finally Spinning

I’ve been interested in learning to spin for a while. A couple of years ago I bought a drop spindle, some roving and an instructional book online. I knew you held on to the spindle and dropped it while it spun to create the yarn. I couldn’t think of any reason a blind person wouldn’t be able to manage it. I missed one obvious point. The drop spindle falls toward the floor while it’s spinning and a totally blind person isn’t going to have any way of knowing when it is getting close to the floor. If you touch the spindle to find out where it is, you’re going to disrupt the spinning. If it hits the floor, it will lose the twist you’ve built up in your yarn. There might be a work around for this but I had one other problem when learning to spin with a drop spindle; I had no idea how to draft the roving. I tried to find instructions online but nothing made any sense without being able to see the videos. No one I know knew how to spin so I was on my own. Granted, I could have solved this problem by asking someone sighted to help me learn by watching the videos and explaining, but with the other problem of the spindle hitting the floor, I was discouraged. The drop spindle and the roving have sat in a box along with the instruction book since then. I’ve had vague intentions to scan the book but I didn’t think it would explain how a blind person could keep the spindle from hitting the floor so I never got around to it.

Flash forward to the present when a fellow blindstitcher mentions on the list that she’s selling her spinning wheel. Add to that the facts that she lives less than an hour from me and I’ve been harboring this wish to be able to spin, and you have one happy woman. I am the new owner of a Louet S51 double treadle. Louet wheels are supposed to be great to learn on. That specific model has been discontinued but the nice thing about Louet is that most of their wheels have interchangeable parts. If I ever need more bobbins or a different kind of flyer, it won’t be a problem.

I had no illusions that I could learn to use the spinning wheel on my own like I tried to do with the drop spindle. This was much more involved. I did some research online with the idea that I was going to need to drive about 45 minutes and take lessons at a yarn store. Luckily for me, I found out otherwise. It turns out there is a wonderful woman who lives in my county and gives private lessons. On top of this she used to be a special education teacher so she understands the nature of disabilities and is more likely to be able to explain things to a blind person. Out of curiosity, I did some asking around at the next Knitwits get together. Not surprisingly, she’s a member of the knitting guild I just joined) it’s not a very big town after all). They also sang her praises and said she would be a wonderful spinning teacher. All of these things seemed to come together in such a way that it felt like I was meant to learn to spin at this point in my life.

I’ve had one spinning lesson so far with two more to come later this week. I think it went fairly well. From the things she said, I’m doing just as well as the average sighted person. The hardest thing at the moment is trying to do four different things at once. There are a couple of issues with spinning as a blind person but they all seem manageable. One is making sure the wheel is going in the right direction. It has to be able to spin both ways because you spin the yarn one direction and ply it together in another. I will have to feel the wheel each time I start to make sure it’s right. The other issue that comes to mind is making sure the yarn stays on the hooks of the flyer. It looks like the problems that are coming up are simple and can be solved by doing a quick checklist before I start treadling.

What I’ve learned so far in all my spinning adventures is that it’s better to learn from an actual person. I know this isn’t always possible but sometimes it’s necessary. With that being said, I’m happy to answer any questions about spinning as a blind person.

Now that I know more about drafting I might get the drop spindle out and try it again. I’ll let you know if I can make it work. I think I’ll spend some time mastering the spinning wheel first, though.

Here is a directory of spinning terms and what they mean just in case you want to know.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grace Hatton
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 16:36:35

    Thanks for this post. A woman who is blind is coming to my home tomorrow so I can try and teach her to spin. I am going to give the drop spindle a try or maybe a supported spindle. If that works out, I’ll try the spinning wheel. Wish you had given more details on how you got started.


  2. crystal
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 17:09:40

    Great, I hope it goes well. I honestly never learned to use the drop spindle. I love the will so much and it works so well for me that I just haven’t bothered. The only thing I have to add is that if she has trouble with the drop spindle I wouldn’t let that deter you guys from trying the wheel. Good luck!


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