Saturday, February 16

Spinning tips

Last Saturday I headed down to the little village of Lyminge near Folkestone for two hours of tuition from Sue Chitty of Hilltop Spinning.

Sue and her husband Bill run a spinning and weaving business from their bungalow on the edge of the village - doing tuition in spinning, weaving, dyeing and so on, and selling fibre, looms, dye kits, spinning wheels and so on.

I had booked some tuition to try and iron out the difficulties I was encountering with my spinning - although I knew the theory, in practice I was aware that my technique needed some polishing. And I hadn't a clue about the difference between (and uses for) woollen and worsted spinning.

It was a very valuable morning's work, and one of the most important things that Sue taught me was that less is more! I was using too much fibre at a time, and trying to go too fast. This meant I was trying to draft the fibre out from a big lump, making it difficult to get a fine, consistent ply, and resulting in my hands getting tired very quickly. By taking only a small amount of fibre, I got a much better result, with a lot less effort! I also realised that my control of the wheel, which took so long to get used to in the first place, was actually quite good now! Seeing Sue struggling to get it going the right way - I think the Louet style was slightly alien to her - gave me some confidence in my abilities and made me realise it was not my poor coordination that was the reason!

I also learned about woollen and worsted spinning and found out that, unless I'm planning to start weaving (well it has crossed my mind....!) I don't need to worry too much about worsted spinning. This is a method for getting a smoother ply - you comb out the short fibres and only use the long fibres, and you spin with them at 90 degrees to the drafting direction. This gives a smoother finish, which apparently is good for the warp (or is it the weft?) threads.

I did quite enjoy the technique though, it seems easier to draft that way, and I found myself using it a lot when I got back home.

Sue and Bill have a good range of fibres for spinners, as well as whole fleeces on sale. If you find the website a bit confusing, they also have a mail order brochure that you can order for free from here.

Sue was a very good teacher - relaxed and patient, and keen to tailor the tuition to suit the pupil as much as possible. Well worth the money and the effort of getting there.

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