Here's my new blog, where I write about my adventures in Spinning wool.

My photo
Here's my new blog, where I write about my adventures in Spinning wool. It will be about Spinning wheels and spindles, learning to weave, finding time to keep knitting and books I've read on these subject, also the places I've been to near and far to do with spinning and wool. Delighted you found me, please do leave a comment... Här tänker jag skriva om mina spinnrockar, mina sländor och spånad, om vävning och stickning, om ull och får, om nålbindning och bandväv. Lämna gärna en kommentar, så svarar jag.

12 days of Christmas, Day 12, How to Spin on a Bliss spinning wheel

I am going to try to explain how to start spinning, for those who are new to spinning.  I am not an expert, just an enthusiastic improver. 
This blogpost deals with spinning on the Bliss spinning wheel from Woolmakers.  Photos to follow. (at weekend hopefully, in order to get good light and to have DS do camera work)

What do you need to start:
A spinning wheel, it can be a Bliss, if you have one, or a Louet which is sort of similar, or any wheel really;
some acrylic yarn;
some fleece to spin (Corriedale, or BFL or Jacobs or Shetland seems to work well for beginners, it might be best not to start with Merino, angora, alpaca or silk)
a crochet hook, or a paper clip bent into a hook type shape.
little bottle of sewing machine oil, with long nozzle.
Patience, resilience, fortitude (not to worry if you don't have these, the wheel will teach you them!)

Take off the bobbin from the flyer and put a drop of sewing machine oil onto the metal axle of the flyer (U-shaped piece with hooks). Older wheels without sealed ball bearings could also do with a drop of oil at the centre of the drive wheel and where the crank of the footman is. Check the manual for your wheel if in doubt, or check online.
Step 1: start by getting used to using your feet, ie treadling, starting the wheel going clockwise and practising keeping it going. To get the wheel to spin clockwise, you need to have the top of the footman at what I refer to as 1am on the clock, so slightly to the right of the central crank. When the footman is here, the treadle is at one of its highest points and when you push down with your foot, the wheel will spin clockwise.
You might find that you treadle very fast at first, however, I am going to ask you to slow that pace down, so that you are treadling slower, but still getting the wheel to go around clockwise and not stop/reverse direction.
Then practise stopping treadling and re- starting in the clockwise direction just using your feet and a little push with your hand if needed. Remember the importance of the 1am position for the top of the footman. There is no fleece involved at all at this stage.
Repeat this step but now go in the anticlockwise direction. See if you can figure out where you need to have the wheel positioned to get the anticlockwise spin when you press down with your foot. (Did you figure it out? It is when the top of the footman is pointing to 11 on the clock.)
Step 2: Tie on a leader. Get a 80cm long length of acrylic knitting yarn and tie one end of it securely to the axle of the bobbin on the wheel. This is your leader. Thread it on the hooks and through the orifice (hole) at the front. Hold it and treadle clockwise as above. See if you can feel the twist come up through the yarn. Look closely and you will see the actual twist in the yarn, coming up along the leader .
When you get this far, tie a small loop in the free end of the leader. 

