Learning to Spin

Years ago, long before I knew anything about knitting and fiber, I was drawn to the art of spinning wool into yarn. The notion of sitting quietly by the hearth through the colder months and then migrating to the porch in the Spring when the weather turned warm and welcoming, was to me, the ultimate expression of peace and serenity.

Therefore it was not surprising when I jumped on the opportunity to buy a wheel from a quaint little shop while vacationing in Solvang Ca. I’ve not been back to this shop in a long while now, but you may be familiar with the Village Spinning and Weaving Shop on line. Or perhaps you have been there yourself. Anyway, I was ecstatic. I now owned my very own Spinning Wheel!

After the long drive home, with my prize in tow, I immediately set about assembling it. It was beautiful. An Ashford Traveler. I couldn’t wait to get started. I envisioned myself creating mounds of glorious soft and luxurious treasures, heaps of artsy fun yarns and piles of perfectly spun exotic fibers.

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Well… it didn’t exactly go that way. Mind you this was before the internet was in every home across the continent and beyond. There was no You Tube to help me out, no online tutorials, nothing. Just me and a wheel fumbling in the corner of the living room.

I couldn’t do it. It was too tight or too loose, kinky or limp. And to my horror it simply would not ever act like yarn. … I guess I should have bought a book. I was just too frustrated for words and set the whole thing aside. My wheel became nothing more than a cool accessory beside the fireplace.

Eventually we moved across the country to Georgia, where we live now. I am ashamed to admit that my dream of spinning was sold at our garage sale along with various other useless items gathered over the years. My only hope is that the woman who bought it has tapped into the magic that I could not.

But that’s not the end of my story.

A short time after settling into our new home I found myself yearning for yarn once again. I picked up a “Teach yourself to Knit” book at Walmart and did just that. Soon I was knitting everything from scarves and hats to toys and mitts.

One day I decided to break away from the inexpensive, mass marketed polyester stuff and go to a REAL yarn shop. I grabbed some of this and some of that. Ooh I had a ball. While waiting to pay for my arm load of goodies, I happened to notice a business card laying on the counter. Unpretentious and simple. It said “Spinning Lessons”. What – really? I snatched it up and gave her a call.

My instructor was an elegant woman, full of classic southern grace. Patient and thoughtful, she guided my hands and mind. “You’re doing so well” she said.

“But it’s still too kinky!” I wailed, the old frustration welling up inside.

“But you still have to ply it. You see that’s how it becomes balanced.” she relied, smiling as she placed the orifice hook on the strand I had just spun and let it twist up upon itself. “There” she said. “That looks just right.” And, with that one sentence, my whole world changed.

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All I needed to do was fill two bobbins and then ply them. Just hold them together and spin in the opposite direction onto a third bobbin. Who knew. Well, I guess finally found the right person to ask. The secret was unlocked and with it the magic I had been looking for. I could spin!

She invited me to meet other spinners in the area. And again my world changed. Very few people are lucky enough to find such a wonderful group of soul mates. They welcomed me into the flock and and continue to help me in my efforts to master the craft. I didn’t tell them about my earlier experience until years later when I had recovered from my embarrassment enough to admit it. (And now I just told the world!)

One book, one phone call to Solvang, or one You Tube and I would have figured it out all those years ago. But then I never would have had a reason to call on Carol for help. I never would have met my “sister spinners”. And I would have missed out on what has become a true and lasting friendship. And that would truly be a shame.

So now I have 2 wheels (another Ashford Traveler and a Kromski Sonata), miles of yarn, piles of fiber waiting to be spun, 2 looms (yes they got me into weaving too) and a group of the best friends a girl could have!

And that is how I learned to spin.

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