I’m hoping to have a bit of a spinning theme going with my posts this week. I’m doing very well with knuckling down to spin for a few minutes in the evening – haven’t managed every single evening, but close enough. As a result my first skein in the SkAM-SpAL (Skein-A-Month Spin-A-Long) we’re having on the Ravelry Irish Spinners Group is nearly spun into two bobbins. Next comes the bit that terrifies me: plying.
Last year, after keeping my ear to the ground and lurking around other spinners on Ravelry, I decided to splurge on some spinning-books to help me learn. The real key to learning is Practice, Practice, Practice but I didn’t want to be practicing something that’s fundamentally suspect. Apart from which, I felt I’d reached my quota in spin-able fibre and even spindles. In these situations, when you want to invest in your hobby but you’ve got all the raw-materials and gadgetry you need: books are always the answer!
So, splurge I did!
First of all, I got “All New Homespun Handknit” by Amy Clarke Moore on a trip to This Is Knit. At first glance I was a bit disappointed with this book. It has the usual Interweave Press diagrams and explanations of knitting terms at the back of the book – all stuff I’m familiar with as an adept knitter. Buying it as a newbie spinner, though, the only instruction there is on how to spin is half-a-page and uses such terminology that it might as well have been in Cyrillic! Explaining “Long Draw” or “Short Draw” in two lines to someone who still thinks a staple is a short piece of metal that keeps pages together is pithy beyond EZ herself!
In fairness, the book is about knitting with your hand-spun and not a tutorial for spinning – though it could have gone that step further. It does have excellent advise on substituting with commercial yarn. I was perplexed by the volume – ten pages! – of knitting glossary explanations with their how-to diagrams. In my experience, people advance from knitting to spinning. My guess is, that this book is for weaving spinners who now want to dabble with needles.
Right now, this book is a bit advanced for me. However, I know one I’m going to come back to when I actually know what I’m doing.
Next, I got a triumvirate of spinning-books that all the “cool” spinners were raving about. These were the first two to arrive were “A Fine Fleece” by Lisa Lloyd and “Respect the Spindle” by Abby Franquemont:
As before, “A Fine Fleece” is a book that I’ll have to come back to when I know what I’m doing spinning-wise. There are some beautiful patterns – if you’re into cables – and a very dense introductory treatise on sheep and other breeds as well as a section called “Spinning the right yarn for the job”. I had high-hopes for this part, that it would shine a light on my bushel of yarn. However, at my newbie level it doesn’t say much more than “gauge is important” and “yarns are different”. Again, I’ll come back to judge this one when I know what it’s talking about!
Aaah but “Respect the Spindle”… who couldn’t after reading it? This is such a beautiful book. You just want to hug the pictures of yarn-enwrapped spindles and wish they were yours. The detailed, pictorial spinning guidance in this book is just the ticket for a learner like me. There is a huge amount of erudition and knowledge seeping out of the pages. Some of it has even rubbed off on me and slowly I got more adept at spinning with a spindle.
While Abby Franquemont’s book deals mainly with the spindle, it touches on wheel-spinning. It has a somewhat evangelical slant in this that I think can be forgiven; as it is intended to address some mis-conceptions people may have about wheel-spinning being superior. The third book I got of the triumvirate: “Start Spinning” by Maggie Casey is less specialised and therefore deals equally with wheels and spindles.
The first thing I fell in love with about “Start Spinning” was Maggie Casey’s hands. They’re those lovely soft freckled hands older people have that remind me of my Grandmother – or at least I think they do. Again, like Abby Franquemont’s book, the pictorial guidance is very thorough and re-assuring. Finally, I get a thorough explanation of long/short/forward/back draw that was so lacking from “All New Homespun Handknit”.
I haven’t had a light-bulb moment yet with my spinning. I still feel that I’m a little in the dark, albeit working away waiting for light to dawn. But certainly with Maggie Casey and Abby Franquemont at my side a candle has a least been lit. And when that light is finally kindled, I will return again to “All New Homespun Handknit” and “A Fine Fleece”.