Step 3: Now practise spinning with commercial wool:  take two x 1metre long lengths of acrylic knitting wool, different colours, and attach these two together with a knot at one end. Slip one strand through the loop in the leader and draw it out till you have both ends of the threads in your hand.
Now you are going to spin and make ‘barberpole ‘ yarn, by putting everything together. with your left hand, hold/pinch the threads firmly together about 3 inches from the orifice, start treadling and spinning clockwise, feel the twist come up the leader. With your right hand, hold the two untwisted strands back about 4 or 5 inches from the left hand. When twist has built up in front of the left hand, release the left hand pinch, let the twist run into the strands as far as your  right hand and you will see them twist around each other.  At this point also, you can let your arms and hands move closer to the orifice and offer the spun yarn to the wheel. Ideally, the wheel will 'take up' the yarn. 
If the yarn is not winding on, then tighten up the tension knob just a tiny bit ( the circular knob under the flyer. ). Check also that the yarn is not caught or snagged on a rough hook, or twisted around a hook. 
You can do this exercise a few times, by pulling the yarn back off the bobbin, letting it hang and untwist and catch it again and spin again, just for getting the feel of twist, pinching and releasing, and feeling the wheel draw in the newly spun yarn from your hands.
Next step: discard the two acrylic strands. Get some wool to spin.(Which wool, I hear you cry??That is a whole other blogpost!) Draw out a wispy tail from a piece of fleece, insert about 3cm of the tail into the loop in the leader, fold the tail back on the rest of the fleece. Draw it back a little and pinch here with your left hand.
Start to treadle and spin clockwise.  The twist will run up the leader and begin to spin the fleece into yarn. Keep your left hand in the same place , pinched.
Now you need to draft back the fleece behind the tail to make it a bit thinner. To do this place your right hand about 4 or 5 cm back from your left and draw gently back. Your aim is to thin out the fibers.
When you have drafted back a good bit, but not too much, then pinch at that point with your right hand, let go your left hand pinch , let the twist run up into drafted fleece, and you have created your first handspun yarn!
Don't Stop Now! You change your pinch, so that the left hand is now pinching where the right hand was, you move your hands closer to the wheel, the wheel takes up the newly spun yarn, your right hand is simultaneously drafting back the next section of fleece, and when twist has built up again, you release the left hand, let twist into the unspun fibers to spin it into yarn and pinch further up with your left hand , let the wheel take up the yarn, etc.....

So, how do you spin - in a (largish) nutshell,  you start to treadle clockwise while pinching the fiber at the front with your left hand, draft back with the right, release left hand pinch, let the twist move up the fiber, let the newly drafted yarn wind on to the bobbin. Meantime keep treadling!!
Phew …..that is spinning.

There are many small factors that could affect spinning, so do not be upset if it does not work first time out. It can take a bit of adjusting for human and wheel!
I am hoping to put up some clear photos or even a video at the weekend. In the meantime, if there are any queries, do not hesitate to ask!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 11, a day of rest, kind of

Day 11, Friday: A kind of Day of Rest, as in not much spinning done, because life caught up with me.
However, I did manage to listen to a podcast of Marian Finucane's radio programme from 16th November, 2017, where she spoke to three people involved in the Irish Fashion industry. One of them, Deirdre McQuillan, a fashion journalist,  has written a book called The Aran Sweater, which I subsequently went and found on amazon and ordered. She also mentioned Mourne Textiles, which I would love to go and visit next summer. Maybe I could combine that with a visit to my brother in Monaghan and a trip to Belfast to see the Ulster Folk Museum and to the Titanic museum also.
Another of the participants spoke of recreating the same fabric that was used to make coats in the First World War, on the old original hand-operated loom in Sussex, I think.

This reminded me that I also want to visit McKernan Woollen Mills in Tuamgraney Co Clare, not too far away at all, They make scarves and their website is at

I also had a look at my Craftsy account and realised that I have a few classess there waiting for me about Spinning and Drafting etc, which I would be well advised to have a good look at, Craftsy often have sales, and I may have purchased another class or two this week.

And I had a good look at the Yahoo Group for the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers, which I joined at the end of 2017. I do not think that Yahoo Groups is very user friendly, but I guess I will have to grin and bear it. I will overcome!

