Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Video Tutorial: How to Spin Yarn with a Drop Spindle

I bet you’re here because you want to learn how to spin. A while back, I turned to youtube to find videos about spinning with a drop spindle. I was pressed for time because I only had 6 months to research, experiment, and write my dissertation, and frankly, the internet was failing me. I’ll explain more about why I needed to learn how to spin below, so you can read that if you’re interested.

This is a 3-part tutorial video series on learning how to spin wool with a drop spindle. The first video talks about the wool itself. It covers the most basic wool preparations that you’ll see in the market, but is by no means exhaustive. You can spin locks with minimal fluffing (this is a common technique if you want to add lots of texture to your handspun), and you can spin locks that have only been picked open. Rolags are part of a hot new wave of fiber prep that I’ve seen on Etsy, so it’s likely that you’ll see those more commonly around the webs now too. There are probably dozens of more preparations that I’m not covering here, but that just means they’re more rare. If you have any questions about that, post in the comments below.

Video 1:

In video two, we get into spindle basics. This includes describing the anatomy of a spindle and how to get started with attaching the wool to the spindle. There are also various types of spindles available out there (mostly top whorl or bottom whorl spindles), and a plethora of ways to attach the wool to your spindle, with or without a leader yarn. Someday, I’ll add more supplemental info in video form for those visual learners out there (like me!).

Video 2:

The last video talks about joining in a new piece of fiber (remember, it’s not necessarily a continuous piece!), as well as offering help to anyone who needs help with troubleshooting problems. The door is always open, so ask all of the questions you want!

Video 3:

For those of you who don’t already know, I got into spinning through a convoluted path. I wanted to get my master’s degree in science rather than art, and to do that, I needed to take the path of experimentation. I combined my volunteer work at Krannert Art Museum in my college town with my desire to know more about textiles to create a research topic that would be relevant to an MS in Museum Studies. I thoroughly enjoyed the topics discussed in the conservation unit that I took, so I began structuring my project goals around the effects of light on archaeological textiles.

But there was a catch. Since I was a grad student at the University of Leicester in their distance learning program, I didn’t have anything other than a school affiliation (ie, I had credentials, but no funding). I couldn’t secure actual samples for my research, so I needed to learn how to make them. This aspect had me thoroughly giddy, and I couldn’t wait to start spinning. In the month I had to write my project proposal, I spent plenty of time combing the internet for videos about spinning. I’m a visual learner, so I really needed video help rather than blog help. There wasn’t much there that I found helpful.

I didn’t have much time to get my samples ready, as I needed time to conduct my experiments and interpret results. And then there was the daunting task, actually writing it all up. From start to finish, I only had six months to do everything. Luckily, the town I lived in had a spinner’s guild, so I sought instruction from a master spinner. I learned how to process, spin, and dye wool in a weekend--an exhausting weekend (enthusiastic beginners should know what I’m talking about). In the end, I was able to make my surrogate archaeological samples, experiment with them, and get good results. But I never forgot how frustrated I was with the lack of (free) information about spinning on the internet.

And that brings us to the inspiration of the video series. I really like teaching and explaining things, and I really love sharing. I wanted to give back to the handmade community, so I created videos to help fill the void. I hope you enjoy them. Many others have found them to be useful, so I hope you do too. If you ever have suggestions for future videos, post in the comments below. I listen to every suggestion I get, even if it does take me a few weeks to get the video made.