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!

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Hi, I love spinning! If you have any questions about spinning or any comments about my blog, just let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks.