There are several reasons why this happens, and also several ways to help solve the problem. If you try them all, it should improve your yarn considerably. What it sounds like, is that you are over spinning your singles. What happens is when we add too much twist, the fibers become very compressed and hard feeling. If even more twist is added it will begin to corkscrew and get even more twisted and hard.
Beginners often make very uneven yarns, with big lumpy parts and small thinner sections here and there. The large areas don't absorb as much twist as the thin areas, so these thin spots can become very over twisted very quickly. The result can very easily become what you describe above. Don't worry, you can fix that with your next try at spinning.
The first thing to try, is to treadle slower and draft faster, this will help avoid accumulating extra twist in the thin spots. Also check and make sure that you are using the largest whorl on your wheel. If you just can't draft any faster or treadle any slower, then try spinning your wheel with your hand for a while to get the hang of it, better yet get someone else do it for you, if you can bribe them to. I find brownies to be useful for this, but it varies. When I give a private lesson to a beginner, I like to treadle for them so they can concentrate on drafting and getting the yarn on the bobbin. I have found that this helps a lot, and even very small children are successful at spinning if the wheel is going slow enough that they can keep up with it. Over twisting happens when your drafting and spinning can't keep up with the treadling.
Don't worry about making an even yarn at this point, because this is a pretty futile effort. You will make even yarn and it won't take that long, but for now be happy with your lumpy bumpy yarn. If you have trouble with this, visit your local yarn store and look at the skeins available there for $20 each. See how good you are? Relax, and enjoy what you are making for the moment and just concentrate on twist, and getting the hang of it. Besides these first skeins of yarn will make beautiful hats, mittens, handbags or hundreds of other things that you will be proud to show to people.
You can prevent over twisting by pre-drafting your fiber, this will enable you to make quicker progress with your drafting, which will help you keep up with the twist. You can read the tutorial on important preparations here and that will help you quite a bit.
Thirdly, make sure that the fiber you have is of good quality. I understand that a beginner doesn't want to spin expensive roving into yarn if it isn't coming out the way they want, however just as with any craft, you can't make beautiful yarn with cheap crappy fiber. Often the wheel companies give you free fiber with the wheel, and from what I hear it isn't very easy to spin and makes it more difficult for a beginner. Not to criticize the companies, they are giving it to you, and much of it may be very good. Here's how to tell if your fiber is good, and also if you are handling it correctly.
Take a small bunch of fibers and pull them free from the main roving or batt. How long are the individual fibers? Ideally they should be 2 - 4 inches long, this is your staple length. Your hands should be held a similar distance apart for easy drafting. Shorter or longer staple lengths might be best to set aside for a time when you aren't struggling so much.
Is the fiber clean and free of noils, second cuts and debris? Often we find this stuff in our roving, and it is somewhat to be expected, you can help yourself by picking this out ahead of time, before you spin that length of roving. Noils are little ball looking fibers, as are second cuts. They are caused from either a weak point in the fleece which causes pieces to break off or from the shearer making a second cut. A second cut means that they cut the swath of fleece off, then accidentally cut it again, making a wad of very short fibers. This is highly undesirable, so when purchasing roving look for these little buggers, and if there are too many of them, pass and go on to the next seller.
Second cuts and noils will have a much higher tendency to pill later or after a garment is constructed. This is why in my opinion Merino has the unfair stereo type of pilling. Because Merino is so nice it is readily available and used more than any kind in the industry. Many commercial shearers don't worry too much about second cuts, because the wool co-ops don't care if they are there or not, and it takes longer to shear them very carefully. Where as other breeds are not as prominent in the commercial industry and are often sheared more for hand spinners who do care. The other reason Merino can have more noils is because of the very fineness of fibers. because they are so fine and soft, they can break from rough processing. Merino is a delight to spin and wear, but be sure you have good quality Merino. Some beginners find it difficult to work with, while others do not. Ideally when you make an order, try to get several kinds so you can find out what you like best.
Carded versus pin drafted or combed fibers can also make a difference in the ease of spinning for a beginner, but there is no way to tell which will be best for you. Some people find pin drafted or combed roving easier and some find carded easier. Try if you can to get a small sample of each to try to see which one works best, and then you can try the other types later when you are full of prance and feeling fine about your yarn. Both types can be pre drafted and both kinds are easier to spin for most if they are pre drafted.
Remember that each spinner is different, and each spinner has a unique rythym and way of spinning. Spinning is all about rhythm and timing. Draft out, twist, draw up onto the bobbin, while treadling at the correct speed. It's a lot to do all at once, so be patient with yourself and don't give up. There is nothing wrong with your yarn that won't correct itself after enough yards of yarn are spun. As long as you are progressing towards the kind of yarn you want to spin, and making improvement, then all is well. Treadle on.
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