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!