Time and time again, I speak to new spinners who have hit a wall of frustration. Their first yarn doesn’t match up with their expectations. They’ve watched some of their more experienced peers whip together smooth or technical yarns with ease and are either terrified to start or cursing their first attempt.
There are some things that beginning spinners need to know.
Your first yarn will be lumpy and bumpy… and that’s okay!
Save perfection for another day. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Come to the table with only one expectation — to make yarn. Don’t have a project in mind. Don’t even plan to use the yarn. If you make yarn, you win. That can be hard to hear for the perfectionist artist! If you can set aside your preconceptions, you will save yourself in the frustration department.
The truth is, there is a lot going on between your hands and the spindle. You have to control the fiber, spin the spindle, draft and manage twist. It can be overwhelming and it takes time to get all the elements to work together. Often, a beginners first yarn will be lumpier at the beginning and smoother near the end.
That’s okay. It is a journey. Your first yarn is for learning. Don’t get frustrated. Make it, then reflect on it. As you learn, you’ll start to understand what works and what doesn’t. You’ll start to see areas where you need to grow. Let yourself have those learning moments.
Later down the road, you’ll be making perfect singles and decide you want to make art yarn. Guess what you’ll have to learn all over again; how to make lumpy bumpy yarn.
Don’t overdo it… no, really…
I usually recommend that beginning spinners spin for 15-20 minutes per day and then stop. It takes time to build up muscles, and your spinning muscles are no exception. Still, it is so easy to be enthralled and keep going. The problem with hand muscles is that it is harder to tell when you experience hand exhaustion. Hand exhaustion often manifests in clumsiness.
The repetitive motions of spinning, can also lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, especially if you regularly overwork your hands and don’t give yourself the chance to build up hand and forearm muscles.
You will know when you’ve overdone it. You’ll drop your spindle. Your fiber will keep drifting apart. You’ll feel like you’ve taken two steps back on your progress. The next day, your hands will be curled in a claw and you might not feel up to spinning again for a few days.
If this happens, be aware that you are making progress and that these symptoms are signs of exhaustion, not failure. Rest up and try again!
Celebrate your first yarn!
Even if it isn’t what you expected, if you managed to make string, celebrate! Take it to your friends, your family, the guy who waits at the bus stop with you every day. Show them and tell them “Look what I made! It isn’t perfect, but I made my first yarn!” Start a conversation about it. Admire it.
It doesn’t matter if it is perfect. You just learned something remarkable and that alone should fill you with awe! Children have an incredible sense of exploration and patience for learning. Somewhere along the way, we lose that freedom and become self-conscious, even when we’re alone.
Celebrating your work not only makes it easier to try again; it also encourages others to try with a similar free spirit. And you’ll be surprised how many people will be ready to celebrate with you.
I’ve included a number of photos of beginner yarn created by my online community. Look at these yarns and celebrate them! These are the success stories of spinners. If you have a photo of your own first yarn, share it in the comments below!
If you haven’t tried spinning because you’re afraid it won’t be perfect… If you were so disappointed in your first yarn that you threw your spindle into the “time out” pile… take a deep breath, remember why you are learning to spin, take a break, and try again.
You’ve got this.