And this morning, the spinning goddesses were certainly smiling down on me - yesterday when I was fixing up the Prinsenhout, I realised I had lost a little circular clip which comes from Ashford Spinning Wheels and holds the footman onto the crank of an Ashford Wheel, I thought maybe I had dropped it at M's house, or it had gotten lost somewhere in between. I was sad, as I wanted this for another friend V, who needs one for her Ashford wheel. I would just have to order one from UK, imagine the postage, grrrrr.....
Then walking out onto my porch this morning, I happened to glance down onto the black wooden step and what was there right in front of me, yes the black Ashford circular clip! Amazing, what with all the people who had come and gone in and out that door over the past 36 to 48 hours, plus heavy rain and high winds, the clip had fallen just there and stayed put till I saw it. Oh The JOY!!
Happy bunny now - nr 11 wheel works and can be fixed, circular clip is in my bag of First Aid for Spinning Wheels and all is well with the world!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10, fixing a wheel

Day 10: Thursday morning, bright and early, and it was time to start working on the Prinsenhout Staphorster wheel which had followed me home from M's house on Tuesday.
The problem: a footman that hops off.... all the time.....
I started by going online on Ravelry and posting photos and asking questions, and then after an answer or two I took matters into my own hands.
It seemed to me that for some reason the white plastic bearings in the hole at the top of the footman was protruding too much and not giving me space to put a washer on the end of the crank to keep the footman from jumping off. So I got a hammer and gently coaxed off the white plastic from one end.

I cut off a small ring from the plastic, with the thought that I might put it back on now that it was shortened, bu only if it turned out to be necessary. I tried the footman first with only one plastic bearing on and a black rubber tap washer to hold the footman on.
I also retied the cord at the end of the footman which had tied it to the treadle. Now both ends of the cord go through the treadle and that means less wobble and jerking around of the footman as I spin.

And then I sat to spin - and it spun!
Only minor problem was that the knot under the treadle worked its way up through the hole and now the treadle fell to the floor. I used the tiny ring that I had just cut off to anchor the threads together under the treadle to eliminate that problem, and retied the knot.
I had already noticed that the one and only bobbin was missing a bushing at one end, and that the existing bushing at the other end looked identical to the white plastic piece I had taken off the footman, So I tried it, and yes it fitted. Waste not, want not!
I tried again, and yes, the spinning wheel spun without any problem.
Later that evening I spun on it again, and yes it still continued to spin.
 All I need now is a better, more permanent solution than the rubber washer, I am thinking that if I can find a C-clip or a lock washer with teeth, diameter quarter inch, that I could use that to hold the footman in place, especially if I could get somebody to just cut a shallow groove in the crank for the clip to catch on to.
And the wheel ideally needs two or three more bobbins, so that the spinner can ply with it, with relative ease. (Otherwise, with only one bobbin, the spinner has to wind on the singles from the bobbin onto kitchen roll cores and then ply using them. Possible , but not easy)
The bobbin on the wheel seems to be about 16.8cm long, and the bobbins I see for sale on are 17.5cm long, sadly. Nevertheless, I will send a message to Marianne on that site and see if she has anything that would suit.

I have started an Instagram account and I aim to post mostly spinning stuff on it. Rest assured that there will be no photos of my children doing funny sweet things! You can find me there, under the name spin_me_a_yarn_ie. There is a 30 day photo challenge for spinners, #wemakeyarn. I am trying to post one photo a day for that challenge. Let's see how that goes, once I return to work next week!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 9, Knit and Spin and Weave Night!

Spindle spinning at Knit Night
Wednesday 3rd January and an invitation pops up my Instagram: it is Knit Night tonight, hurray!
Roll on the evening and I head in to town to the hotel where Knit Night is on and my dear friend G has booked the comfy couches for us.
There are 5 of us altogether. We sit and craft and drink tea or hot chocolate and chat.
One is knitting a beautiful jumper of her own design in the most exquisite soft yarn, it is Baby alpaca dyed indigo blue, so soft and squishy and fine.
Another is knitting, then doing some carding of alpaca in preparation for spinning it at home.
Another is working on her crochet and embroidered cushion cover.
G is weaving in the Ashford Sample It loom she has rented from the Guild in Dublin.
And I am spinning on the Bliss initially, then on my spindle.
Photos of my efforts:
Second bobbin spun on the Bliss.

