Getting Started!

UPDATED 30 March 2015!

At this time of year, we seem to always have a huge crop of new spinners and would-be spinners looking for information about getting started. So I thought I’d take a morning and pull together an overall post linking to things I’ve written on the subject and various other resources too. What’s more, I’ve been spending part of my holiday fixing and updating old posts with current information, so you may find a few new things.

Bear in mind this is a list of information and resources for those who are brand new to spinning; I’ve tried to keep from going too far into the more intermediate or potentially esoteric stuff that could be confusing for a beginner. We’ve got plenty of space for that under a heading other than “Getting Started.”

1. What do I need to get started spinning?

Spinning can cost basically nothing

I wrote a whole post about that entitled
What do I need to get started spinning?
— start there! You can do it with as little as $5-10. At a minimum, you’ll need a spindle and some fiber. You can make the spindle, but you’ll probably want to be sure you start with fiber in great condition.

2. What kind of fiber should I get?

fibers

Here are a few suggestions. If you’re wondering what some of the terms mean, here’s an explanation, complete with handy pictures. You’ll need to register for a free account with Spin-Off and download the PDF, but it’s worth it — there are all kinds of great resources there.

3. Are there any books or magazines you recommend?

Interweave Press’ Spin-Off Magazine is a must. Start here and browse around and through the links. The “big name” in spinning magazines, Spin-Off has been around for over 30 years and is always worth a read.

PLY Magazine is also a must. Founded by spinning teacher Jacey Boggs, PLY is a grassroots, community-driven magazine about spinning, and you’ll want every issue — they’re based around a common theme, so each issue is an excellent reference at many levels of expertise.

stringtopia2011

Some excellent books when you’re starting out:

Start Spinning by Maggie Casey. Maggie is the owner of Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder, and a spinning teacher par excellence.

Spin Control by Amy King picks up where Maggie’s book leaves off, and teaches you how to take control of your yarn.

Respect The Spindle is my own humble offering in the field, dealing with spindle spinning topics from beginner to advanced.

Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts is the canonical book about spinning with a high whorl spindle, and an excellent resource.

Productive Spindling by Amelia Garripoli is another great spindle reference.

Some DVDs or streamable videos:

Start Spinning, The DVD from Maggie Casey is the perfect 2-disc companion to her book. This is also available for download.

Drafting: The Long and Short Of It, my first instructional DVD, is a more intermediate DVD that goes into lots of detail about various fiber options, multiple ways to spin your yarn, and how to fine-tune what you’re doing to get exactly the results you want. You can download this from Interweave as well.

Respect The Spindle is more or less one of my spindle classes condensed to an hour in DVD form. It shows many of the techniques from the book, but also works fine as a standalone video. Like the others, it’s also available for download.

4. What about online sources?

There are tons! More than you can shake a stick at, even if it’s wrapped in yarn. I’m going to pick out a handful of online resources I recommend highly for new spinners, though.

One thing to bear in mind as you delve into the world wide web of spinny stuff is that as with anything online, there are good sources of information, and less good sources, and even sources that are filled with falsehood. It can be hard to know which is which. And whereas formal publication usually ends up being something done by people with a ton of experience in a given subject, casual publication like having a web site is something anybody can do. That doesn’t mean casual publications are bad — far from it! But it does mean, as a reader, that it pays off to spend a little time figuring out who’s giving you information, and what that person’s perspective is.

For example, my perspective is that of a spinning teacher and writer about spinning, who’s been at it for almost 40 years in a variety of contexts. I will obviously see things differently from someone who started spinning a couple of weeks ago. Does that mean you should only read one of us? Absolutely not; but it’s worth thinking about the differences in perspective or experience, as you read things. Consider: my experience trying a brand-new prototype spinning wheel is probably not going to be the same as a brand-new spinner’s. Which perspective you’re after is up to you. You may be looking for instruction (in which case I’d recommend seeing what an experienced teacher has to say), or you may be looking for a peer group as you start out on your spinning journey (in which case, you’ll probably be most interested in meeting fellow new spinners). One of the fabulous things about the online spinning world is that you can have all of those things.

WEB PUBLICATIONS

  • KnittySpin is the spinning focused section of web pioneer Knitty.
  • Spin Artiste is always great eye candy, and I love the interviews.

