Spinning Resources for Children

Recently I’ve had a number of individuals get in touch with me about spinning supplies for their children.  It can be hard for parents or guardians to know what to get their children when they have no knowledge of the craft itself.  Says one parent,

My daughter took your class over the summer and I wanted to get her craft supplies for the wool felting and the other crafts (except for crochet). What do you recommend and where can I get them?

I’ve created a list of supplies, resources and tools to help you get your child on their way to spinning!

Generally children first learn how to spin on a drop spindle.  These are either made from wood or plastic and are a dowel with a weight around it to enable the drop spindle to spin.  Think of them like tops – they look very similar!

Camper using TurtleMade Turkish Drop Spindle

Camper using TurtleMade Turkish Drop Spindle

  • TurtleMade ($25): Hands down my very favorite drop spindles to use with children.  I’ve used their Turkish Spindles – the advantage being that, when used correctly, the spindle creates a ball of yarn when done.  It’s much easier to ply from when first working with spinning.  Get the Standard size spindle – sometimes the smaller sizes are harder to use for children, as there’s less to grab onto.  I love that TurtleMade has different colors, and does special holiday themed spindles – there’s some really cool halloween printed ones.  TurtleMade’s plastic spindles have never broken on me, and even if they do, they sell replacement parts.
  • Knit Picks ($14.99): Wooden Drop spindle, heavier than TurtleMade’s, and is a solid option.  I don’t find these as sturdy.
  • There are a variety of other spindles out there, mostly in wood.  They range in prices from $39 to $50, and are really only worth acquiring if your child really gets into spinning.  Same thing with spinning wheels (which range from $150-1,000) – only get one if your child is serious about the craft.

When children first learn how to spin there’s quite a bit of waste.  Normally it’s best to get a good amount of something affordable, and a little, “special” bit for when they’re further along.  A 4-8 oz amount of wool normally spins up to make something, depending on the thickness of the yarn.  Your child may be able to spin enough to make an accessory, such as gloves, a hat, or fingerless mitts.

  • Neutral colored wool ($1.49/oz):  Wool is generally a good fiber to begin spinning, as it tends to be the most cooperative for beginners.  Order anywhere from 4 – 8 oz to start – and don’t be surprised if your child goes through the amount quickly!  When you’re first learning, there’ll be a fair amount of waste.  If your child is interested in having colored yarn, after the yarn is spun you can experiment with food dyes.
  • After your child has mastered spinning, they may want to venture into other fibers or colors.  A few hints: DO not, until you know what you’re getting into, get anything called “Raw wool” – it’ll be tempting because it’s a lot cheaper, but that means the wool has not been cleaned (IE: has grass and oils from the sheep in it), and has not been carded.  Instead, look for words like, “Combed Top,” “Roving” or “Carded Batts.”

There are a number of resources for adults looking to spin, however, not all of these are particularly accessible to children, depending on the age.  The books/resources I’ve listed below are the best ones I’ve found for children, and contain lots of pictures!

  • Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning ($14.99): Plenty of pictures, this is one of the books that got me started.
  • Craftsy ($20 – $30): Craftsy has some great resources, if you don’t have access to local teachers.

10 Things to Prepare for Maryland Sheep and Wool

Maryland Sheep and Wool is a lot of fun, but it’s more fun if you are prepared.  Some things to think about before you go.

