Category Archives: Hand-spun Yarn

Blu Oat Yarn and Grandpa’s chair

bluoatwheelI’ve been spinning some yarn for my daughter, who loves to knit. And having been separated from the wheel for the better part of a year, it feels good to be back at it. My parents gifted me an old rocking chair that my great grandfather had made long ago. He was so proud of his chair and the work yarnhe put into it, from turning each spindle, to the engraving, to the sewing of the cushion (yes, my great grandfather was the seamstress in our family).

The thing about the chair is that it sits low, which I find quite comfortable. Moreover, it’s at exactly the right elevation for the wheel, making it ideal for long hours spinning. And it’s something to think about- the process of making a chair and how similar that is to the process of making yarn; how one cradles the other. That point is not lost on me.


The felted, matted mess

imageLast year, I purchased a beautiful Suri alpaca rose-grey fleece from a local farmer. It was the most beautiful natural colorway I had ever seen in a fleece, with hints of autumn-rose and oatmeals and grey. I handled the fleece with extra care, checking the temperature of the wash and rinse water carefully, handling it gently, quietly contemplating at each phase of the wash-rinse cycle all that might be made from these gorgeous fibers. And then I did something stupid.

I don’t like that word stupid, but it’s the word that really works here. Fiber demands its process. You can’t rush fiber. You can’t tell it to hurry up and dry or get clean. You can’t shear an alpaca and make socks within the next five minutes. If you could, we crazy fiber nuts would find something else to fawn over.

Eager to begin carding, I decided to place the washed fleece in a pillow case and put it on air dry in the dryer for a good 15 minutes. This is something I had done with other fleeces and without issue, but I did not check the air temperature in my eagerness to dry the fleece. Anyone who works with fiber knows the most fundamental of rules:

Heat + agitation = felt.

By the time I realized my error, I lifted a matted piece of felt the size of a corgi out of the dryer. And yes, there were real tears.

I tried in vain to make something useful from the felted monstrosity. I even hung on to the fiber for months, hoping I would come up with something useful to somehow make up for the error. But what I realized was that this felt was destined to compost, as beautiful as it was. And that I had learned a lesson worth 10 times the price of the fleece; that process is important and, in instances like this, vital.

It’s so easy to try to take the short-cut, or to give up when someone tries to throw a wrench in your plans, but when you look at life as a process of growing, of moving from this raw, dirty fleece to a clean, organized useful yarn, it’s easier to see that those little bumps in the road aren’t there to deter you, but to help you broaden your awareness.

There’s a reason Gandhi was so wise; he was a hand-spinner! 🙂

A yarn to spin

Watched this video on hand-spinning and weaving this morning. Really incredible to think about how much time went into a single piece of cloth. This is particularly fascinating when you think about Native American women, who used sphagnum moss for their menstrual cycles or diapering of babies and even on large wounds. When it was suggested that they use cloth instead, they were appalled (and for good reason!) The making of cloth took such enormous effort, skill, and time.

Old, Old, OLD fashioned

photo (5)How can a thing be both so simple and all at once equally complex? If any single object in the universe was both, it’s the drop spindle.

I find the drop spindle fascinating. It’s an object that can bring about such enormous frustration, but in its whorl and dance and the interwoven tension preventing the fibers from unraveling, there exists my happy place.

Oh! The joy! as two opposing forces work in splendid harmony; a simple wooden spindle rolled off one leg, swaying with the motion of my body, a steady spin sending strength into the fibers, my fingers gently releasing the twist upward, ever upward. We women who work in fiber know this is a thread that does not end. It has been carried, as one torch passed to another, for generations. Since the first person gathered grasses and twisted them to make rope. And so developed the necessity of art.

“The message of the spinning wheel is to replace the spirit of exploitation by the spirit of service.” -Gandhi