WEB COMMUNITIES

  • You can find all kinds of things — and share your own — with hashtags on all the social media sites that support them. You’ll probably never run out of anything to look at with #handspun, and if you use social media, sharing about your process is a great way to meet new people and learn new stuff yourself.
  • Just for kicks, if you’re looking for some top picks from my own archives, read this 100th post..
  • 5. Can you recommend any good videos on the web?

    Well, I’ve got a few aimed at the complete spinning novice, even starting on a budget:

    Beginning in 2015, I’ll be updating my own youtube channel extensively and regularly, including selecting the best videos I run across by other people and organizing them into playlists for your viewing pleasure.

    As with web sites, videos on YouTube vary wildly in terms of the quality of information they contain. There are some reasonably well-produced videos that contain horrible misinformation. Wherever possible, try to take a minute and figure out where the video came from — someone who spends a lot of time spinning, or someone who started a week or two ago? The more folks sharing what they do, the better — but be wary of authoritative pronouncements from people who haven’t been spinning any longer than you have! In fact, I’d almost go so far as to say that most people making really authoritative, “This is how you do it” pronouncements, instead of saying “Here’s one way to do this,” are relative novices.

    Why do I think this matters with videos? Because ideally, I think you should be looking at good spinning practice, or good form, if you’re looking for something to emulate and practice. If this was dancing or gymnastics, I would be saying you’re better off watching someone who’s been dancing for years than someone who just started and has never been to a class or performed or anything.

    6. What are some great places to shop for spinning equipment and supplies?

    Well, here are a few of my longstanding favourites. These are people who I can call up and say “Hey, do you have… or can you get… and is there anything like…” and who I trust with every fiber of my being (har har). These are the kinds of folks who you can go to with a dilemma and they’ll solve it. They’re the ones you can trust if you can’t make up your mind. These people are pillars of the larger fiber community. These are the people my family calls up to figure out what I should get for Christmas.

    • Carolina Homespun was my local shop when I lived in the SF Bay Area. If you are in that area, run, don’t walk, and then camp out and wait for Morgaine and Lann to let you in, if that’s what it takes. Make sure you visit them at every fiber show where you see them.
    • The Fold, better known as “Toni.” Not only does Toni Neil have an incredible full-service fiber shop — at least, I assume she does although I’ve never actually been to her shop, only her booth at various events, and dealt with her lots on the phone and in email — but she’s someone who Makes Stuff Happen. Like, she talked Jonathan Bosworth into making spindles. That kind of thing. I can’t say enough to praise Toni. I just can’t. She’s too fabulous.
    • The Spunky Eclectic is run by my longtime friend Amy King, author of Spin Control. I’ll put it this way: I call Amy up when I need a treat for myself, and can’t figure out what it should be. I place standing orders with her, and when there’s a new product on the market, she’ll know about it, have tried it, and have the scoop. And she can Get Things Done. When I have a task I know I can’t get to in time, I can count on Amy to do it to my standards and beyond.
    • Village Spinning & Weaving is a fabulous shop in California, and another absolute don’t miss at any fiber event where they’ve got a booth.

    If you’ve talked to that list of people, and they can’t find what you’re looking for? Then you can’t have it; it either doesn’t exist, is a treasure of rarity beyond compare and you have to hope someone’s leaving it for you in their will, or is backordered for however long they said. Seriously, if that list of people can’t make it happen for you fiberwise, nobody can. These are the folks you can call up in total chaos, confusion, despair, whatever — and they solve it, and give you a good deal besides.

    7. Any other thoughts for a new spinner?

    Just that, if there is any way at all for you to swing it, go meet other spinners. Take classes if you can, but even if you can’t or don’t want to, just meet other spinners. There are things about this that can’t be learned from books, videos, and so on. There are things that must be passed from one hand to another. You will get things out of a few minutes spent with other spinners that you can’t get out of years of spinning alone, even with the greatest references in the world. Spinners who’ve been doing this for a while make it look easy, and it is — with just a little practice. But in the beginning, just like riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument, you might be surprised to find it’s not as easy as it looks. The good news is it’s also not that hard — it just takes practice, and within a month you can easily be making lots of great yarn.

    Oh, and one more thing: this. Consider it a yarn manifesto, and enjoy.

    That’s it! Please feel free to share your thoughts about being a new spinner, and any questions you might have, in the comments.

    25 thoughts on “Getting Started!

