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I began to be interested in spinning when I learned that a sheep farmer gets hardly enough money for a fleece to pay for the shearing. And I had just payed a fortune for knitting wool... Shortly afterwards I had the opportunity to see dropspindling and to try it myself. I was hooked!
For me, spinning, especially with a spindle, is magic: I don't tire of seeing raw fibre being transformed into yarn by using an extremely simple tool.
Apart from that, taking up spinning as a hobby has some very considerable advantages:
Spinning can be very inexpensive: You can start with a hooked stick (coat hanger wire works well - or tape a piece of a paper-clip to a kebob skewer) and a handful of your dog's undercoat (if it's a long-haired breed - and if he's shedding when you want to try spinning.
If you make your own spindle, it will cost very little. But even buying a first-class spindle costs less than a nice restaurant dinner for two - and the spindle will last longer!
The fibres for spinning can be had either for free (from the sheep farmer next door, or your neighbour's long-haired dog, or your daughter's long-haired rabbit) or for generally not too much money (and one pound of wool will last a long time). If you buy luxury fibres - like cashmere - the yarn you spin from them will still cost less than if you had bought it. Unless you begin figuring in your time - but you are spinning for fun, aren't you? So you get to have fun, and you get yarn!
Even buying a wheel (which will set you back a few hundred dollars) - will cost less than many other hobbies, such as horseback riding or always having the latest computer equipment.
There are hundreds of different fibres (France alone has more than 50 sheep breeds - and then there's all the other animals, and plants) - everything that's fine and long enough can be spun. You can spin thick or thin singles, ply 2 or more of them together and create all sorts of novelty yarns. There's always something new to learn and do.
When you go all the way from sheep to sweater, you control every step of the way. There's people who say that allergies to wool (if it's a true allergy and not simply a normal reaction to scratchy wool) may actually be allergies to some substances the wool has been treated with between shearing and the finished ball of yarn (detergents, for example). You can do without these substances if you start with raw fleece.
But if you buy ready-to-spin fibre (which has been washed much more aggressively than you would do it at home), you still have complete control over the yarn you make. My first sweater turned out a bit too soft and "pilly" - so I spun the yarn for the second one much tighter. You make the choice, and you live with the consequences. Which are rarely disastrous - in most cases you can use the yarn for something.
You can spin any novelty yarn you can imagine. In most cases they are much easier to do than they look. Actually, you will probably start out spinning "unique designer slub yarn" before progressing to regular, run-of-the-mill two-ply.
Well, spinning can be addictive! Suddenly, you may have not much time for other activies. You might also spend more money than initially planned on completing your collection of handspindles (there's some that are sooo beautiful - and individually, they don't cost much!). And a collection of spinning wheels in one's living room makes for careful transits - no traipsing around in the dark!
But seriously, there's also a risk of health problems: The movements used for one style of spinning are rather repetitive, which may lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Personally I had tendinitis in my thumbs, but I've also heard of a spinner with problems in his achilles tendons. So you want to watch your posture, be as relaxed as possible and take frequent breaks, especially at the beginning. Varying your spinning (long-draw, short-draw, right-handed, left-handed) also helps.
Page updated: 07 April 2007