  1. Sunscreen and layers: last year I went on Sunday and it was cool, the day before on Saturday my friends were coming home complaining of sunburn.  Take precautions to guard against sun and cold, so you can have fun.
  2. Money: For some, this means they will only be bringing cash.  For others, this means that they bring a 2nd credit card.  Whichever way you go, it’s very easy to break your budget at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  Plan beforehand.  If you are using a credit card, call your provider beforhand and let them know that you might be making purchases that look like they are coming from all over.  Vendors bring their own payment processing systems, and some of them register as being in other states (because the business is out of state).
  3. Good Walking Shoes: I forgot this one last year, and I regretted it.  Remember, Maryland Sheep and Wool is not only about yarn, there are also livestock.  Wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
  4. A buying plan: You say, “Wait, I already set my budget.” Now, you need to figure out what you need or want: a new spindle? Yarn for a new sweater? Do you want to try out spinning wheels? Figure out what you are looking for so you don’t go home with things you’ll never use.
  5. Figure out a way to remember where your car is located: The only detractor for the parking situation at Maryland Sheep and Wool is the rows aren’t well labeled.  Every year I’m so excited I forget to take note of where my car is, and I race in.  Every year I leave the fair and wonder where the heck I parked.  Save yourself a headake and a bunch of walking – remember where your car is.
  6. Look at the schedule beforehand and memorize map: It’s much easier to get around Maryland Sheep and Wool if you are familar how the fairgrounds are laid out.  I like to think of the fairgrounds as having two main streets: one where the animals are, and the other where the food is.  Between the two “streets” are most of the vendors, with some scattered at the far ends of the fairgrounds.
  7. Make a list of the things you cannot miss: There’s a lot going on a the festival, so take a look at the schedule beforehand.  Do you want to see the sheepdog demo (answer, you do, it’s cool)?  Is there there a talk that’s only happening once?  Decide where you want to be when.
  8. Figure out which of your favorite vendors will be there – and the most efficient route between them: If you are at Maryland Sheep and Wool for the shopping, you want to get the best deals and you want to have the maximum choices.  Figure out where the highpoints are, and then plan your route around it.
  9. Are you going Saturday or Sunday or both? Saturday has more things going on, but the fairgrounds are more crowded.  The lines will be longer.  Sunday is more laid back, and there are normally less people, but the trade-off is that vendor’s stock is more depleted, especially towards the end of the day.
  10. Bring a Sherpa: I joke, but figure out a way to haul your booty.  Planning a mid-day trip to the car? Bringing a significant other?  One person I saw had their own radio flyer wagon for their haul.

We interrupt this Thursday with a Minor Tragedy.

This is What I woke up to this morning.  This is all that remains of the drive band for my Ladybug spinning wheel.  The cats decided this springy, fun band made a perfect toy.  They were right.

My wheel no-go now.

The killer? Today I get the key to the apartment Michael and I are moving into (we’re moving one apartment down – not even 100 ft down the hall), and I was going to move the spinning wheel to a room where the cats couldn’t get to it.  It’s as if they knew.

Breezy Spinning

About three weeks ago, many people will remember that a rather crazy Derecho swept through the middle of the East Coast, and Michael and I were not excepted.  We lost power from Friday night until the next Tuesday Night, and consider ourselves lucky that it was only that long – many people in our area lost power for longer.

Our picnic 

If you remember, it has also been hot, and let me say, the Metro DC is humid hot.  The first day Michael and I surveyed the damage, and hung out at a friend’s basement.  They didn’t have power, but at least it was cool.  The second day, tired of being cooped up indoors, we walked down the street to Sligo Creek, which runs nearby us.  Armed with books, knitting and and all the foodstuffs that we were worried would spoil, we headed down to the creek.  There, in the shade in the creek-bed (which, might I remind you, creeks are the lowest points in the area and thus are oftentimes much cooler) with our feet in the water went spent the afternoon and evening on a rock.  It was lovely, and while not what we had planned to do with our weekend, an nice treat.

The creek also did a good job keeping our lemonade cool, which we submerged in the running water.

By that time we were lucky enough to have a friend call us who had power, and offered to let us use her freezer for anything that would spoil.  We went and did that.

And then we went back to our 8th floor apartment.  Which was not as nearly pleasant as the creekbed.  I remarked to Michael that it wouldn’t be nearly so bad if I had a fan.  Instead, I was sitting and sweating and spinning.  I couldn’t knit or crochet because well – my gauge changes when my hands sweat.

So what did Michael, the most wonderful man in the world do?

I with modded spinning wheel/fan

He disassembled a fan, melted a hole in it, hooked it up to my orifice, and rigged it so that as I treadled, I spun.

Not a bad weekend, all things considered.

The Mannings

A couple of my friend and I headed up on Saturday to The Mannings, a hand-weaving, knit, crochet, spinning supply and teaching center.  When I told people around here I’d never been before, most people were pretty shocked, seeing as it’s apparently kinda like Webs is in MA, NY, and the surrounding area.  A place that a certain level of knitter/crocheter/spinner/weaver simply has to go.  And apparently I was overdue.

The only picture I took that turned out nice.
You think I would have taken more, but
I was distracted by all the things going on.

