I’ve had this gradient-dyed silk top in my fiber stash since the day I learned to spin. I had no idea how to spin silk at the time, and just barely knew how to spin wool, but the shimmering rope called out to me every time I passed Apple Tree Knits booth at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival, where the Bombyx silk dangled alongside the rows of also-tempting ombre yarn. It ended up in my bag.
For the first half-year or so of my spinning attempts, I was working with a supported spindle. Which, I’ve come to realize, is not really my forte. It took me that entire time just to make it through 4 ounces of merino and maybe half an ounce of Hog Island wool. While I was plugging along through those early stages of learning how to spin, I’d occasionally take out the silk and pet it gingerly. But I couldn’t imagine attacking that sheen with my clumsy spindle. Later.
During my beginner’s drop spindle class, the instructor had bemoaned the tendency for spinners to treat the spindle as simply a stepping stone along the way to the main show: the spinning wheel. She was a lovely lady, and I really wanted to embrace this ancient, elegantly simple technology … but there’s no way I want to spend half my spinning time manually winding yarn around a stick. And I just lack the coordination to keep the spindle spinning while producing any kind of even yarn.
So for my birthday this year, a spinning wheel it was. A double-treadle, single-drive Kromski Sonata with a modern foldable shape, classical turned-wood styling, and a rich walnut finish. It was love at first sight. Or, OK, love at first assembly.
But while the wheel may seem a more complicated piece of equipment than the modest spindle, for me, the learning curve was nowhere near as steep. With the wheel, I was able to rocket through 4 ounces each of a two-ply, fingering-weight Shetland-alpaca blend and a bulky singles of merino top. And I even made a few yards of beaded art yarn (more on which later).
Through all this, the silk never left my mind, but I was afraid I’d destroy it with my rough fisherman’s hands, the fine fibers snagging and disintegrating. But after my success with the art yarn, I decided to ride that high and, after a night of nervous technique Googling, I took the plunge.