One of my newest hobbies, something I’ve wanted to learn to do for the longest time, is spinning wool into yarn on a spinning wheel. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of these wheels, and it’s amazing to look back and know that except for perhaps the past 100 years, almost all fabric has been made (most often by women’s hands) on spinning wheels. They would laugh, those women of the old days, to see how utterly amateur I am with one of these.
My goal today was to spin a lighter yarn. Up until now, all my spinning has alternated (sometimes inch by inch!) between worsted and bulky (and erm, super-bulky). I think part of the challenge of spinning will be to let go and let the yarn happen by itself. I realized, as I spun, that when I relaxed and felt the yarn twist itself, rather than trying to keep in mind everything I am supposed to be doing, the yarn became more even, the spinning became almost meditational, and the yarn sort of spun itself. Not so easy for someone who’s a little OCD about these things, of course, but it’s a process. A lot of that is going to depend on having the yarn ready to go before spinning, rather than trying to even it out while spinning. I still haven’t figured out that “triangle” that that you’re supposed to have in your other hand while spinning, and I keep changing my lead hand, but I feel like, today, I actually spun some yarn instead of lumps and threads.
But it’s not even so much the act of spinning the yarn that fascinates me; it’s the connection with so many of my foremothers. Here was a chore as daily to them as loading the dishwasher is for me; an act of absolute necessity for the survival of their family (with no fabric, there were no clothes to wear, no warmth of blankets to keep warm, no socks, etc). And it’s so ironic to think that what was probably often seen as a tedious burden to them is now viewed as a fun hobby today. But in a way, it also brings my mind back to simpler times when there wasn’t a need for walk-in closets or credit cards at department stores. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to be living in today’s modern times. But it’s these little links through history that tie the present and past together. The sort of links that shouldn’t be forgotten.
There’s a whole sensory experience when it comes to spinning the yarn as well. Even though I have never owned a sheep in my life – or known anyone who has – the rich, earthy smell of the barnyard comes through the wet wool when setting it. And as I hang it up to dry, it holds the promise of a project to come. It’s definitely not perfect, but I’m at the point where I’m comfortable enough with it to say I’m actually in the process of learning to spin. My mind is flooded with all sorts of ideas for yarn – colorways to dye, materials to use, weights to try… but baby steps will get me there.
Right now, it will take practice, practice, practice. And so I’ve been setting aside time each day, just as so many women of history have done, to spin on their wheels.