Handspinning on a spinning wheel involves drafting the fiber with your hands and treadling the wheel with your feet. This can be a real challenge for a new handspinner. The activity feels very unnatural at first, because our feet and hands are not accustomed to working together in this way. So be very patient and give yourself a lot of practice and time to learn.
If this is your first time at the spinning wheel, practice treadling the wheel for a few minutes before getting started. Sit comfortably in your chair, turn the wheel in the clockwise direction, and begin treadling. You can also practice starting and stopping the wheel with your feet, instead of using your hands. (This will be easier to do with a double treadle wheel).
On a single treadle spinning wheel, use the ball and heel of your foot while treadling. Do not push at the wheel with your foot. If you do so, you will be pushing the wheel away from you, putting a lot of strain on your lower back, and you will tire easily. Instead, when the treadle rises up, gently push it down again with the ball of your foot.
The treadle action on a double treadle wheel is similar to riding a bicycle. Both feet are doing an equal amount of work, therefore, putting less strain on your body.
Preparing the Wheel
If you are using a new bobbin on your spinning wheel, you first need to tie a leader. The leader thread or yarn should be at least 2 feet long. Tie one end of the leader to the center of the bobbin’s core, and thread the rest of the leader through all of the hooks on one side of the flyer towards the orifice. Stick the end of the leader through the orifice. I like to tie a loop on the end of my leader so that I can begin spinning by sticking my fiber into the loop. Start treadling the wheel. If the leader and yarn is not wrapping onto the bobbin, you need to tighten the tension of your wheel.
Pre-drafting the Fiber
If you are using a fiber that has been stored for a long time and has become flattened. You can pre-draft the fiber to bring it back to life. It is also a good idea to pre-draft commercially prepared fibers that have been compressed to loosen up the fibers and make them easier to draft when spinning. To pre-draft, you hold a manageable strip of fiber in your two hands and gently pull the fiber until you feel the fiber loosening up and slipping apart. If you pull too hard you will pull the fibers completely apart. You only want to loosen the fibers. When you finish with one section, slide you hands down the fiber and repeat the procedure until you reach the end of the strip.