Well, on Saturday the Mannings was having a bit of an event, with free demos and presentations.  So L and T and I headed off, making a promise along the way that if we saw any roadside stands, we would stop, no questions asked.

(A good thing, too, as we bought collectively, at different times, fresh eggs, ice cream, cherries, more cherries, black raspberries – 2 bags worth, chocolate covered cherries and fresh sweet strawberries.  None of the fresh berries made it home, though a limited number of cherries did… mostly because we stuffed ourselves.)

The Mannings was more than I imagined. I’m not sure what I imagined, but it is located on a beautiful property near a river/creek, and on the edge of some lovely fields.  It has shade trees, a porch with rocking chairs (though Michael would only rate it a 5 out of 10, I think) and rooms upon rooms of spinning and weaving and knitting and crochet supplies.  The range and selection they have of weaving cones is more than I could bear.  I think I simply must go back and buy a whole bunch and make crochet doilies and garments and love it to death.  Seriously.  This place was great.  They had a whole room of spinning wheels and another room and a half of looms.  Huge looms.

And green colored cotton, which is hard to find.

I got to watch a sheep being sheared.  L in previous years has been a judge for the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival judging fleeces, so just walking by her and listening to what she looks for in a fleece was simply invaluable.

I saw some gorgeous fleeces, ones that made me rethink my vow not to get another fleece until I’m done with this one.  For now I’m sticking to that vow, mostly because I can’t afford to get another fleece.  But that day will come.

I picked a woman’s brains about German Angora Rabbits (which I began to seriously reconsider, now that we’re looking at getting a pet).  I got to see adorable baby rabbits.

But the best thing of all?  Seeing SO MANY PEOPLE just sitting and spinning and talking.  It was amazing. The last time I saw so many spinning-wheels was when I was in NY about three years ago, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  (I kept my eye out for a Columbine Spinning Wheel, but no luck.  The Columbine wheel is one of my favorites, simply because it’s so durable, and so different from everything else you normally see).

Ever been to the Mannings?  When was the last time you went to a conference/gathering/con of like minded people?  What was it for?  Tell me about it.

Dear Self

Dear Self,

You have been woefully absent of late, and I have been growing concerned.  What’s up?  I’ve been hearing you’ve been having a rough time of it with traveling lately.


Dearest Jen,
 You’re right, it’s been hard to stay with Weight Watchers when I’m taking the train with the boy somewhere every weekend.  Traveling is both a treasure and a pain.  It’s no reason to neglect you, I know, but I know our friendship will not suffer with my distance.

Let’s go through what’s been going on lately: I’ve decided to take my teaching to the next level, and have been arranging for classes at some really great yarn stores.  I can’t tell you all the details yet, but I will be in the upcoming weeks.

I’ve also been taking a really great class with Knitgrrl online.  While it’s been terribly helpful, it’s been sucking up all of my freetime.  You know how that goes.


Dear Self,

You aren’t the only one who has been busy.  I’ve gotten a new spinning wheel. It’s a Ladybug, and the wonderful people (Specifically Victoria) at The Yarn Spot ordered it for me.

I’ve been taking really good care of it, and just finished spinning some really nice angora/merino/silk.  Still don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I’m just letting it breathe right now.  Sometimes after spinning I’ve got to give the yarn a rest before it speaks to me about what it wants to be.  Which is fine.  Now I’m spinning some lovely silk, and I”m alternately cursing myself and really pleased with my results.  This is a drafting technique that doesn’t come naturally to me, so I have to take my time, and sometimes I just want to GO!  I also don’t get into a rhythm as easily as spinning from the fold.

What about you?  What have you been working on?


Dearest Jen,

I’ve been working on a variety of things.  I’m working up a sample for a class I’m going to be teaching at Tangled Skein.  The pattern is called Meets in the Middle by Lorna Miser.  I’m in the swatching phase for a sweater made out of Rock Creek Yarn, and halfway through a vest out of Mountain Colors.  Finally, I’m crocheting a Cap Sleeve Top, which will also be for an upcoming class.

I’ve also been able to borrow an Antique Sock Knitter from my good friend Bobbi of Covers and Soles, and have been playing around with that for a neat little demo I’ll be doing with her.

The End result being, I don’t think I’m going to run out of things to work on during the second half of the Chicago trip, which starts tomorrow.  But that’s another story.

Until Later,