2006-07-29: Born to Spin

In which the author embarks upon learning a new craft, and one which she seems to irrevocably enjoy.

I can't remember the first moment I understood the concept of spinning a fibre into a thread or yarn. I remember very early on that my mother crocheted, and when I was six or seven she gave me a crochet hook and showed me how, and she probably still has some misshapen Christmas tree ornaments I made at about that age out of red acryllic yarn. From that early age I already seemed to intuitively understand what yarn was: fluffy stuff twisted round and around itself to make a long line that would be looped and knotted into two dimensions. Somewhere around six or seven I decided I would make my own yarn. I found a bag of pastel-coloured cotton balls and tried to twist them between my fingers into something I could crochet with.

Let's just say that experiment took some twenty two years to perfect.

I don't know why I gave up on spinning for so long, but I blame the proliferation of crafting, knitting, and spinning weblogs that have been flying across my radar, starting with the craft blog of an old high school friend. I was excited by all the beautiful pictures people were posting of yarn they were making, but the terminology and abbreviations seemed bafflingly obscure. Suddenly I knew what it was like for non-technical people when I started spouting off IT acronyms.

I wanted desperately to teach myself how to spin, but the more I researched, the more I realised I was going to need some help on this one. Luckily I found the web site for the NSW Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild and in May I finally started my first lesson there.

I learned to spin on a low-whorl drop spindle, and a drop spindle I will stick with until I can justify to myself the cost of a spinning wheel. Besides, I like the simplicity of a spindle. You can take it with you anywhere, it's relatively easy to make your own, and there are no moving parts to complicate things. Of course, it takes forever to be able to spin a significant amount of yarn with a drop spindle, but for the moment, efficiency isn't the point.

I can't remember whether it was during my first or second spinning class that my teacher exclaimed, You must be born to spin! With the satisfaction and ease that I picked up this new skill, I have to agree. I'm proud of my ability, but equally surprised by it. I make no claims to greatness other than an obsessive compulsive perfectionism, the same type that insists I pick all the knots out of gold chains or verify that I have 52 cards in a deck before dealing a game. But unlike those other tasks, this one gives me a deep sense of my own creativity and inventiveness. I can clothe myself, decorate my life the way I want, and spend time making expressive gifts for friends and family.

I'll keep on spinning as long as my hands allow (and as long as it doesn't drive Mr Wiggins completely insane). How can I not? I was born to do it.

I have heard this can be hard on the hands, but life is hard on all body parts and what's important is your enjoyment.

So, when do I get a knitted pom-pom cap?

Shelley shelleyp@burningbird.net 30 Jul 2006

Spinning hasn't been hard on my hands so far; knitting isn't any worse than keyboard RSI.

For your hat, you'll have to wait for the Mom socks and the Dad hat to be finished, but feel free to put in your "order" now :-)

I just need head size, fibre, & colour preferences.

ARJ roceal@jngm.net 31 Jul 2006