I am one of those crafters who really likes trying new things and learning new skills. When I was deciding what workshop to attend as part of the Glasgow School of Yarn, I settled upon the Spindle Spinning (Drop Spindle) Class. I am quite frugal and love a good bargain (I’ve mentioned I’m Scottish, right?), so the thought of learning a new skill that might ultimately save me a few pennies really appealed.
The class was taken by Jon Dunn-Ballam, who owns Easy Knits, a company who make beautifully colourful hand-spun and dyed yarns. It cost £50 for three hours, but this included entry into the GSofY and a wooden drop spindle. It was quite a full class, with 12 of us in total. We each got some Blue Faced Leicester fibre to start us off, as it is easy to spin with. It had already been washed and scoured so was ready to be spun (NB: washed it may have been, but there was still a ‘lovely’ aroma of sheep from it, which clung to me for the rest of the day. Also, I had stupidly dressed all in black, and let’s just say I looked like a sheep had slept on me by the end of the class. Not a good look).
Jon started off by telling us a bit about the yarn we were using and then showed us how to get started. First we had to make the fibre light and lofty, which was achieved by splitting it into strands and then stretching the fibre out. This is a lot harder than it looks, and I kept inadvertently breaking mine.
Once we had done that we could start spinning the yarn, which we did by attaching it to our spindle, and literally spinning it round (it has something to do with energy. But don’t ask me to be more specific).
Once all of the fibre had been spun, we had to make an Andean Plying Bracelet with the yarn. This required a bit more visual-spatial expertise than my brain was up to by this point, so it took me a while to get the hang of. The last stage involved tying the two ends together, and spinning in the opposite direction to create a ‘rope’ of yarn, which we then passed round our elbows to make a skein.
Sound simple? It wasn’t. Jon made it look really easy, but in practice it was a lot harder than it looked. The thing I found particularly hard was getting it all to be the same thickness. So what I have ended up with is some yarn than ranges from approximately double knitting thickness to super chunky… But Jon did warn us at the start that we would never be able to knit with our first skein of yarn and that the only thing to do is practice every day for 20 minutes to get the hang of it.
I have to say that the second attempt I made with the colourful fibre, was definitely better than the first. I would hope that if I did keep it up, it would not be outwith the realms of possibility to one day actually spin my own yarn that I could then use. But that won’t be for a while yet.
It was quite a full class, with 12 of us in total, which meant that Jon couldn’t spend that much time with each of us showing us what to do. But he was a lovely teacher, and very patient (he needed to be in a room full of people trying to get their heads around the Andean Plying Bracelet…). When I am learning something I like to have all the instructions written down in detail and to know exactly what to do, which he didn’t give us. I think some handouts would also be useful for going away and practising it afterwards. Having said that, the whole point about spinning your own yarn is that it creates something unique, not necessarily perfect, and therefore being a bit more flexible and going with the flow is probably a good thing. Overall, I enjoyed the class, even if I’m not a natural at it, and hope to give it another try in the future. I just won’t wear black the next time I do it.