Spinning From Handcards

What you need:

– Spinning fiber – roving or washed fleece

– A spinning wheel with empty bobbin

– Handcards

We have amazing brains that often tell us what we can and can’t do. Sometimes the key to overcoming the “can’t do” little voice in our heads is just taking a different approach. If you are a new spinner envious of your neighbors’
thin and consistent yarn, handcards might be the key.

Brains have to be flexible to learn any new activity. When spinning many parts of your brain are engaged. I know because classes of new spinners tend to be very quiet, unlike advanced spinning classes that can become unruly (you know who you are). Telling different parts of your body to do different tasks becomes the pat your head and rub your tummy of spinning, making most of us feel clumsy and uncomfortable. When you ask/use your handcards to do one of the tasks (holding the fiber) while spinning, there is a little more room to figure out how to treadle and draft at the same time.

Spinning fiber

Spinning fiber

Fiber on handcard

Here’s how. Take some fiber. You can use just about anything you can card, but it is best to start with a fiber that has a consistent staple length and some tooth (save the smoother fibers for another try later). I like to use my 72psi handcards, which means, the carding cloth has 72 sharp points per square inch. Load the carders and card the fiber until it looks like this on one card and take it to the spinning wheel.

Set your wheel up to have little take-up and gradually add more tension until the yarn is gently pulling onto the bobbin with no tension when you are giving it to the wheel.

Roving and handcards

Roving and handcards

Note: If you use an extra long leader you can use it to adjust your draw-on tension before you have to attach the yarn you are spinning.

Hold the feathery fibers hanging off your carder at a 90 degree angle to the leader. As the fiber begins to wind around the leader, move the carder so the fibers will flow straight off the carder and become yarn. Use your forward hand to gently pull little bits of fiber off the card all the way across and then work your way all the way back to where you started. Continue until the fibers are no longer hanging over the edge of you carder. You can continue to work your way back and forth across the carders, but since the longest fibers pull together off the carder first, when you start to use the fibers that are not dangling over the edge, you may run into some bumps and shorter fibers. See the video on the Schacht YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/9WRAtMcY3fc.

Taking the hand that usually holds your fiber out of the equation eliminates the inevitable death grip that plagues us all when the fear of uneven yarn sets in. This technique will allow you to decrease the diameter of your yarn and spin with greater consistency. Give it a try and see if you can change a “can’t do” into an “I just did.”

Optional Project

Take the first yarn you have spun and ply. Using the Zoom Loom make a square. Put the square in an oval embroidery hoop. Adjust the square so it is even in the hoop and use the finer smooth yarn you spun second to embroider a love message for Valentine’s Day.

Stephanie Flynn-Sokolov

Stephanie Flynn Sokolov trained in accessory design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She teaches classes in weaving and spinning around the U.S. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.