My friend Bill is passionate about spinning. I share his enthusiasm when he talks about the rush he gets when he spins, how he tries to maintain the same wheel speed for an hour, how much he sweats. Wait. He sweats? Bill spins on a Tunturi in a gym. I spin on an Ashford at home. Both excellent pieces of equipment I might add.
While weaving is my vocation, spinning is my avocation. I taught myself to spin over 20 years ago, and try to spin whenever I have the chance. Spinning is for meditating. I tried to learn meditation and yoga on numerous occasions, but I just cannot sit still for any length of time. My mind tends to wander and a movie starts showing on the insides of my eyelids. Though I admire and even love some people who are able to meditate and do yoga, it just isn’t my schtick. Besides, the grandparents of my generation were always touting “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop!” Well, devil be gone while my fingers draft the fibers as they twist and the yarn winds onto the bobbin. Right before my very eyes! Other spinners will agree what a rush it is to see this.
Mostly I have spun merino, alpaca, mohair and some silk. Blending fibers is also very satisfying. I like to experiment with fibers and colors , sometimes even adding sparkle, so I’ll be surprised with the finished yarn. It’s a little like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “you never know what you’re gonna get.”
I’m delighted to see a resurgence in spinning. It’s not seen as a dying art any more where it is only done by ancient and scary looking women dressed in colonial garb at historic sites and re-enactments. Many have discovered the same passion as I have found primarily because of its meditative qualities. The regular rhythm of the treadle and wheel moving together also has a calming effect. And the spinner gets the benefit of creating beautiful and functional yarn. In January of 2006, the venerable New York Times ran this article describing spinning’s revival as a hot and trendy activity that people from all generations come together to do. So is spinning the new knitting?
Let me remind you too of Mahatma Gandhi. He said “For me, nothing in the political world is more important than the spinning wheel.” (Hochberg, Spin Span Spun, 1979) He would spin half an hour each day and believed that with everyone spinning yarn, this would create a “spiritual revolution” that will eventually remove violence from the world.
Back to my own spinning projects. I still have several bags of alpaca that need to be spun and lots of beautiful hand dyed mohair locks that I purchased some time ago from Apple Leef Farm. Working with these fibers and a spinning wheel will bring many hours of calm and meditation. And hopefully peace. I won’t need a bike, and I won’t need a yoga mat.
I just have to find time to do it. Pity I don’t weave with wool. Wool scarves make me sweat.