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Thursday, April 21 2016

The steady rhythmic squeak of the treadles is soothing as the soft fiber slipping through my hands twists itself into yarn at my fingertips. The wheel needs oil but I can't shake myself away long enough. This process of taking animal hair and turning it into yarn has me mesmorized. Still waddling like a baby along my journey into spinning, weaving and knitting, I discover that like tending sheep and goats, this tugs at pastoral roots deep in my soul. I am a child again, playing Jacob's Ladder with string in my hands.

As my fingers slide through the white fiber I wonder about the animal that gave this season's wool. And the farmer. A tiny piece of vegetable matter flicks past my fingertips.  Did the farmer, like me, feel that twinge of annoyance each time they saw a sheep dribbling alfalfa onto her neighbor's back as she placidly chewed hay? Did they run their fingers along the backs, parting the fibers to check the wool? How did they shear their sheep? Did they do it themselves or did they hire it out. Did this wool come from a farmer with 50 sheep or a place with 500 sheep?

Wool is sunshine metabolized and I can feel the warm rays of the sun as it slides through my fingers, is pulled into the wheel and is twisted into yarn onto the bobbin. I still get a thrill. Fresh into my journey, I don't want to forget these images or have them lost, jumbled behind more mundane thoughts when the mind wanders as the fingers spin. The most important lesson I have learned thus far is that there is no right or wrong to spinning. That knowledge is tremendously freeing. There are as many different ways to spin as there are spinners, and the proof is on the bobbin. Are you producing a yarn you are happy with? If so, keep on doing what you were doing.

I am learning as I go. Once I have produced a single ply yarn, I learn that I must produce another yarn and ply them together in the opposite direction so the final product is stronger and more balanced. Alrightie then. Away we go. There is a simple joy to learning as you go. Perhaps if one knew all the work ahead, the step by steps may seem so daunting that one would be afraid to take that first step. But if like a baby, we wobble around in unbalanced wonder, we get to enjoy the process. And we get a true understanding as to why handcrafted items cost so much.

Once the yarn is plied, another trip to Youtube reveals the next step in the process. We must now wash it and hang it dry. It is shameful the amount of pride this brings to a woman of my age. It is like successful potty training. You want to show everyone but the world is not as impressed as you are. Ah well, more's the pity.

My dear friend and mentor, my Spider Woman Sheep Mother, has told me that part of your soul gets spun into the yarn. I understand this now as I begin to knit with the yarn I spun. I don't know how to knit. Seriously. Just like spinning, I'm learning as I go. I lean heavily on Youtube and tips from friends. I had absolutely no interest in knitting before I discovered the allure of wool. Knitting and crocheting were things grandmothers did. Why knit socks when I could buy them?

That was before I discovered the emotions that run through you like a warm current of sunshine as you run fingers across soft fiber. Your fingers read the wool like braille, telling you the story of the sheep, the rancher, the spinner, and finally the knitter. You feel them all, a piece of each, twisted together with sunshine and a prayer.

Unlike my attempts at knitting with commercial yarn, this yarn recognizes me. My fingers recognize the yarn. It is very forgiving of my novice attempts at knitting, and we learn together. What does it want to become? Is it a scarf? Is it a cowl? A headband? The yarn is alive, and I'm knitting a life.

I watch my sheep graze in the pasture and my fingers itch to knit their wool. My churro are coarse haired sheep and already I'm thinking of carpet boots for next winter. Do I have a clue how to make carpeted boots for myself? Nope. Not a clue. But I have sheep. I have a spining wheel. I have Youtube. And I have a dream of sunshine, grass, sheep and yarn.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:28 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
I wish I had learned from my mum. She is still spinning and weaving at 93. She now lives in europe again and I have passed yr. wonderful essay on. Congratulations on a job well done. Next step is to learn all about dyeing using natural colours. I believe eucalyptus are a good source
Posted by Liz (Vict, Aust on 04/23/2016 - 01:44 AM
I wish I had learn from my mother how to crochet. At the time it just didn't turn me on. Now that I've learned to spin, I'm fascinated with creating things from my own yarn.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 05/02/2016 - 12:59 PM

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