I'm curious about how to get into spinning yarn. Is there a process you recommend for beginners? Is it better to start with a drop spindle or go big and get a spinning wheel? This is uncharted territory for me so I'm a little lost!
ahhh this is an exciting question! I love spinning!
here are my suggestions (from my personal experience learning how to spin, others might disagree!):
1. there are many different types of fibers to spin and it can be overwhelming to decide which fiber and preparation to start with. I recommend 100% wool to begin, preferably a wool with a longer staple length (Polwarth is my favorite, BFL and Merino are also good). personally, I think the best fiber prep for beginners is a batt (because it’s so fluffy), but top or roving could work too (just could be slightly more frustrating, especially if slightly felted). I would stay away from chunky batts and fiber blends in the beginning, since the irregularities can make it difficult for you to get a feel of how to draft.
2. start with a turkish drop spindle - this is a special type of spindle that will make a center-pull ball directly from your spinning, making it much easier to ply the yarn. you can find turkish drop spindles on etsy, and I think even knit picks has a pretty affordable one (or they used to). wheels are expensive and large, and a great investment once you know you like to spin. they also move much more quickly, and can be extremely frustrating to beginners who have less control. spinning on a spindle allows you to do everything you can do on a wheel (and more, especially if you are interested in spinning very fine yarns or if you really value portability), and many people prefer it. the trade-off is that, for most people, spinning on a spindle is a much slower process than spinning on a wheel and it can be harder on your body/back long-term (both of these issues are true for me). even though I knew that I wanted to get a wheel, I waited about a year before making the transition. I think my spinning is better for it and the spindle was a great way to learn many of the foundations of spinning without making a huge monetary investment.
3. you can teach yourself many of the basics of spinning using youtube. once you’re a little more advanced, you can take advantage of classes at your local fiber store and/or local crafting guilds to further advance your craft and learn new techniques. when you spin, you’re putting twist into combed sheep hair (wool), which makes it all stick together into a cord (1 ply). when starting out, I’m a big fan of “park and draft” - this means you put down your spindle (park) and pull apart your wool into an even tube (draft), then you twirl the spindle and put the twist in. if this doesn’t make sense, please look up a youtube video! it’s a hard thing to describe in words and will make a lot more sense when you see someone do it! :)
4. make your first yarn a 2-ply yarn. the turkish spindle will allow you to ply one end of the ball with the other, which means you won’t have to spin the two plies separately initially. your first few yarns will probably be very overspun (too much twist), which is totally normal. making a plied yarn will help to balance out that twist.
5. don’t get discouraged if your first yarn looks weird or isn’t usable for knitting or crocheting. spinning is super tactile and it will “click” relatively quickly. for example, here are pictures of my first 3 yarns: one, two, three. as you can see, I improved substantially and it only took 3 skeins.
6. once you understand the basics and can make yarn that seems usable, spin a skein (or three) with a project in mind and complete that project. working with your own handspun is very rewarding and also will help you improve as a spinner. for example, you may find that you prefer variable weight yarns over yarns that are extremely even (or vice-versa). maybe you’ll find that the skein you liked so much as yarn doesn’t quite work when you try to knit it (it may feel rope’ish, or too tightly plied, or not plied enough, or too slubby, or it might come apart in areas where there isn’t enough twist, or it might have too much twist, etc. there are many things we strive for when spinning in terms of yarn weight, balance, and appearance - working with your own yarn with help to guide you on your journey to spin yarn that works for the types of projects you love to knit or crochet. it’s also an extremely fulfilling experience! :) here are some of my favorite handspun projects, with pictures of the yarns if I have them (many of the yarn pics are just of the leftovers after the project, but you get the idea):
Here’s what she said about the process - what an artist - I’m inspired!
