A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why Spin?

In the midst of developing a new, back-to-school routine, I have had a few episodes of insomnia, one of which was filled with the ideas for this post... It all started when I read Katherine's line "Spinning is the new Knitting", and started mulling over why there would be so many recent converts.

Remember hearing "Knitting is the new Yoga"? I believe that the attraction for so many knitters was that you could achieve a meditative state, reflecting on the process of yarn moving through fingers while still also experiencing creative juices warming up, and turning out finished objects that were sources of pride. Of course, not being a "new" knitter when this giant resurgence started five years ago, I am only projecting ...

Now, spinning being something I have recently (and finally) successfully gotten a handle on, gives me the insight of a beginner and why there is such an attraction for me. When I first tried my hand at spinning, back at age 17 (with a drop spindle that only dropped), I was in a "do-it-yourself-from-scratch" phase in my life, learning lots of new and earthy skills. My first wheel followed on the heels of the drop spindle, with greater success, but still not much to write home about. I do have some of that early yarn woven into a Navajo rug sampler...

When I tried again, about a dozen years ago, I was knitting profusely by then, and wanted to extend my efforts into spinning, but not with the enthusiasm I have right now. My efforts quickly waned, as carding and spinning took too much time away from knitting.

This time, I have decided that I would mainly stick with already cleaned and prepared fibers, allowing me to lose less knitting time. I still get a lot of hands -on spinning time that way.

While tossing and turning the other night, I came up with this list of why to turn over some of that precious time to spinning:

1. Spinning gets you deeply in touch with the fiber. It helps you see and feel the difference between, say, a Corriedale and a Navajo-Churro (sheep that were originally raised to produce wool for rug weaving). The yarn shops have enlightened us as to the value of merino over other wools, or the exotic-ness of alpaca or cashmere, but I am much closer to the source (i.e., the animal's recently-cropped locks) when spinning and seeing how the fibers differ in length, crimp, and feel, as well as opportunities for choices about how to handle these differences in turning fiber into yarn.

2. Planning a project from start to finish, including selecting the right fiber choice for the desired yarn is deeply creative and deeply rewarding. I get to make the decisions every step of the way, rather than relying on what is readily available. I can even decide to dye the fiber or resultant yarn in the color blend of my own choosing.

3. Spinning is very much about process, even more so than knitting. You watch and watch as the yarn spins its way out of the magic triangle where fiber is turning into yarn, right through your fingertips, and detach yourself from when the results will be done, or even what you will make next. I am much more in the moment spinning than in many of the other creative processes in my life.

4. There are great wooden spindles (or wheels, if that's what you want) that turn that mass of fiber into the yarn you were dreaming of, and there is the challenge of learning the steps and choices to be successful in using them. This keeps my mind alert and ever-learning, and keeps me from aging!

If you haven't considered trying spinning, stop next time you are at a fiber fair, and take someone up on their offer to let you give it a try!


Blogger Purple Fuzzy Mittens said...

In addition to all those fabulous reasons to spin, for me the act of transforming loose fluff into strong yarn is an almost indescribable feeling of performing organic magic - an act of creation that fulfills it's promise when the yarn is made into its eventual object. OK, that sounds a bit much, but honestly, try it and see for yourself!

8:35 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

I really enjoyed your analysis of why we spin. For me, it's the feel of the fiber moving through my hands. I'm a tactile person, and really love the feeling of turning "fluff" into yarn - the softness of the roving transforming into a different form.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Well said, PFM and Jane. In addition, I think the seduction of fiber for me is the endless possibilities for discovery without a predicted or required outcome. So many fibers, so many applications, so little time.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Spinning is so much about the process. It's interesting to me how I don't care how long it takes me to spin on a hand spindle. Many times in knitting there's a point in a project where I just want to get it done. Not so with spinning.

9:51 PM  
Blogger beadlizard said...

I started spinning seriously because I couldn't find specific commercial yarns suitable for the custom orders people were placing(and I had a wholesale account with Straw Into Gold back then). There is much more variety available now, but the quality of my handspun surpasses that of commercially available yarn.

I enjoy spinning more than nearly any other activity, but what I really like is being able to create any color/fiber/style of yarn at exactly the right grist and twist. To me, yes, it's a wonderful process, but it is also work. I tend to be very practical, measuring and taking notes, and within that structure, I do enjoy the process!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Carole said...

And let's not forget, spinning is just so freaking FUN.

4:22 AM  
Blogger KnitNana said...

You all are temptresses, you know that? I.Won't.Succumb.I.Will.Not.
I have so little time to knit, that even for all your good reasons (and they ARE good), the knitting consumes me still...
hmmm....now if I could retire? Well...maybe...

5:34 AM  
Blogger Stacie said...

spin on! I have a friend that spins, but doesn't knit! She loves it!

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

Ooooo, I love this point of view, Birdsong!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

I think I'm the only knitter who's tried spinning, but didn't really like it.

Yes, it was fun. For a few minutes. I tried it once with a friend's spindle and haven't wanted to do it again.

I'll let the rest of you have the roving. Just give me the yarn! :)

2:51 PM  
Blogger Marlene said...

Great post. I think I'll send my daughter on over. She has been resisting, but has finally said she'll give it a go at a Spin-In my guild is hosting this weekend.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Hi. I found your blog via a link on Catena Expressions. I enjoyed your "Why Spin" post. You named all the reasons I love to spin and I have to agree with Carole, it's fun too!

11:31 AM  
Anonymous sheepshepherd said...

What a wonderful post. I have been spinning for 20 something years off and on. I have found it great stress reduction, for me more soothing than knitting because you can get lost in thought and not make mistakes. I also think there is a connection with the animal. again WONDERFUL post.

12:57 PM  
Blogger The Purloined Letter said...

I've only been spinning since May but find it SO addictive. I love knitting with the yarn I spin, or the yarn my 7yo son spins. Great post, as always.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Carrie K said...

I'm afraid of the addictive qualities, which is why I'm a bit steadfast in my refusal to learn to spin. That and it usually takes me awhile to catch on and I hate looking dumb. Like anyone cares. Okay, next time it's offered, I'll try.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Ruinwen said...

I bought a kit to learn spinning but I haven't had the time to try. There is no one near me who spins but everyone is waiting for me to learn so I can teach them LOL

I loved your perspective on spinning...wish you lived closer!


11:49 AM  

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