Saturday, September 18, 2010


Teaching is one of those skills that I do not possess. My husband was a teacher for several years, and I am often amazed at how he can give instructions to people. I struggle. I can educate, provide information, give stats, tell my own experience, but teaching, no. My poor 8 year old still hasn't learned to ride a bike. He frequently asks, "when will you teach me how to ride my bike?" I finally had to tell him that I have tried everything I know how in order to help him ride his bike and nothing has worked. I then explain that while he thinks I am the best mom ever, I have my faults. When the other kids ride bikes around the drive, he runs along. Poor kid! Emma somehow learned to ride her bike, but I think it was her own determination, not me. Now Emma is asking to learn to spin yarn. I just know that my teaching her is a bad idea. She doesn't take instruction well, and I don't instruct well. If only they taught spinning in school! I've heard of schools that teach knitting (another thing she'd like to learn). I managed to teach J to knit, but that was only because he loves me and is a easy student and really taught himself more than I taught him.

What I decided to try, is to start Emma out plying. Plying is a lot easier than spinning strands of yarn, but uses many of the same actions. Last weekend I spun up two strands of yarn. All week we tried to find some time to sit down together so I could show her plying, but it took until today for us to be able to do that. The idea was that I would help Emma. (If you know Emma, then you know my *helping* is a laugh in itself. She is extremely independent, never asks for help, and wants to do everything herself. I've learned that it's best to let her be, unless it's a safety risk. I very carefully pick my battles with her, saving the fight for the really really important things). For this plying, I started it out, then I let her push the pedal, while I held the strands. We plyed most of it together.

She decided that I was right after all, this is harder than she realized (which was very hard for her to admit):

She did pedal the wheel for most of the plying. It was a struggle, and she had to restart the wheel several times. She never did advance to taking over the hand part of it (other than for a moment when I took that picture). But she kept working hard at pedalling. Pedalling requires a rhythmic action. If you pedal too fast, you can't keep up with your hands. If you pedal too slow the wheel will stop and start going the other way, tangling the yarn all up.

I do think a double treadle spinning wheel would be easier for her. J has already suggested that he'd prefer a double treadle. I prefer the single (I tried both when I was looking to purchase). If we have the chance, I'd love to be able to purchase an Ashford Kiwi for the two of them. I think J and Emma would love that. The Kiwi is a very nice beginner wheel. It was on my top 3 list when I bought mine (I have Louet). My concern was that I would outgrow the Kiwi and want something else after a year or so. Now that I've been spinning for almost 2 years, I'm less concerned about outgrowing a wheel. I wish they didn't call it a "beginner wheel" that actually turned me off it. Any wheel can be used indefinitely. When I purchased my Louet, I wasn't considering that J or Emma would want to spin yarn too.


WonderWhyGal said...

I never thought of starting my daughter on plying. She is amazing on the drop spindle but gets frustrated with the wheel.

I have a Kiwi in my collection. I love it but love my Lendrum more. Just sold my Louet and have my daughter spinning on the Elizabeth. Everyone has a wheel preference and sometimes my fiber tells me to use a different wheel.

Oak Haven Alpacas said...

I started out on the drop spindle myself. It was a decent way to begin. But I also bought some roving to use on it. We only have raw alpaca fiber at home, no rovings. I think it would be very difficult to do raw fiber on a spindle (not sure I could even do it). I know I could break down and buy some roving for Emma, but eeek! I don't want to buy when we have bags in the basement :) That's what made me think she needed to start on the wheel, our lack of rovings. My husband can ply but hasn't mastered spinning yarn, so I thought that would be a good way to start Emma out. We'll see. My guess is that she realized it's a bit harder than she thought and she might not be asking to do it again for awhile. That's ok. I'm sure at some point she will learn it. I also think it will work easier if she's a bit older.

I've heard that most spinners have several wheels, and use different ones for different things. We only had a budget for 1 wheel, so when I bought it I intended to use it for everything. So far that's worked perfect for me. The problem is that the wheel I picked out is not what my husband or daughter would have picked. Maybe we need to look at our budget for next year and see about getting them a wheel. Or maybe we'll wait a couple more years. I'm happy not to share my wheel, then I know I can use it when I want to.


Linda said...

You need to bring her to spinning guild. Maybe one of us can help her get started.
And much as I love spinning alpaca, there is nothing like shetland roving for learning.

Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ertman-Trowbridge Family said...

Poor kid. You can even see in the picture how frustrated she is. But that may be a good life lesson: Sometimes Mom does know what she is talking about!

I hope she tries again in the future.

Oak Haven Alpacas said...

I'm sure Emma will try again, in time. Though it was a good life lesson, for sure. She was so sure she could do it all without any input from me (she is fiercely independent). It was a good life lesson that when I say something isn't as easy as it looks, that's true. But I also told her it is a bit like riding a bike, once you get the hang of it, it's not hard or frustrating. It actually is calming for me, soothing. I just takes a bit of practice to get to that point.

Linda, I'm pretty sure the roving I started with was shetland on a drop spindle. It was a good way to get the basics down. One of these days I'll get the guild, I'll see if she wants to come then too.

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