Learning to spin yarn is easy with the right lessons from your sister spinners

Cheerfully spun yarn complete with the beginner's trademark knots and twists.
Cheerfully spun yarn complete with the beginner's trademark knots and twists.

Try a hobby: Spinning 

I found a bag full of old fleece, the first shearing of our pet lamb of long ago. It came to light in the hall cupboard when the cleaning /throwing out bug collided with one of my spare moments. All cleaning forgotten I opened it with dread. Would the moths have made a palace in there?

Thankfully not. It smelled just like Fatso used to, was still full of lanolin and because it was his first fleece, it was full of all the adventures he had gotten up to in our back garden.

I had bought a secondhand spinning wheel, with the intention of learning to spin. I had visions of fingerless gloves for me, a warm sleeveless vest for my husband, and some knitted socks for the boys.

From a bag of fleece to a knitted article is a long, long journey I might tell you. But not knowing that at the time, I set out to spin.

If you have ever tried to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time, that's what spinning is like. Your feet have to work the treadle in a rhythmic manner, while your hands stretch and pull thin strands of the fleece and feed it up the throttle where it latches onto the bobbin as it whirls around.

To ply the yarn together you treadle the spinning wheel BACKWARDS. Who knew?

Would you start a new craft with no how-to book, no video tutorial under your belt, and no helpful advice from a spinning sister? Most wouldn't but I was keen. I just wanted to sit down and have a go. Of course there are far easier ways to learn this craft today, and taught properly you become acquainted with important words like niddy noddy, wool carder and flyer.

My method was jerky because the fleece kept getting jammed or tangled on the hooks of the throttle, but my yarn was a very impressive 12 ply and full of 'character'.

Once the bobbin was full, it was time to fill another one - the same 3D type yarn emerged from my patient hands and it was all going swimmingly. I was powering on to the third bobbin, but paused for a bit of homework. It turned out you had to use that third bobbin to ply the first two on to it, while treadling the spinning wheel BACKWARDS. Who knew?

Fatso our pet sheep as a baby. He grew and grew I'm afraid and became a handful.

Fatso our pet sheep as a baby. He grew and grew I'm afraid and became a handful.

Finally after about six hours of treadling and some genteel words of affection for that spinning wheel, I had enough yarn to make one glove.

Never one to leave the field of battle beaten, I started the bobbin filling process again.

So the lesson on spinning I was gently told later by a member of our local spinners and weavers was that a consistent treadle action is key if you want to keep your hamstring intact, the idea is to only allow a very thin amount of fibre to head on up the throttle, and that once you do know what you're doing, you will lament the passing of your 'cheerful' yarn, because it is very unlikely you can ever do it so well again. Which is all true. Would anyone like a pair of 2 ply handspun woollen socks? I'll give you a number - phone number that is.

BOOKS: Hands on Spinning by Lee Raven and Start Spinning by Maggie Casey.