rag dolls and woollies

rag dolls and woollies

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How did you learn to spin? Here's my story....

Getting older for me has meant "finding my voice," and taking myself more seriously. After 30 years of spinning, knitting and more recently weaving, I decided (four years ago) to try to make my way in the big world with my skills. I would sell what I made, teach what I know, and demonstrate my age-old skills. And I have made it work! I can't support myself - but what I earn makes a big difference in our budget. A big difference. Our lifestyle now relies on my skills. It's quite an honor.

I have discovered that I have a lot to say about these skills I know - and lots more questions about what I don't yet know. It seems to me that any spinning blog needs to start at the beginning (as the Queen said to Alice, "then continue on until you have reached the end. Then stop).

So my beginning was "down under." We got married and went to live in Christchurch, New Zealand for a year. I learned to spin in the town of Rangiora in 1979. I saw this woman spinning and I was so obnoxious! I demanded that she show me right then and there how to do it.

So, irritated and annoyed, she let me sit next to her, and while she spun on her country Ashford (what else? this was, after all, New Zealand...), I spun on her Ashford traditional wheel. She had a "sheep shed" of sorts, which consisted of three walls, and a broken-down, destroyed old couch on which was strewn all these fleeces. She grabbed a handful - the Kiwis are famous for "spinning in the grease" - and handed it to me and started to spin. Well, I did my best.

She was wonderful. She smoked, swore and impatiently fetched out my lost threads (cigarette hanging out of her mouth). Only many years later did I realize how funny it was that she was so unlike our prim, grandmotherly image of spinners.

I was hooked but wouldn't admit it. I assured my husband who wanted to buy a wheel to take home with us (at the end of our year there) that I would never stick with it....probably wouldn't like it....it was too expensive...

But the next Hanukah, when we were back in the US and beginning our lives in Alaska, he showed up with a box. The traditional wheel. I had a week off of work and that's how I know how long it takes to get competent with spinning. One week. Forty or fifty hours. Because that is ALL I did for that week. I broke threads, I lost them, I couldn't get them started, I made thick and thin, so thick it wouldn't go through the orifice, so thin, it would get lost forever on the spool. I got greased to the elbows.

Only once did I actually throw anything, sort of in the direction of my husband who was reading the paper. He told me that first he finished Doonesbury. Then he put down the paper and said, in effect, that even mentally disabled women could do this during the Middle Ages and he was sure I'd get it eventually.

Well....... OK....... While I tried to figure out just exactly how to take that one, I got back to it. I got more greased, the cat slept in the pile of fleece, and I have never stopped spinning since.


  1. Love the image of you first learning.

  2. Excellent learning story:) :)
    Short, sweet and vivid imagery:)

  3. Great blog! Seems to me that you tried to teach me spinning but it didn't work - probably because you didn't use bad language or have a cigarette hanging out of your mouth!

  4. Great Story. I'll have to do a post about my first spinning experience soon. Fantastic idea for a blog post. Thanks. Happy to be a follower.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  5. Thanks so much for writing to me!