Spin Span Spun

Ashford traveler spinning wheel

So I’m polishing my wheel.  It’s not what you think. Haven’t used either of my spinning wheels in quite some time. And well, frankly I miss the rhythmic pull of the yarn and watching a cloud of soft fiber softly twist and wind onto the bobbin. And finally  being rewarded with a luscious colorful skein of handspun yarn that can be used in my weaving.

Some of my handspun skeins of yarn

I have been spinning nearly as long as I have been weaving which I started in 1980. But I have not spent as much time at the wheel as I have had at the loom. So I have some catching up to do. The lovely handspun art yarns that I have seen on etsy recently has inspired me to start spinning again and create something beautiful. Just go to etsy and search for “Art Yarn”.  Some very talented spinners there.

Then there is Pluckyfluff. Pluckyfluff if you don’t already know is the Queen of handspun art yarn.  This is the very talented and creative Lexi Boeger from California who travels the world to share her skills and expertise with other handspinners and fiber lovers who want to create luscious and unusual art yarns. She has written two books:

Handspun Revolution is sadly out of print!

Intertwined, the book is a piece of art by itself

And she is coming to Memphis! And I am one of the lucky ones who will be sitting at her feet, absorbing all of her wisdom and hopefully creating something beautiful. I am especially interested in spinning with non-traditional materials. I look forward to using my small collection of art wire and spinning that as the core around which I will wrap colorful locks of mohair and odds and ends of ribbons, lace and bits of bamboo yarn leftover from my weaving projects. Maybe I can finally figure out how to weave a 3-D project on my floor loom with yarn that will hold a stiff shape on its own.

Reclaimed fabric is another non-traditional fiber I plan to use in my spinning.  If you have read some of my older posts, then you know that I like to use fabric from clothes that I have recycled into strips and incorporated into my weaving projects.  This is something that many of my weaving students like to do.  I can’t wait to use “rag” strips and twist them around metallic yarn, handmade paper, ribbon, felted bits and other reclaimed material. Fabulous! Art yarn indeed!

So I am polishing my wheel, polishing my dormant spinning skills and gathering some of my stash of hand dyed fiber.  Fiber that has been sitting around for awhile and waiting for this day.  Yippeee!

Hand dyed mohair locks, purple and orange

Hand dyed mohair locks, green and magenta

Spinning Without Sweating

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.

Ashford and Louet exercise equipment

Ashford and Louet - exercise equipment?

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.”

skeins of my handspun yarn

Skeins of my handspun yarn

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.

Wool fiber, drop spindle, handspun yarn:  the tools for world peace

Wool fiber, drop spindle, handspun yarn: the tools for world peace

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.

Dyed mohair locks from Apple Leef Farm

Dyed mohair locks from Apple Leef Farm

I just have to find time to do it.  Pity I don’t weave with wool.  Wool scarves make me sweat.