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8: Spinning excursion

Day 8: Tuesday 2nd of January, 2018.
It will take me ages to get used to writing 2018, this I know from past experience.

Today, I went on a mini spinning excursion. I went to visit a spinning friend, M, who lives about an hour's drive from me, not necessarily including the ten minute traffic jam in the small county town nearest her house. I think I counted 3 or was it 4 sets of pedestrian crossings in that town, with the result that all the traffic between Limerick and Cork and vice versa just c...r...a...w...l...s through the town. The promised motorway between Limerick and Cork would be a great relief to drivers and townspeople alike, I imagine.

M has two wheels, an Ashford and an older wheel. I was particularly interested in the older wheel,  which at first reminded me of an East European wheel, as it has a pronounced slant to the table. However, closer examination a few months ago showed that it was probably a much more modern wheel, maybe 1970's or 1980's even and of Dutch origin. I am tentatively calling it a Prinsenhout Staphorster wheel.

It had two problems, firstly, the footman kept on hopping off as M tried to spin on it and secondly, it had no bobbin brake.
First things first: I had a few different washers  and circular metal clips with me. I found one that more or less fits the end of the crank where the footman sits. However, the crank seems very short and the clip hops off and then the footman hops off, after ten seconds or so of spinning.

Undaunted,  I rigged up a basic bobbin brake from kitchen cotton cord and got the wheel to spin by shoving the clip on as tightly as I could and just spinning. The clip hopped off again and again, but at least I was able to get it to spin and to take up the yarn.
Later, after a lovely lunch, M had a spin on my Bliss and my Ashford Joy, and I admired the lovely batts of Zwartbles and merino and alpaca she had made and the blue and grey punis. Well done M!
I need to dust off my drum carder and get blending too!
The Prinsenhout has come home with me. Nobody at home has even noticed yet that I have brought home another wheel. Excellent! This means I have built up their tolerance to wheels to the point where one more doesn't matter!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 7, New Year's Day

Day 7: New Year's Day, 2018.
I continued to do a bit of spinning on the Bliss on New Year's Day, however, there was not much time, what with visiting my parents to see my brother and his family, and later visiting friends for dinner.

When I got home from all the visiting, I got out this beautiful spindle and this wool that I started spinning on it last summer. I love blues and blue-greens, and teals and turquoises. I love spinning on spindles too. Very convenient and very portable.

I have quite an assorted collection of spindles, including the first spindle I ever used, back in the late autumn of 1994, when I took my first ever spinning course.  It still spins and looks like this currently.

That is handspun Jacob's fleece on it, the fleece comes from a sheep living at a local open farm . I was given the fleece and I prepped it myself, i.e., I sorted it and washed it and carded it.
Apologies for quality of photos , I will try to take them again tomorrow in natural light and replace the current ones you see.

12 Days of Christmas: Day 6: New Year's Eve

Today was a day of visiting and taking my children to the (temporary) ice-skating rink in Limerick city. I wonder sometimes what life would have been like if we had stayed in Sweden in 1994 instead of coming back to Ireland. One thing is fairly certain, my children would probably have learned to ice-skate on the local frozen-over football field!

After the driving and visiting and our traditional New Year's Eve meal of 'Whatever you want from the take-away restaurants in Limerick' , I settled down with two of my Dutch wheels in the kitchen to spin.

1980's Willy Spinnewiel on left, Bliss wheel from 2017 on right.  

I love spinning on New Year's Eve. It connects me to spinners all over the world and also back in time. However, I am well aware that for many women in the past spinning was a necessary and demanding task, as they had to spin a large amount of yarn of a specified thickness for the weavers. 
Me, I spin for a hobby!

Dark brown and a lighter grey-brown Shetland spun on the dark Willy wheel. The blue is the leader yarn.  

I usually link up with some spinners somewhere on Ravelry who are also planning to spin for New Year's Eve and we all spin in our own homes, take photos and share them along with a comment on how NYE is progressing wherever in the world we are.

