Monday, January 19, 2015

Channeling Rumplestiltskin

Spinning came early in my fiber days, but not really the beginning. That credit goes to my grandmother, who was highly proficient with a crochet hook and patiently taught me to crochet. But that is a topic for another day.

My personal interest in spinning dates to a trip to the Southwest in 1968, when  Navajo rugs sparked my interest in spinning, dyeing and weaving.

But please remember, this was the late '60's. There were no large yarn shows, no Internet, no plethora of books on spinning techniques, and I knew no spinners. I was on my own, but with an extremely supportive husband who continues to indulge my interests--crazy though they may seem to most people.

One of my husband's co-workers recalled his family's old spinning wheel that was stored in his barn--and was willing to sell it. It became mine. The flyer was broken but my husband, who is very handy, made a new one and in the process replaced the orifice, which was typical to the wheel and extremely small.

I learned to spin on that wheel using a small booklet. I surely over-simplified the skill set and probably thought that if I channeled Rumplestiltskin, I could quickly master the process of transforming wool into yarn. I didn't know what I was doing, and the old, slow wheel surely matched my abilities. I was sure of only one thing. I needed wool. 

The Ohio Woolgrowers Association, which was then near where we lived in Columbus, Ohio, sold the basics. I bought a pair of carders and wool in a bag. I now know that I had acquired an unskirted fleece--and a very dirty one, at that. What breed? I have not even the slightest clue.

Among other ignorances, I didn't know what to do with the big bag of wool, so after picking small amounts out of the bag to card and spin, I eventually emptied the fleece on to a big table, where it expanded...a lot. After discarding the dirtiest parts, I carded and learned to spin on the best parts of the fleece. It was still dirty and lots of internally processed vegetative matter, i.e., shit, ended up on the wall behind the wheel.

An early marriage Christmas gift from my dear husband was a traditional Ashford spinning wheel, which was much easier to use. I loved it and spun enough to make some items, but with small children underfoot, I surrendered the fleece to an Amish mill, where it was cleaned and made into batting for quilts. The quilts served us well, so the fleece wasn't a total loss.

Many years later, my grown daughter started a flock of sheep and wanted to learn to spin. I gave her my Ashford wheel and she learned on the vintage wheel before adding an Ashford Joy 2. Subsequently, I acquired an Ashford Traveller-Double Pedal, which is billed as an 'ideal travel companion.' The description is misleading: It is not easy to travel with. 

My husband was paying attention to the travails of transport and last week surprised me with an Ashford Joy 2 as a retirement gift. Now to tackle those bags of roving! 

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