Is there a spin-doctor in the house?
No, not THAT kind of spin-doctor. I need someone to heal my lousy spinning.
Because ... I purchased a drop spindle (next time I'll make one for about $3 worth of hardware and wood -- seriously, the technology is simple, it's a stick with a weight and a hook) and some wool top to spin. And I still stink at spinning, naturally enough.
But! Oh! I will learn. The deft gentleman who astonished us at Village Spinning & Weaving yesterday would have astonished us SO much more if we had tried it first. He made perfectly smooth, dainty fine yarn without even looking at it, while holding eye contact with me earnestly and telling me, "YouTube will be your friend for this."
I was browsing a book in his shop that really sang to me. I'll probably buy it later in life, but now was not the time -- I am still toddling about and making a happy mess. But hilariously enough, when I got home, bewildered myself by failing utterly at keeping the spin in the yarn I was trying to make, and decided I needed YouTube RIGHT NOW, I found (among some other excellent and less excellent instructional videos) the BEST video. And the author of the video IS the author of that book!!
This is what I understand so far:
1) the real tool is not the spindle. It's the twist. You put it into the leader yarn, and when you let it travel up into the wool you draft out of your fiber supply, it turns that wool magically into yarn. Yes.
2) the spindle is a tool to hold your yarn on to keep it under tension. Failure to keep it under tension is how I was boning the process. I seem to have picked up how to draft it tolerably well from the wonderful John Novak at Village Spinning & Weaving.
3) drafting wool requires equivalent amounts of delicacy and firmness. The first write-up I read went on and on about how you should hold the fiber supply "like a live bird -- not so hard as to crush it, but firmly enough that it doesn't get away." Since I spend a lot of time handling live (wild, biting, frantic) birds, I think that resonated with me. And while drafting wool,
4) never let the spin get into your raw materials, because it contaminates the purity and keeps it from drafting smoothly and forming yarn if it has already been spun.
Does this bring us back to the other kind of spin-doctor? Hee hee!
But quite seriously, and back to textiles, dammit: there is a zen to knitting that strongly resembles that of spinning (go figure). And here it is:
The needles are not the tools you use to knit: the tool is the working yarn. The needles only support the product and your manipulations of the working yarn.
Once you understand that, new stitches can't really confound you -- you know what you are watching, and will be able to suss out what it should look like and how to extract and correct your mistakes.
I think spinning is going to be the same -- satisfying, simple (not easy!), and filled with the kind of zen that means the process is not only the product but the tool as well, and all the physical tools you bring to the process are only accessories. The dance of Prakriti! The Sacred Chao!
And next time I go back to Village Spinning & Weaving, I will probably purchase three pounds of flax. (Because five tons of flax is an AWFUL lot.)