Spinning on my Bliss, unlabelled fiber, probably hand-dyed( not by me) merino.

Happy New Year everyone!  

12 Days of Christmas: Day 5, more weaving

Day 5: After a very sociable day visiting friends and family, I got some more weaving done on the Double weave bag.
Double weave tubular bag. 

I stopped at this point as I need to wind on some more weft. I am using these warp ends and as they are fairly thin, I weave with 4 strands together.

 It takes me a bit of time to get the yarn unbraided and then wound on evenly onto the shuttle.

 The yarn came from a weaving studio somewhere via a friend. I need to ask her again where she got it. I don't even know if it is wool or what. I love the vibrant colours and as I am only a beginner I use what I have and see what I learn from it.

12 Days of Christmas: Day 4, some weaving.

Day 4: Friday 29th December 2017.
I got some weaving done, Double weave, on my Glimåkra Victoria table loom.
It took a bit of straightening to fix the warp that admittedly has been on the loom for probably about a year, gulp....
The magic of Double Weave is that you can weave an upper layer and a lower layer at the same time. Last year I wove a tubular piece closed at the lower end. It looks like that is what I am going to do this time too! I might add a flap at the top to this one.
Here is the progress on the latest one, so far.

Double weave, tubular piece, closed at lower end. 

12 Days of Christmas: Day 3, Ashford Scholar Mark 2 teaches me a lesson.

Day 3, Thursday 28th December
Today there was a beautiful sunrise, I know this because I was up early to drive my daughter to work for 8am. The sky was clear and blue. However, it didn't take long for the clouds to roll in from the south west. I could see the horizon darken as I was driving home for my breakfast. The forecast was for showers of rain, sleet and snow. Oh dear...

Luckily the roads were ok for driving and after my breakfast, I gathered my bag of Very Important Things for Fixing Spinning Wheels, and off I set. I got safely to my friend's house, M in Killaloe, Co Clare. M has a Mark 2 Ashford Scholar. The connector between the conrod and treadle had broken off ages ago, and a new piece was needed, but it wasn't working out so well for M to fix it.

Well, all I can say is that I live and learn. I will spare you the trials and tribulations of the learning curve, but I can assure you it was steep. Finally, M's partner discovered after over an hour of us women trying and failing, that actually, there was a short piece of the old green connector stuck in the hole of the conrod. Sigh.... That was why the screw couldn't get a grip on the connector piece properly. I had seen a little bit of green, but didn't realise it was a whole chunk of old connector! Mea Culpa!

Oh well, it was a successful visit after all, as the wheel did spin after that, albeit with a slightly shorter piece of connector than the optimal length, (boohoo, I had cut the piece earlier, dang!...)

A drop of Ashford Spinning wheel oil worked wonders and the wheel spun smoothly for me before I left.

Lesson 1 learnt today, Use your eyes and keep asking questions of yourself: i.e. What might that little patch of green mean? Investigate!
and Lesson 2: Order more Connector pieces asap.

 It was snowing as I was driving home, but it didn't land and  it didn't last.
Plan for tonight: Weave, Spin and read up on the Foundation Certificate in Spinning in UK.

12 days of Christmas: Day 2, spinning wheel exchange

Day 2 , Wednesday 27th December.
Let's start with a bit of background info: I have 10 spinning wheels and 4 children, one husband and one cat, all in a relatively small house. Coming up to Christmas, I realised that I needed more floor space in the living room in order to have space for the Christmas tree. Also , I had two daughters who would be coming home from college and they would not appreciate sharing their bedrooms with a spinning wheel or two, from this little group of wheels.

the view of the corner of my living room

To cut a long story short,  I decided that two of my spinning wheels could go on a Christmas holiday to two new spinners.
One wheel (a light coloured Dutch wheel in the style of a Louet S10) went to B outside Ennis.
The other wheel, (a dark coloured Willy Spinnewiel from Holland also) went to S, from County Limerick.