    1. This is such a fantastic post, as all of your posts always are! I’m not a new spinner, but this definitely reminded me of a few sites that I haven’t visited in a while! Thank you! xo

    2. I have to second your recommendation/trust in Beth @ the Spinning Loft! I phoned her, told her what I thought I needed in hand & flick carders and knew she was leading me the right way. 🙂

    3. I really hope I’m a newbie spinner for a long time to come, at least in the sense of being willing to learn new stuff.

      Hmm. I suppose that means I need to play with my spindles and treadle more slowly, doesn’t it? I hate being self-contradictory.

    4. Hi Abby! Thanks for the plug. Spin to Knit was originally intended (after my initial conversation with Linda Ligon) to be more of a primer for how to use handspun in patterns than a how-to for teaching — I’ve been HAPPILY recommending Start Spinning for a while, though I’ve certainly had a lot of people tell me they learned to spin just from Spin to Knit!

      (By the way, don’t forget I’m a spinning wheel dealer, too…when am I going to lure you up here to play with us?) xo! happy New Year!

    5. As usual a great post. I love reading everything you have to say. Thanks for all the great links!

    6. Late to the party, but just wanted to comment on the opening line, ’cause you’ve piqued my interest. Personally, I’m a real summer spinner—I usually spin more in July than the rest of the year combined, because it’s too hot to knit (and it feels like I have plenty of time to spin and THEN knit, vs. when it’s already coooold and I want FOs).

      So … any theories on the midwinter surge?

    7. Wow! thanks for thinking so highly of my blog. It certainly has a way of continuing to grow (grin). What a great post … this rivals “Choosing your first spinning wheel” as my favorite on your blog so far.

    8. I’m a new spinner, and was just introduced to your site through Anne Hanson (knitspot). Thank you for all of your great reference writing! I thought I understood drive ratios, but it turns out I had them all wrong, and it makes so much more sense now! I’m off now to look up some of your links from this post, but I’m sure I’ll be back. Thanks again!

    9. Thanks for a great post! I found your blog a while ago and have been enjoying it a lot.

      I taught myself to spin a few years back, and now I’ve got two home-made bottom whorl spindles and my grandmother’s Finnish traditional saxony-style wheel. I’ve been spinning mostly 2-ply laceweight ever since I figured out how to make consistent thin yarn, right now I’m branching out to 3-ply sock yarns. Exiting! 🙂

      Anyway, I did have a question – would you happen to have book recommendations for an advanced beginner/intermediate spinner? I got Maggie Casey’s “Start spinning” and liked it, but I’d love to get deeper into different drafting and carding techniques etc. Any opinion on Alden Amos’ Big Book of Handspinning, for example, or other books I could try?

      Thanks!

    10. Sorry I couldn’t find your email. How is the test of YH cowl going? Hope your having nice snow days. Sorry to see you don’t have your store anymore. Or has it moved?

    11. The Harlot sent people over. Three snow days in a row…you have my sympathy.

    12. Hello Abby, another Yarn Harlot fan stopping by to check up on the cowl progress. And, as usual, her guidance is a benefit to my growing knowledge of fiber and all its wonders. Your spinning tutorial is wonderful and will be shared with my new acquaintances in the Spinning and Weaving Guild. I’m a knitter on her way to the ‘wheel’. Thank you for another step along the way.
      And sorry about all that snow — wish I could send some of our Texas sunshine.

    13. Another Yarn Harlot reader and WOW what a treat. I’m now too speechless to even inquire about the cowl. Thanks for compiling so much great information and thanks to YH for providing the link! Can’t wait to come back – have to go feed before there is a sheep revolt of epic proportions – and I’m afraid if I don’t walk away now, I’ll be sucked in for hours.

    14. I’m going to go have a nap now (note the time) wake me when your done

    15. This is just terrific. I’ve seen some of it, and enjoyed your Youtube videos, but there are many references that I haven’t found yet.
      Thanks,
      Maureen

    16. This is an incredible help to all of us new spinners out here!!
      I know I will refer to your suggestions often.
      Thanks a million,
      Mary Beth

    17. Thank you so much for all your spinning teaching. I have learned so much from you. And now, this list…you are the best.

      Why would Yarn Harlot tell me to ask you for her cowl pattern? It is lovely and I want to make it with my handspun. Did you two collaborate on it? Please try to get it out to anxious spinning knitters like me!

      Please keep teaching!

    Comments are closed.