To turn, turn
will be our delight,
‘Till by turning, turning
we come ’round right.
On Saturday, as this post is being published, I will be at Lindenwood Retreat Center with about 20 other people. Something will be turning — much to my delight. I will be spinning. Not spinning as in a form of exercise on a stationary bicycle at a gym, but spinning as in making yarn from fiber. Some day, the yarn I am spinning will become something warm and wooly.
Spinning seems an appropriate interest for a modern homesteader. After growing my own produce, making my own clothes is a natural extension. (By that reasoning, I should really be sewing as well, but that only happens rarely.) Taking this even further, I would be raising the sheep from which I get my fiber, but I can’t really do that on a city lot. So, I do the next best thing and buy fiber from some of my spinning sisters at this retreat who do raise sheep.
I got into spinning quite reluctantly. As a teenager, I had decided never to do anything remotely resembling traditional household work. So I didn’t cook. While in graduate school, I subsisted solely on cheese sandwiches and ice cream. I did manage to keep the apartment somewhat clean and I did do my laundry. But I certainly didn’t do any crafts: be it sewing, or knitting or crocheting.
One day, a friend told me about a spinning class she had taken at a local yarn store. She was eager to show me what she had learned. She assured me that I would love learning to spin. She was insistent and she was a good friend, so I decided to humor her and let her show me. But I had already decided that I would definitely not like it.
We got together one evening and she showed me what to do. It’s a complicated process in which you have to coordinate hands and feet. You draw out of the fibers (drafting), letting them feed onto the bobbin, all the while treadling to keep the drive wheel moving. But, maybe because I am an organist, I picked up on the rhythm of the movements quite easily. And, in spite of all my internal efforts to reject the entire endeavor, I fell in love with it.
A month later, we moved from Chicago to Seattle. In my first week in Seattle, I found a yarn and fiber store. Before the week was up, I was carrying home a box with a disassembled spinning wheel. That evening, I put it together. And I have been using that spinning wheel ever since – for 23 years.
Spinning is an activity in which I relax. It is the perfect remedy for a hectic day. When I start a spinning project, I usually have no finished product in mind, so I don’t feel driven to get something done. I can easily just sit down and spin for a few minutes or for an entire evening. It is meditative. I concentrate on the rhythm of my hands and my feet. I feel the wool sliding through my hands, the lanolin acting as a natural hand lotion. I hear the whir of the wheel, often the only background noise. It is a time to just be.
So, I guess the moral of this story is to keep an open mind and never say “never.” You don’t know what you will like until you try it.