Willy Spinning wheel, from Holland

However, the leather tension strap on the wheel that S got broke shortly after she got it home.

The leather strap on the wheel before it broke. It is connected to a tension peg, which is hanging loose on the left lower part of the photo.  

That was two weeks ago. I really wanted S to have a working wheel.  So yesterday's spinning activity involved me meeting S and taking back one wheel from her and giving her a different one. We met at a hotel in Limerick and had a lovely chat and cuppa, joined by  another knitter/spinner/dyer, G.
S took to my Ashford Traditional without too much bother, and I tried out the dark Dutch wheel again.  Amazingly it spins and takes up without any tension at all, and I got it to spin quite finely. Apparently it is a bit of an acquired taste, the other two girls did not find it comfortable to use at all,  so it looks like this old Dutch wheel will be staying with me for the time being. No bother....

I am glad it works without the leather strap. Maybe I don't need to be in a rush to replace the leather. I do not fancy taking out those 3 studs holding the strap, I am afraid I would damage the wood. Not to worry, I know an excellent woodworker, who can do these small jobs for me.

It was lovely to spend time with two other spinners last night and it was just what I needed.
The waitress even recognises us now because that hotel is where we go to meet up for the weekly Limerick Knit night which G started. The waitress offered us some wool as she said she had a fleece from one of her family's sheep. Immediately, I offered to teach her how to spin the fleece. So maybe one night she can come join us and learn how to spindle spin!

12 days of Christmas: Day 1, Spinning endeavours

The Twelve days of Christmas are traditionally the 12 days between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, on 6th of January. Although when you count it, that makes 13 days, so maybe the count starts on St Stephen's Day, what with Christmas Day being such a special day. I imagine that this was a time of relative rest or at least, a pause, (before the calving and lambing started, etc) for people in the past, especially people living in the country farming. I often wonder what the lives of the people who lived before us were like. 

My 12 days of Christmas are the wonderful 12 days of my Christmas holidays, after Christmas Day, i.e., after all the rushing and buying and cooking is over. Now that I have this extra bit of free time, I plan to do something with spinning, dyeing or weaving each day and to blog about it!

Day 1 was yesterday, St Stephen's Day. I did some plying yesterday, see the photo below. The fiber is Masham, which I got from a destash sale on It was a bit felted together when I got it back in the autumn, but I was not going to let that deter me. I worked patiently on just splitting the fiber lengthways and opening it out by hand. I spun it with my default spinning technique, which is short forward draw, semi-worsted.  I also spun some of it on a spindle, almost nekked spindle pictured also below.

Yesterday, St Stephen's Day, I got out the Bliss wheel and the bobbins and spindle and 2- plied the singles. 
Masham , 2 plied

Also yesterday, I had a lovely treat, I was asked to come give a few pointers to a lovely young woman, D, who had just gotten her first spinning wheel for Christmas. The wheel is a Timbertops Thurmaston 18" wheel, with 8 spokes. It is a beautiful wheel, and D's dad had cleaned it up till it was glowing, in a lovely chestnut colour. Luckily D had gotten through any teething problems by the time I got there and she was spinning happily. I had met D and her family earlier in the summer at a market and I had given her her first spindle and first spinning lesson back then. So it feels great to see her sitting and spinning happily on her very own wheel. 
If anyone wants to see what the Timbertops wheels look like, check out this site:

When I got home from D's house, I was inspired to start thinking about weaving again on my loom. So I cleaned it off and dusted it down and checked the warp that was on it. It is several months since I used the loom, so it was indeed dusty. I had it warped for Double weave (more on that anon), so I am thinking of  doing a sampler of Double weave, trying out the different types : tubular, open pockets, closed pockets, pocket open at one side, etc. I just want to finish out the warp and then I can get a new warp on the loom. 

Back at the loom again

Gotta consult all the books of course!