Sunday, June 20, 2010


The compulsion to spin has been brewing in me for a long time.  When I threw it out into the Universe, that this was what I truly wanted to do, the Universe answered.  It never ceases to amaze me how that works!  Seems this kind of magic happens only with things that I feel impassioned about.

So my passion got down to the brass tacks of "learning".  My benevolent instructor was wonderfully kind enough to loan me a small spinning wheel so I could practice at home.  All week I've been practicing and have gotten immersed in the technicalities of spinning.  This involves learning the language of spinning.  Foreign words like:  drafting, Z-twist, S-twist, orifice, fly wheel, scotch tension, "mother of all", long draft, and short draft.   I've spun every day, and every day I've struggled with knarled over-twisted ugly stuff.  When I start to get too disgusted I just tell myself that this is "art yarn" . . . that would be my positive spin.  Pardon the pun.  I have fumbled with the fiber while I treadled, trying to keep my wheel A) spinning and B) spinning in the correct direction.  My yarn has been everything from fine as hair to a big lumpy dreadlock looking thing.  Last night I learned a lesson in spinning mechanics when the wheel bucked, the flyer came off and my drive band jumped the track.  Fortunately, it's not near as bad as it sounds.  But it did take me a while to figure out exactly what happened and how to fix it.

I found a great support system on  Ravelry is great for knitters and crocheters and they have a group:  Joy of Handspinning.  I got a lot of advice from many spinners who welcomed my questions with kindness and encouragement.  I also watched many a YouTube video to get an up-close look at the techniques that people use.  I got a good laugh watching a British woman's video as she described how some people like to weight their wheels to keep the wheel going in one direction.  She described how sometimes people will drill a hole in their wheel and fill the hole with lead.  She also said that this could be a problem because sometimes the lead comes loose and many a spinner's guild meeting would be interrupted by a lead projectile flying through the group.  (Thanks for the warning!).  A week later my yarn is still "art yarn".  But I've learned more about drafting my fiber and I'm beginning to get a feel for what I should be doing.  It's a lot like learning to drive a stick shift.  There are a lot of things to coordinate, the treadling, holding the fiber, drafting the fiber, learning how the fiber twists and when to pinch and when to let go, when to let the yarn go up the orifice and onto the bobbin.  And I'm loving it.  I can't wait until I hit that sweet spot where it all comes together and I can spin my own knitable yarn!

I have been asked (most recently by my spinning instructor) what made me want to learn to spin.  I really haven't had a good answer for that up until now.  The answer came only this morning, after a week of mulling over what to write for today's blog.  I have always loved the tactile pleasure of working with yarn, so I had thought that this may be a reason.  My sister recently reminded me of the Beck family we had been friends with in Virgina.   Mrs. Beck not only wove cloth on a gigantic loom in their living room, but spun wool too.  So I thought perhaps I had subconsciously filed that away in my brain and then forgotten it.  I was also a big fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley's book, Mists of Avalon, whose characters often went into trances and saw visions while spinning.  Last week, a friend warned me not to "prick my finger" prior to my lesson, resulting in a discussion trying to recall the fairy tales that involved pricking fingers and spinning flax into gold.  I have always loved to read, and myths, folklore and fairy tales were my first love.  I now believe that these had a more profound influence on me that I had ever expected!

This morning, I decided to look into these fairy tales for my blog.  I started by looking up "Spinning flax into Gold" and came across a site:  This site from Thorskegga Thorn had such a wealth of information on the mythology and lore of spinning I was blown away.  I learned about the German Goddess, Holda, the patron saint of spinners.  She is also the controller of weather, giver of fertility and protector of unborn children.  The Egyptians credit Isis with teaching women to spin.  The Norse Goddess Frigg is a spinner.  In Scandinavia, the constellation known as Orion's Girdle is called "Friggjar Rockr" meaning Frigg's Distaff.  There are Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Greek and Asian goddesses involving the arts of spinning and weaving.  Way too many for me to cover.  But my favorite would have to be Saule, the Baltic Sun Goddess who is linked with the wheel.  "She spins light like thread."  In Lithuania she is considered the only guardian to shepherds.  She is also associated with Amber - the Sun Stone!   Amber, I learned, is considered a magical  substance for spinners:  "as the light never tangles in the sky, so an amber spindle protects the new thread from snarls caused by unhappy or malicious spirits."   Go to this link for more mythology and spinning information:  Here you can find out about Native American myths of  "Grandmother Spider Woman",  African,  and Asian and myths of spinning from all over the world. 

Truly, this blog has been a blessing to me.  By sharing my passion and researching my interests, I feel my knitting, crochet, and spinning are not only  hobbies or a passion indulged.  I feel I've been swept up into history, legend and mythology.  It's where I've always longed to be!