Several years ago I was taking tae-kwon-do lessons (if you live in Bloomington, Indiana, it was at Monroe County Marshal Arts - I highly recommend them). One of the phrases the instructor was fond of was "there's nothing wrong with your side-kick that ten thousand repetitions won't fix." It wasn't always the side-kick. It might be the round-house, or the ax-kick, or the knife-hand. It didn't really matter, and it wasn't meant as a put-down or to be discouraging. The point was that the road to success was in repetition and perseverance.
Life moves at its own pace though, and eventually circumstances led us to quit the marshal arts (namely the birth of our daughter). From time to time over the years, the phrase has come to up for one reason or another. "There's nothing wrong with your golf swing that ten thousand repetitions won't fix" comes to mind, although I think I've swung the club more than ten thousand times, and it still isn't much better. I guess there's an exception to every rule. (Allena Notes: My golf swing is better!)
The phrase has come back to me as I've been practicing my spinning. "There's nothing wrong with your spinning that ten thousand yards won't fix." It's kind of been a mantra for me. As I write this, I've just completed spinning my second little skein of yarn (ever!), and this time I was really trying, as opposed to just fiddling around. I'm not sure I'd call it yarn, but it might make a fair shoe lace in a pinch. I'm not discouraged though. Another nine-thousand-nine-hundred-eighty yards or so and I'll be a pro!
The skein pictured above is spun from wool roving that has been pin-drafted. I chose this roving because we have a LOT of it, and I figured that using it for education would scarcely deplete the supply. While this was a sound theory, I was later told that pin-drafted roving is more difficult to spin for a novice, as it requires a longer draft.
Changing the subject just for a moment, I was told recently that the circular saw was invented by a woman sitting at her spinning wheel. My first thought was "wow! that's almost as cool as knitting different cables on sweaters to identify bodies of fisherman washed up on shore!" (see the Spring 2007 men's room article if you're not catching the fisherman reference). I decided that this one I'd research a bit though. No sense in spreading too many false legends, even if they do make good stories. As it turns out, this one is mostly true. The first circular saw was invented in 1777 by Samuel Miller in England, however a woman named Tabitha Babbitt (1784-1854) is credited with inventing the first circular saw used in a saw mill. Apparently she was working at a spinning house when she came up with an improvement on the two-man pit saw that was used for sawing lumber.
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Back to business...here is my third skein of yarn:
It's getting a little better as (I hope!) you can see. I changed tactics this time and used a nice silvery cotswold roving. This roving was not pin-drafted and did indeed spin up much easier. It had a very nice "slidey" feel to it. If you've spun wool or other soft fiber, I'm sure the term "slidey" makes perfect sense to you. If not...well, you'll just have to try it and then you'll understand "slidey" too.
My fourth attempt at spinning was with alpaca roving. I like alpaca - it's even slidey-er than cotswold. I really thought that it turned out to be a fair approximation of yarn this time. I was very pleased with myself...right up until I took my yarn off the niddy-noddy and discovered that I had tied up my skein incorrectly. I tried to untangle it, but it rapidly became a big knot of yarn instead of a nice skein of yarn. I uttered a couple of words that would not be appropriate for this article and tossed the whole thing in the trash. In case you've lost track, I've got about nine-hundred-forty yards left to go.
For your amusement, here is a picture of my knot of alpaca.
Kind of looks like a dead animal, eh?
My wife, after witnessing my frustration, very kindly took my dead animal and turned it back into a skein of yarn. It lost a bit of twist in the process, but I still think it looks pretty good (thanks, honey!). (Allena notes again: Remember, don't be afraid to ask for help, if you have it available. Also, I dug it out from under the couch, not the trash. He won't let me help with his swing either).
The spindle spinning I've done for this article was all on my super-duper-whiz-bang-made-it-in-ten-minutes-drop-spindle(TM). Ok, it's not really trade-marked. I just put that in for fun. If you want to use it as the name of the spindles you make, you have my permission. If that name actually makes you some money, I wouldn't say no to a little thank-you check either.
I made this spindle out of stuff I had laying around the shop. Want to know how to make it? Get a piece of scrap wood, and take a couple of slices off of it with the chop-saw to give it a bit of shape. Drill a hole in the middle of it and apply sandpaper vigorously for a couple of minutes. Insert dowel and attach with hot glue. Screw cup hook in on top. Voila! Drop Spindle!
I had a bunch of CD drop spindles that I made up for a fiber festival we attended. They sold like hot cakes. I even sold the one that was being used to give demonstrations with. I actually like the s.d.w.b.m.i.i.t.m.d.s.(TM). It's not pretty, but you can lay it down and it doesn't roll away. It also has a nice spin, weight and balance which was entirely due to luck.
So, what have I learned thus far on my grand spinning adventure? Practice, practice, practice would be the first lesson I've learned. I've learned that spinning pin-drafted fiber is not for the uninitiated. I've learned that "slidey" is a desirable quality in roving. Finally, I've learned that a knot of yarn is not necessarily a lost cause if you have a nimble-fingered wife. (Ah but your golf swing is doomed.)