Knitted Blanket 2012
Raw fleece: 3 days to wash and dry; about 2-3 years to hand-card the wool and spin on a Turkish drop-spindle; at least two 5-10 day sessions of natural dyeing; another 2 weeks skeining the wool; 7 months to knit the blanket; one afternoon to machine wash and “full” (shrinking process to make it more durable); 5 minute photo shoot; priceless.
As you may have noticed, I am not one to concern myself overmuch with the stereotypical depictions of helpless women that usually grace the covers of vintage publications.
This is The Shadow Of The Vulture. The Robert E. Howard story that is the only appearance of his character Red Sonya of Rogatino (as opposed to the chain-mail-bikini-wearing Red Sonja).
Sonya is a gun-slinging warrior of Polish-Ukrainian origin with a grudge against the Ottoman sultan, probably a result of him kidnapping her sister, the non-fictional favorite harem-girl Roxelana, who ended up marrying him as sole legal wife.
This is her introduction in the story:
It was a woman, dressed as von Kalmbach had not seen even the dandies of France dressed. She was tall, splendidly shaped, but lithe. From under a steel cap escaped rebellious tresses that rippled red gold in the sun over her compact shoulders. High boots of Cordovan leather came to her mid-thighs, which were cased in baggy breeches. She wore a shirt of fine Turkish mesh-mail tucked into her breeches. Her supple waist was confined by a flowing sash of green silk, into which were thrust a brace of pistols and a dagger, and from which depended a long Hungarian saber. Over all was carelessly thrown a scarlet cloak.
This surprizing figure was bending over the cannon, sighting it in a manner betokening more than a passing familiarity, at a group of Turks who were wheeling a carriage-gun just within range.
She is a terrific warrior, fast and brutal and deadly.
It was Red Sonya who had come to his aid, and her onslaught was no less terrible than that of a she-panther. Her strokes followed each other too quickly for the eye to follow; her blade was a blur of white fire, and men went down like ripe grain before the reaper. With a deep roar Gottfried strode to her side, bloody and terrible, swinging his great blade. Forced irresistibly back, the Moslems wavered on the edge of the wall, then leaped for the ladders or fell screaming through empty space.
Oaths flowed in a steady stream from Sonya’s red lips and she laughed wildly as her saber sang home and blood spurted along the edge. The last Turk on the battlement screamed and parried wildly as she pressed him; then dropping his scimitar, his clutching hands closed desperately on her dripping blade. With a groan he swayed on the edge, blood gushing from his horribly cut fingers.
“Hell to you, dog-soul!” she laughed. “The devil can stir your broth for you!”
With a twist and a wrench she tore away her saber, severing the wretch’s fingers; with a moaning cry he pitched backward and fell headlong.
She never gives quarter and never takes shit.
Gottfried sat down on a piece of fallen wall, and because he was shaken and exhausted, and still mazed with drink and blood-lust, he sank his face in his huge hands and wept. Sonya kicked him disgustedly.
And she never, not once, needed saving, although she saves the protagonist at least three times.
As in a dream Gottfried saw Red Sonya framed in the doorway, pistol in hand. Her face was drawn and haggard; her eyes burned like coals. Her basinet was gone, and her scarlet cloak. Her mail was hacked and red-clotted, her boots slashed, her silken breeches splashed and spotted with blood.
With a croaking cry Tshoruk ran at her, scimitar lifted. Before he could strike, she crashed down the barrel of the empty pistol on his head, felling him like an ox. From the other side Rhupen slashed at her with a curved Turkish dagger. Dropping the pistol, she closed with the young Oriental. Moving like someone in a dream, she bore him irresistibly backward, one hand gripping his wrist, the other his throat. Throttling him slowly, she inexorably crashed his head again and again against the stones of the wall, until his eyes rolled up and set. Then she threw him from her like a sack of loose salt.
Now, I haven’t actually read the 1973 comic here pictured (Conan the Barbarian #22) and since that woman doesn’t have red hair it might well be someone other than Sonya, but if you are going to adapt Shadow of the Vulture, you should really put RED FUCKING SONYA on the cover!