Sunday, March 2, 2008

Spinning my wheels

Yes, wheels is plural. I do not have just one spinning wheel, I have three. No, I am not a circus performer, I cannot use them simultaneously. But, I do believe that I have alluded to my love of tools in an earlier post.

How do I love spinning? Allow me to share my story.

One day, about five years ago, I was in a knitting class, learning to design and knit a Gansey (based on the Beth Brown-Reinsel book, Knitting Ganseys, Interweave Press.) Some of the students were talking about the Chelsea Fiber Fair and the beautiful hand spun yarn for sale. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to find something new and different.

I arrived for the start of the sale and found the parking lot full. Shoppers were already leaving with GARBAGE BAGS FULL of fiber purchases. Immediately, I felt my pulse quicken and got the panicked feeling that I might be too late for the best buys. What in the world could these people be buying that required such large bags? What do they make??? My head was reeling.

Once inside, I was handed a large clear shopping bag (yes, the size of the garbage bags that were leaving!) I will never forget looking out at the sea of woolen balls of every imaginable color. Each table was piled high with fiber. But this was not yarn, oh no, this was the roving and top for the spinners to create the yarn. I could not fathom a market for so much fiber and enough spinners to buy it. I had not really grasped the potential of these fluffy balls.

Along the entire back wall was an array of hand spun yarn, hanging like jewelry in the sun. I found yarn that was new and exciting. I also found yarn that was experimentally combined elements of string and llama, unusual colors and textures. I had no specific use in mind, but loved that these yarns were so creatively conceived. They were not mass produced yarn available in huge quantities to everyone, everywhere. These were special.

Back to spinning...I am getting there, really.

A woman from the Spinner's Flock spinning guild was using a drop spindle (I later learned that it was a Golding spindle, no wonder it caught my eye) and was spinning a strand as she talked to passersby. My initial thought as she greeted me was this: "What could be the sustainable interest in watching fluff turn into yarn, repeatedly for hours and hours?) Hmmm. I agreed to try it. Within minutes, literally, she was helping me select my first wool. Not too slippery, just soft enough to enjoy. I tried a few spindles and found one that was balanced. A small ball of wool and a simple spindle. I don't think that it even cost me $30.00. How dangerous could this experiment be?

Did I call this post spinning my wheel. No, I believe the plural, wheels, should have been your tip-off.

I fell in love with spinning. I still enjoy my hand spindle. I also own a beautiful Golding spindle (a wonderful gift from a friend - I had taught to her to spin.) This initial experience led me to a spinning wheel. That wheel led me to a faster wheel. That wheel led me to double treadle and a portable version that I can take anywhere. Most recently, I spoiled myself with a Woolee Winder, just to keep my momentum going.

Some people avoid trying new things because they already have plenty to do. Some people are afraid to try things that they might actually enjoy in fear of having to choose what they spend their time doing. For me, trying a variety gives me a world of understanding. I know what goes into finished products that I love. I better understand what is out there and who is doing it. As far as I know, I only have one life for all of this exploration, I better do my best to get it all in. Somehow it all fits together.

There are things that you try and continue to do. And there are things that you try and appreciate, but do not continue. This is not spinning your wheels, it is living.

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