The first time I ever spun yarn was at a heritage festival at the French Azilum in Wysox, PA. A woman dressed as a colonist handed me her spindle and helped me spin a few inches of blue roving. Then she broke it off, let it twist back onto itself, and handed me my scrap of yarn.
I stared at the yarn in amazement. I had made it myself from a piece of fluff. As a knitter, I knew the magic of turning a single thread into fabric with two needles, but this magic seemed even greater.
I waited nearly 20 years to try spinning again, but I finally took a class last May. I stocked up on roving at the Estes Park Wool Market in June and used a hand spindle to start making yarn.
This weekend, I got my first spinning wheel.
The wheel is a hand-me-down from a friend’s mother. I picked it up while visiting her last week. Since my friend has cats who think yarn is better than food, I only got to play with the wheel for half an hour. I promised myself I’d spend my first free afternoon at home using it. I imagined myself setting up the wheel after lunch and spinning until dinner time at least.
What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that I’m a beginner. I’ve done some spinning with spindles in the months since I took my class, but I am far from experienced. My initial excitement over the fact that I was able to actually spin within a few minutes the first time I set up the wheel was deflated when I got it out at home and tried again.
Disaster after disaster occurred.
My single (the thread I was spinning) broke and I lost the end on the bobbin. I didn’t know this was possible but apparently it can happen. The end disappears between the material already on the bobbin and you have to dig to find it. I unwound the entire bobbin trying to find the missing end.
I started again, only this time the single wouldn’t wind onto the bobbin at all. My adjustable flyer hook was sliding around so I couldn’t control where the single was going. My fiber would tangle up on the flyer or in my hands.
I’m pretty sure my big problem is that things are out of balance. There are two sources of tension and my attempts to adjust them didn’t help. Because the wheel has been used before, I probably need to replace a few of the more vulnerable parts, like the drive band, which is loose and not as efficient as it might be.
But the real lesson here isn’t what I need to do improve the wheel. It’s the reminder than whenever I want to learn how to do something new, I have to accept that it will take patience, perseverance, and humility.
Patience is obvious. I know it takes time to learn, but I want instant competence. I want to get underway right away, even if it’s something I’ve never done before. That it may take me time to collect the materials I need, let alone learn a new skill, is not something I want to hear.
I need to persevere because I am going to have to practice my new skill until I stop feeling like an octopus on roller skates. Just getting the hang of treadling the wheel with my feet while my hands are doing something at a completely different rhythm is a good example. It feels awkward right now, but one day it will be automatic.
Humility is the most important piece of all.
I need to admit I don’t know what I’m doing, and then ask someone for help. Fortunately, I am friends with Deborah Robson who has been spinning for decades. She can answer my questions with ease and has already offered to look at the wheel with me.
I also need to be willing to suck. I am not going to make gorgeous yarn right out of the gate. I am going to make beginner yarn. It is going to be lumpy, with too much twist or too little, a thing only a mother could love. My perfectionist will have to go re-organize the spice rack, because it will be a while before I have enough control to produce yarn according to a plan.
I am readjusting my expectations. I am not going to get all my roving spun this week. Any spinning I do get done will not be award-winning, unless there is a Lumpy Yarn award out there. But I will be getting started on a new journey and learning how to do new things.
And I just remembered the most important thing of all.
I love to learn.
Have you tried something new recently? What lessons did you learn about being a beginner?