Saturday, May 4, 2013


First day back at El Rancho de las Golondrinas volunteering, and I ended up learning a new skill... which makes the time so much more interesting for me.

Last year I posted about spinning and weaving, and included some photos and video of me spinning yarn on a malacate or a Navajo spindle.  I've used the malacate pretty exclusively since starting at the ranch, and today I was taught how to use two other spinning wheels. Unfortunately Cay was off networking with other volunteers, so the photos in this post are not my own.

The first thing I learned on was a double treadle wheel not terribly unlike this one, which I found online at Bountiful of Livermoor, CO.
It took me a bit to get used to it. For some reason I was spinning counter-clockwise instead of clockwise, which I suppose doesn't make a lot of difference unless you're plying  the yard (we don't at the ranch) but I do like to keep with convention.  Once I got the wheel going in the right direction, it was fairly easy to spin, and since I'm using by feet instead of my hands to provide the spin, I could use both hands in feeding out the wool, allowing me a great deal of control over the width of yarn I was producing.

I was pretty thrilled with using this style wheel, although I used it as if it were single treadle instead of double, since some of the wheels I'd be using were single anyway.

After working on that for a few hours, I was given the opportunity to work with the latest addition to the exhibit, a Mexican standing wheel.

image: The Spinning Wheel Sleuth

This proved a greater challenge for me, because I had to stop feeding the wool to reach over to crank the handle to turn the wheel.

Now I've seen experienced women who can feed out a steady stream of wool with one hand and make some beautiful, consistent yarn.  That's not me.  I'm the one who spins, stops and feeds out more wool, spins, then winds the yarn onto the spindle, then feeds out a little more wool before cranking the wheel again.

I thought I was doing pretty well (although I really over-spun the yarn) until I saw a video of a woman in Mexico using this wheel.   (and I HIGHLY recommend clicking that link, it's pretty impressive how easy she makes it look.)

Tomorrow I'm heading back to the ranch, and I'll take some photos of our weavers and our wheels... and since it's Battle Field New Mexico at the ranch this weekend, there will also be photos of the rest of the event!