Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


It sounds wonderful! I hope I'll be a good student for you, and not get easily defeated! I have watched the woman on Knitty Gritty's spinning episode use a drop spindle (made from a dowel, a cuphook and some CD's), so I'm hoping that visual lesson has sunk in. But I've no doubt my excellent instructor will ensure my success!

By Blogger Mary, at 10:05 AM  

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Sunday, March 12, 2006  

Yesterday was as perfect a teaching experience as I could ask for. It was pure utter bliss. This was not my first big class of first-time drop spinners but it had many unique aspects that will help me shape my future large group classes. There were only 10 students, one called in sick, but all of them were skilled needlewomen. I had three hours to teach them how to spin but since this was a gathering of quilters, I wanted to aim the information at their primary passion, so I wanted to do more than help them create a balanced wool yarn. Happily, 3 hours is enough time to cover a lot of ground.

The kits, made up for me by Barbara at Stony Mt. Farms, were generously full of both a white and a colored roving of colonial top, springy grabby fiber that feels soft unless you compare it to merino. This is often when hopeful spinners at fiber shows frequently make their first mistake and reject what suddenly feels scratchy for something silkier. I added a small handful of colored mohair locks I bought several years ago at MS&W . I spread the kits out on a table in all their colorful splendor and invited students to take their pick. Chairs were set in a semi-circle so that the spinners could park their spindles in their lap. I sat too, so they could see what I was talking about but was ready to hop up as often as needed to give individual help to any struggling student. Just before the end of the hour all 10 of them had spindles nicely filled with singles, all of which looked heaps better than my precious ugly babies.

The second hour we spent plying and fondling my show-and-tell stuff: fibers, tools, and books. Hour # 3 was spent spinning over the fold with the mohair locks and making textured yarns my quilting students might want to use for embellishments on their quilt blocks. B had made a darling quilt block based on the Sunbonnet Sue appliqué design, but she gave Sue a drop spindle made from a toothpick and a button. It’s adorable and she gave it to me to take home.

So. What did I learn from this teaching experience? What can I take with me to make my next class even better ? I don’t think anything could make it more fun, since that depends as much on the attitude of the students walking in as it does on the teacher. My students were (almost) all cheerful and happy and ready to give it a go. Good sports with the needlewoman’s deft fingers to speed them along.

1. Make a packing list of things I need to have. Put it with the handouts and syllabus in a sturdy zip-lock bag. Keep a copy on the computer too, of course.

2. Explain that what I mean by "clockwise" is that when they look down upon the face of their spindle as it spins, it will be turning clockwise. That little bit of confusion wasted 2 or 3 precious minutes.

3. Spend more time talking about moving the fibers along - about why you have to have your hands slightly more than, but not too much more than a fiber’s length apart. I notice that beginners claw at the fiber supply right up at the twist trying to make that lump smaller. That’s impossible, since even with a tight pinch holding back the twist, some energy escapes into the fiber supply, gathering in a thick wad of fibers and making drafting impossible. A relaxed back hand pulling from a few inches back will always get the drafting started again, even though it does leave that slub up against the twist.

4. Spend more time with pre-drafting altogether. Consider using pencil roving next time. At least, consider having some pencil roving in the kit.

5. Have a spindle full of singles already loaded when we begin plying. I had several spindles, but, alas, none of them were loaded so when my students were ready to begin plying I wasn’t ready to demonstrate!

6. Do not take it personally if I get one student who insists that she can’t learn and can’t do it and absolutely refuses to do what you tell her to do next, but insists on doing what she thinks she ought to do next. There is always a maverick in the fold. It has nothing to do with me. At least yesterday’s maverick was merely defeated, not aggressive and antagonistic - like one I had last fall. Although almost everyone once learned to spin because she had to, that doesn’t mean everyone now is going to learn to spin.

I also noticed that about half the students didn’t want to spin their spindles, they wanted to hold them and slowly twist them. You can spin a few inches that way - with patience, you can spin all your wool that way - if you have the rest of your life to do nothing but spin. I had to urge them to take advantage of gravity and centrifugal force and hang it all if the spindle falls to the floor. That’s why it’s called a drop spindle, I’m sure.

The 3 hours disappeared like mist over the river. I could happily have continued teaching all afternoon. Instead, though, we had a boxed lunch and listened to a lecture about a book of documented Virginia quilts coming out this year and published by the Virginia Consortium of Quilters - who, btw, were sponsoring this gathering. The whole day was a big high with lots of strokes and compliments from my students, (B let me read the evalutions and they were such an ego boost.) and the added pleasure of seeing delight on faces of women who were learning something they’d always been curious about. A splendid lovely day.

And today - fat with the warmth of an early spring - I can savor the pleasure of a job well done and look forward to April’s class with pumped up eagerness.

Please, though, if you are in one of those lovely moist locations, blow some of your weather our way. We’re going into drought conditions already - a scary thought. Please. Think

posted by Bess | 7:56 AM