The first class we learned about the wool we were using (uncleaned Romney). Betty taught us to pick the fiber clean and card it.
The carded fiber was rolled into rolags and drafted into nests for spinning. The nests need to be drafted sufficiently for the best spinning results. I learned I was not truly drafting my fiber. I was pulling it out, but near enough for it to be properly drafted for spinning.
The first spinning we did was on drop spindles. We used a 2 oz spindle she has made for classes and to sell in the shop. I have learned the importance of spindle weight. I like spin Alpaca and prefer a fine yarn. To accomplish this, I need to use a spindle under 1 oz, .7 or .8 oz. The lighter the spindle the finer the yarn and necessary for fine fiber. The heavier the spindle, the thicker the yarn. For medium weight wool a 1.5-2 oz spindle works well. Fine fiber or attempting a fine yarn on a 2 or 3 oz spindle will result in under spun yarn and a lot of "breakage" during spinning. The lighter weight spindles spin faster and longer putting more twist in the yarn, which is necessary for finer weight yarns.
The second class we began working on wheels. I took my Ashford Kiwi 2 to class. Have wheel will travel!! Betty had us treadle to get used to the motion and she went through the history of spinning. Archeologist have found evidence that spinning goes back 30,000-40,000 years. To the last Ice Age. First plant fibers were spun by rubbing the fiber with the palm on the leg. Then twigs were used and eventually the drop spindle. It was quickly discovered that animal fiber could be spun. The drop spindle was used as the primary method for spinning until the 1500's. At that point, the wheel was developed, but instead of the bobbin we use today, they put the drop spindle in the wheel. For those of you who are fans of fairytales, this is the spinning wheel Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on. In the movie versions, they depict a wheel with a bobbin. Since Sleeping Beauty was written in the 1500's, the wheel would not had a bobbin; it had a drop spindle. Bobbins and flyers were not invented until late 1600's or early 1700's. The spinning wheel was used to spin all the yarn for knitting, crocheting, and weaving. It was how the fiber for all material was spun up through the Industrial Revelolution in the late 1800's. Wheels were still used in some locations up through the 1930's. In Peru, yarn is still spun and plied on drop spindles.
We also learned about the different types to wheels and how cultures dictated the wheel designs. While Betty told of this wonderful history, we began to spin. We learned about tension and drive.
We spun in the grease, meaning the lanolin and some of the dirt was still in the fiber. The lanolin aids the fiber to twist.
The third class was all about plying. We had two bobbins full of yarn and plyed them together. Once we finished that, we took the yarn off the drop spindle and created a center pull ball. We plyed that. I ended up with 364 yards of DK 2 ply yarn and 34 yards of Bulky 2 ply yarn from approximately 1 lb of raw fleece.
The final class was sampling fibers and experimenting with blending. We blended various natural and dyed wool, blended wool with glitter, blended dog and wool, blended angora and wool, camel down, bamboo and dyed silk. We spun the dog and angora without blending. This is virtually impossible. These fibers need to be spun slowly with a lot of twist and are not stable. It was a demonstration of why certain fibers need to be blended. The bamboo and silk were very difficult to spin. They also need to be spun slowly with a lot of twist. Camel down is unbelievably soft and a dream to spin. Betty showed us the difference between Camel hair and Camel down. Camel hair is coarse and scratchy. It is not suitable for any wearables.
The class is well work taking if you are interested in spinning and fiber. I enjoyed it very much and am sorry to see it end. I hope to take more classes at The Spinnery. Last spring she had a Spinning 2 class; I will be keeping an eye out for that! I might even take a dye class or two! If you are in Frenchtown, NJ, stop in and say Hi to Betty! Great shop!