A Traditional Spinner Goes Electric

Apr 13, 2016 - 5 min read

A Traditional Spinner Goes Electric Primary Image

Featured Image: Superfine Merino by Gloria Hall. Photo by Joe Coca

One of the things I’ve learned over and over in my fiber life is to never say never. I was never going to weave because weaving makes cloth, which mostly needs sewing, which is not my thing. An embarrassing number of looms and one decent sewing machine later, here I am, editor of Handwoven magazine and immersed in the weaving world. 2-01-16 video

I was also really, truly NEVER going to have an electric spinner because I thought that the point of handspinning is the experience of doing it the old-fashioned way, with a spinning wheel. Well, famous last words. Over the last 25 years of spinning with every imaginable kind of wheel and spindle, my interest in handspinning has expanded. I am still passionate about preserving the traditional craft, but I am also interested in designing projects that use unique handspun yarns. Weaving, in particular, takes a lot of yarn, and I like to work with fine yarns, so when I tried an electric spinner with a lace head a couple of years ago, I was hooked. I started saving my pennies, and a few months ago made the leap and bought an electric spinner of my own.

It’s taken some time to get to know my new spinner, just as it did with every other wheel I’ve owned. We always have to learn the best ways to collaborate with our wheels to get the best results. But I am finding some unexpected benefits to my new spinner. First, I’m spinning more because I can spin everywhere and anywhere. The wheel fits in a suitcase, so it can go on an airplane or tuck into a corner of our car, even when it's stuffed with all the gear for a family vacation. In fact, there’s an adapter so I can plug it into the lighter in the car and spin on the drive. (Obviously not while I am driving.) My electric spinner is also virtually silent, so I can spin while watching TV. (I can get several ounces of superfine lace weight yarn spun during the Sunday evening PBS dramas, without missing a single snide remark by Lady Mary or the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey.) 2-01-16-crop

An evening of classy PBS drama, some elegant fiber to spin, and the latest in handspinning technology: it’s the greatest thing since toasters came to Downton Abbey.

The Benefits of a Power Boost I’m also spinning more consistent yarn than ever I because I can sample until I find the ideal speed for the yarn, set the speed dial, and leave it there. Inevitably, my treadling on a spinning wheel will vary whether I’m distracted or tired or whatever, but the electric spinner is never distracted or rushed. With the “treadling” speed determined, I can concentrate completely on my drafting. And while I originally bought the electric spinner as a means to an end, I have to say, it’s also a lot of fun. It’s beautiful, and the smoothness and fine control satisfy my inner geek in the same way my traditional wheels satisfy my inner Luddite. (And I can’t help but think that some of our ancestors who had to spin for days on end might have been thrilled to have electric spinners to ease their work.)

If you are considering or have an electric spinner and want to get the most from it, you can get help from one of the finest spinners I know. Sarah Anderson has made a new video, Power Spinning: The Modern Spinner’s Guide to Electric Spinning Wheels, and she will soon have you humming along, enjoying the pleasure of practicing this ancient craft with a state of the art tool.

Spin in joy,