I asked a friend to visit last week with her Mum. They’re Scottish and full of fun.
My friend brought her spinning wheel with her – and one for me to borrow. A neighbour has given me about three large bags of alpaca fleeces and two large bags of woollen fleeces as she has a shed full of the stuff.
It’s always fascinated me, spinning I mean, and now after a couple of hours of learning I think I might keep going. My friend can spin fleece into the finest of thread and yet it’s so strong. My efforts are well, um, kind of rustic and textured. Yes, textured is a good way to describe it, with lots of lumps and bumps etc.
You have to start by sorting the fleece. You don’t want the scraggy bits from around the bum area. That’s good for compost if you can persuade the local birds to leave it on the pile and not steal it for their nests! Then, prior to spinning, you have to comb it. I think that there is a different word to describe that action but I can’t remember it.
Once it’s all soft and combed it’s time to spin. My friend started me with hands only and she span the wheel with her hand. I’m right-handed so I held the new piece of fleece in my left hand, along with the thread on the wheel and using an up and down motion with the right hand along the spinning thread, proceeded to join both together. I tried that for a couple of hours and then we had a break for lunch. After lunch it was time to add the feet to the picture. I used to watch my mother with her old treadle sewing machine so I had a faint idea what I was supposed to do. Ahem, I’ve come to the realisation that it’s pretty tricky coordinating hands and feet and producing wool at the same time. A bit like Tai Chi really.
But it was fun and again the sense of “I made that” (never mind the lumps and bumps) was extremely pleasurable. So I aim to continue my practising, whenever I have the time, and hopefully produce enough wool to make something. I’ve been told that a “beanie” is usually the first item to knit after spinning – we’ll see.
I still don’t understand how Sleeping Beauty” pricked her finger on a spinning wheel and fell asleep for one hundred years until her handsome prince happened to pop in. There aren’t any needles involved with spinning wheels. Perhaps it really was a fairy story…….