I belong to my local Weaving, Spinning and Dying Guild. Although most of us are weavers, there are a few, myself included, who are weavers, spinners and dyers. Though when you do them the order tends to go more along the lines of spinning, dying, and weaving...but that's for another post!
I actually learned to spin when I was quite young. I joined the 4H club, sheep are cute and so my mother became the leader of the Sheep Group. My parents also kindly bought me 4 ewes and eventually one feisty ram. Well as you can imagine you can buy sheep, put them in a lot, feed and water them, breed them and then what? Well being the group leader my mom bought a spinning wheel at an auction.
So when it came time to shear our sheep we kept our wool spent days washing it, even more days carding it and headed off to the spinning wheel. I don't remember anyone actually teaching us to spin, we just did it! I was maybe 9 or 10 so I thought our homespun was lovely. Though after a while I will admit I spent more time at the wheel treadling it with no wool than anything else, but I was a kid, you forgive me right?
By my 20's I had joined the SCA! One of my friends was offered his knighthood and many of the people in my household set out to offer what skills they could to help make the accouterments ever knight needs. I went to visit my parents and asked my mom if I could borrow her spinning wheel. She was delighted to see me using it again, we packed it up in my station wagon and after a lovely visit I went off home to the Ozarks with it. Well the wheel and I had a much better relationship when I was a kid and being an inexperienced spinner with a looming deadline (yes I was spinning for a weaving project so this is a pun) so I blame our issues on myself. I soldiered on with a few adjustments to the wheel here or there and we finally came to a workable agreement. I spun who knows how much wool, collected onion skins all the while. I eventually dyed my spun wool yellow with onion skins, and red with madder. Why onion skins? Because I couldn't find a definitive answer to what Vikings used for yellow dye, I was a young teacher and they were essentially free! I used this wool to weave a Viking 3 hole tablet weaving pattern, which is not for the faint of heart, and sent it off to those wonderful women who sewed Syr Tarl's cloak. I then had to take the wheel back to mom, as I was moving to England for my next teaching job and did not trust the international movers with my mother's wheel. I brought some spindles with me, but for some reason when I arrived, I decided I wasn't very good at spinning. I look back at the other things I had spun and wonder why I thought this, but again that's a horse of a different colour.
Fast forward to Fayre Raglan 2013, there I am innocently sitting at the Flintheath Encampment happy in my own world where weaving, embroidery and chasing a toddler occupy all my time not spent at work or asleep. In walks Constanza to teach her spinning class. I was not attending of course, I already knew I was not cut out as a spinner, well let me tell you not only can Constanza make a spinner out of anyone, but she will infect you with the love of spinning. This is a good thing, by the way!
Now it is spring, I own several spindles, have made my husband promise he will make more on his lathe, and even belong to Wild Craft's Spindle and Fibre Club. Today I started a Spinning Notebook in Evernote, and have plans to create a spindle inventory in Evernote to help me keep better spinning notes! I have also listened to all the Spin Doctor Podcasts!
So why is spinning so infectious? Or why did it keep coming round in my life? First I think fibre arts are in my blood, I don't think I could get away from them if I tried, my great grandmother was a weaver and I'm sure many other women in my family were before that. Second it really is relaxing, when you don't have a deadline looming! We don't have to spin and weave for our survival, we can do it purely for the pleasure. Yes in the beginning it is a very long process, but if you truly take joy in watching beautiful fibre turn into even more beautiful thread and then even more beautiful art, why would you want to rush?
I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly I have become proficient and efficient in my spinning. So it does not take me as long to spin a yard/meter of thread as it used to, but I'm not in a hurry to become a production spinner. I love watching the thread grow, seeing the colour interaction in space and gradient dyed yarn or even just undyed yarn. Something happens when you add twist to fibre that makes it beautiful and functional. There is a real joy in taking a raw material spinning it into your own thread and then making a piece of art from art that you made yourself!
So what words of wisdom to I have to in part of the budding spinner? If you live in Insulae Draconis grab Constanza or Catherine Weaver at an event and have them teach you to spin. Not only will you learn everything you need to know about spinning, you will also hear some great stories and have lovely conversations along they way. They are wonderful people. If you don't live here or know them, then buy Abbey Franquemont's Respect the Spindle Book and DVD. She is also an amazing teacher and will easily infect you with the love of spinning.
Spinners are kind caring people, like all textile artists. In my opinion textile artists make the world a better place. Well that's about all my musings for today, stay tuned for A Ram's Tale and further Drawloom Musings, yes there is something on the drawloom. :)