretty in its little plastic bag. I'm sure I'll take it out again soon and give it another go, but I'm not feeling very confident that I'll be able to master this particular skill. I could take a class and I'm sure that would help, but that would cut into my knitting time, right?



Stasia said...

You can do it, you can do it! Don't get frustrated!

You may have to pre-draft your fiber a little bit - it may have become compressed during the dyeing.

There is LOTS of info at to help you.

The Spindlers Yahoo! Group will also be able to help get you up and running:

Spindling is SO wonderful, please don't give up. It IS easy when you have the right tips - sorry your brochure didn't tell you enough. Let me know if I can help!

baby face said...

I'm with you. Do not want to
learn how to spin. Looks like a
lot of work to me. However, if you
decide to go for it, I'm sure it
will turn out beautiful.

Jaimi said...

There are a couple Ravelry groups that I like a lot...Beginning Spinners and Spindlers.

Also, Google "park and draft"...with my spindle, I seriously can't draft while the spindle is going. I'm just not that coordinated.

See if you have a local friend who spins who wouldn't mind showing you what he/she does. Seeing it done helped me to get it.

I hope you can get it to work for you!

nestra said...

As a newbie spinner I can tell you two things - a wheel is your friend (I am just not coordinated enough for a spindle) and spinning doesn't have to cut into knitting time - just stop all forms of cleaning and you should be just fine!

Spinning really is fun, and knitting with yarn you have spun yourself is pretty amazing.

Micki said...

I'm here to tell you that spinning will cut into your knitting time. However, spinning is so much fun (once you get the hang of it, of course) that you won't care.

When are you going to start dyeing roving for us? ;)

Lindsey said...

Ditto. But then I learned to spin on a spindle...took a class that was not at all helpful. Checked out a few books at the library...and a year later I have a well used spindle and a spanking new spinning wheel. *snort* I like to make yarn fast! The spindle- not as fast (well for me atleast)

I typically spin fiber that is in my favorite snake/rope form - grab a few feet - pull it evenly through the whole lengthy - this makes it a bit fluffier and easier to manuever- then through the whole thing over my shoulder. I grab one end with my 'fiber hand' and spin with my spindle hand. When it gets too short to stay on my shoulder I wrap the roving like a snake over my forearm. *chuckle* Sorry if this is cryptic - I'm a closet spinner, self taught of course. I do hope that the yarn faeries give you a good spinning session in your future...then you'll feel the simple joy of creating yarn.

Jocelyn said...

Park and draft is your friend! I am also not yet coordinated enough to draft while spinning on my spindle, but parking and drafting fills in quite well. I high recommend checking out one or two books -- Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning, or Start Spinning by Maggie Casey -- both were very useful to me in learning how to spin. It's addictive, once you get over the initial awkward period.

Cheryl said...

Oh don't give up, but I have to agree with nestra, the wheel is your friend. It was much easier to go back and master the spindle after learning on a wheel.

Molly said...

You can do it! There's a learning curve to spindling, just like with everything else. A lot of people get a wheel just as they reach a plateau, and then forever after they think wheels are easy and spindles are impossible, even though if they'd stuck with the spindle another day or two they'd have gotten it. Just try ten minutes a day, and soon you'll be an absolute wiz!

(Also ... oooh, I hope you get hooked, because then you might start dyeing fiber!)

Holly said...

I suppose it's true that spinning will cut into your knitting time, but I think it will also enhance it. You'll learn all kinds of neat things about yarn, for one thing. Don't give up. It's really hard when you start! You'll get the hang of it!

hovercrafteel said...

Not only does spinning cut into your knitting time, it creates more yarn for you to need knitting time for! That said, I enjoy it a lot. My suggestion is to keep at it a little every day. Your hands will reach that "aha!" moment when everything works out. At least, that's what happened to me: lumpy, bumpy, horrible stuff the first few days, then suddenly something that I could call yarn. It was interesting that this happened once I relaxed and stopped over-thinking the process and let my hands run on auto-pilot.