|The Spinning Wheel|
Hi All, Fengirl has asked me to blog about my adventures into the world of spinning. This all began with a friend's Alpacas and an unused spinning wheel found in a relative's loft. I jokingly said I would learn how to knit then learn how to spin. That was about 18 months ago and since then I've joined St Edmund's Knit and Crochet Group and last weekend I went on my first spinning course.
It was a fab day spent with a great teacher (Kim) in a rather upmarket log cabin in the wilds of Lincolnshire (www.alpacathingz.co.uk). It was tipping down outside but the woodburner inside kept us warm and cosy and so my adventure began.
We were spinning with Alpaca fleece which unlike Sheep fleece contains no lanolin and so can be a little more difficult to spin but first it had to be prepared. We were using fleece from 'Leo' a cream Alpaca and I was amazed that there was no odour with the fleece. Leo had been sheared last summer and his fleece had been kept in an old pillowcase under the stairs ever since. Unlike sheep fleece you don't have to wash Alpaca fleece before spinning, just make sure that it is kept dry and away from moths in either paper bags or cotton pillowcases.
To begin the fleece has to be 'carded' where small amounts of the sheared fleece are placed onto carding paddles (they look like large slicker brushes to those of you familiar with dog grooming). The idea is that you comb through the fleece so that all the fibres lie in one direction and become light and airy. Hand carding takes a long time especially when you consider how much fleece has to be carded before you get on to the process of spinning. Fortunately, my teacher had a drum carder which allows you to card a significant amount of fleece at any one time with minimum effort. We probably spent around 2 hours carding the fleece!
Finally, the time for spinning had arrived - I must go back to read my fairytales again as there was no needle on the spinning wheel, so no fear of falling asleep!
If you can pat your head with one hand whilst rubbing circles on your tummy with the other you can probably spin. The main idea is to treadle with your feet (propel the wheel) whilst feeding in the fleece onto the spindle. This takes a bit of getting used to as you have to be able to stop/start the wheel with your feet, and feed and separate the fleece with your hands at the same time, whilst making sure the wheel only spins clockwise. After what seemed like forever I finally managed to get the hang of it and ended up with a bobbin of what looked like a cross between rope and gardener's string. I was chuffed to bits and reliably informed that my 'wool' looked like most first timer's. Thinking that that was that, I then got to spin some of 'Alfie's' fleece, a brown Alpaca. Having finally ended up with two bobbins of 'wool' these were then fixed to a 'lazy kate' and spun together on the wheel counter clockwise to produce a two tone 2ply 'wool'. Wow! I was hooked. It was so amazing to think that the small ball of wool I was left with had started out as 'raw' fleece earlier that day.
My day was great and I'm definitely hooked. All I have to do now is put my spinning wheel together and try again. To be continued .......................