And you shall sit and spin

I said that I would marry,
And she would be my bride,
And alone we should not tarry,
And twenty things beside;
"I'll plough and sow and reap and mow
And you shall sit and spin,
Singing, 'How d'you do, and how d'you do,
And how d'you do' again."

Our annual Oysterfest went off brilliantly last night (pictures later). Our last guests have just departed, leaving behind a spinning wheel they are selling on behalf of a friend, which I intend to buy. I got some quick lessons before they left. No one element of the process of spinning a mass of wool into nice, even yarn is very difficult, but it will take some time learning to do them all at once. If I concentrate on the treadle, I can time the downstroke to coincide with the wheel's just turning over the top, so that it doesn't turn in reverse -- but then I've taken my attention off of the job of "drafting" (pulling) the end of the wool ball out into the very thin wisp that takes the spin. If I concentrate on drafting, I lose track of the treadle, or forget to pinch onto the wool at the right spot, or forget to let the wheel pull the spun portion onto the bobbin, or the completed yarn slips off the bobbin altogether and snarls. Each of these tasks must become more automatic before they can be aggregated smoothly.

I'm already eyeing my longer-haired dog as a potential source of wool. The shorter-haired dog, as you can see above, is eyeing the device with some suspicion.

We don't mow, as a rule, since we have nothing to say to lawns. I wonder, though, if I can persuade my husband to do all of the plowing, sowing, and reaping if I promise to do all the spinning? It seems like a good deal from my end.

But before I get to swallowed up in this new craft, I must finish Lars's book, which I am particularly enjoying. I'm about 2/3 of the way through, a feat I accomplished only by stealing moments from our hectic week preparing for Oysterfest.


Joseph W. said...

Is that the original for the Beggar's Opera song that begins, "Before the barn door crowing..."?

Anonymous said...

Dog hair can be spun, but cat hair does not work. Some of the Indians of the Northwest coast used to keep dogs for their "wool" but the breed (IIRC) has been lost. I also seem to recall that dog hair is best spun with a drop spindle or by rolling it on your thigh rather than on a wheel, but it's been a while since I tangled with fibers.

For music you might try "Gretchen am Spinnrade" by Schubert. You can hear the wheel spinning in the accompaniment.


Texan99 said...

The lyrics are from "One Misty Moisty Morning" (Steeleye Span version).

Lars Walker said...

Glad you're enjoying the book.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

My mother always claimed she could knit a spare dog from the amount the first one shed.

douglas said...

I wonder if you couldn't get the treadle down by practicing it while reading or some other sitting task which is already automatic to you. Just a thought- I have no working knowledge of a spinning wheel so take it for what it's worth...

Just don't prick your finger on the spindle, I hear you'll get sleepy.

Kim said...

When you first start spinning, don't worry about the fiber, just treadle, AFTER making sure it is well lubricated where applicable. Sing, chant, read, whatever you need to get a good rhythm going. Do that for a good long while, until it becomes easy. Only then do you add wool, a nice midlength wool, like Romney, and by then your treadling is fine and you can concentrate on the attenuation and twist insertion and it all becomes easy. I first tried spinning on dog down.... that is NOT the way to start, believe me. Go with a nice wool, make your life easy!

Texan99 said...

Douglas, that's exactly what I did last night -- treadled while reading. I didn't do it quite long enough, but it helped teach my foot the automatic rhythm and the feel of where I should be in the cycle before I push down. By bedtime I wasn't nearly so inclined to jam the wheel into reverse when I added the yarn back into the exercise.

Kim, it will be a while before I try with any challenging fibers. My friend left me some pretty good practice wool. I'm just starting to get the hang of getting it to pull apart before I forget and let a twist propagate right up into the loose stuff. It's amazing how fast it goes from easy-to-pull fluff to a rope-like strength as soon as it gets a twist or two into it, which of course is the whole point.

To celebrate my minor improvement I learned a new crocheting technique, "Tunisian." You leave a whole row of loops on the crochet hook and work back through them, so that the effect is a little more like knitting than like crochet. The crochet hooks are long with a knob on the far end, to prevent the loops popping off back there. This was my sister's Christmas present to me.

Anonymous said...


I have seen a cat hair sweater, and it was beautiful. The owner had a long haired orange cat. She combined the cat hair with white wool and the end result was an apricot sort of color with a pearly sheen.

Unfortunately the sweater, like the animal, tended to shed the shorter cat hair, and the owner knew that the garment would gradually turn completely white.