Pat is a lovely woman; interesting to talk to, kind and funny, and amazingly talented (she spins, dyes and weaves - all of it spectacular). She showed Moocow and me the basics of spinning with a drop spindle, and what ensued were several hours of chatting, browsing, spinning and - of course - dropping the spindle!
The concept is simple, the execution anything but. You draw out sections of roving as you spin the drop spindle to put twist into the fibres you are spinning to form a yarn. The challenge is producing something smooth, strong (i.e. unlikely to break when you pull at it gently) and relatively consistent. Moocow does like the unevenness of what she calls "virgin" spun yarn, i.e. yarn spun by someone who is just learning and who doesn't know how to control the thickness. Pat let me systematically try out every one of her drop spindles so I could decide which one I liked the best. I tried a Turkish drop spindle, as well as a collection of top- and bottom-whorl spindles.
Pat also demonstrated spinning on a Louet spinning wheel and skeining yarn on a niddy-noddy, we had fun trying to figure out how to do Navajo plying, and we saw all the looms and spinning wheels she had in her house, too. Moocow fell in love with an almost-complete woven rug, while a woven, brocade-like scarf fairly took my breath away.
Pat also introduced Moocow to needle felting, where you basically prick a wad of roving until it forms and holds the shape you want. Moocow really got into that; rather worrying, if you ask me.....!
So, what goodies did I come away with? I settled on a bottom-whorl Ashford drop spindle. Not as gorgeous as some of the drop spindles that are available (they're veritable works of art), but I felt comfortable with it. I also got a book on drop spindle spinning and some wine red corridale roving for spinning (Moocow loves the colour, and wants a pair of mittens). Pat also threw in some little bits of wool (white), tussah silk (pink) and merino/tencel (lavender) for me to play with.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was at The Yarn Depot (the other LYS I like to frequent), the owner (also named Pat) was knitting a sock using Pat's sock yarn. I loved the colours, but especially liked the soft, bouncy feel of the yarn. Today, Pat told me that that was her merino superwash yarn, handpainted by her. Of course, Moocow and I couldn't resist. Moocow bought the colourway on the left (the one with the colour of fall leaves), and I got the Easter-y colourway on the right.
At times, I almost can't wait to retire!