This is the question posed to the spinners in the Tzouhalem Spinners and Weavers Guild (TSWG). Their responses helps us shed a light on the fascination spinners have with all types of fibre from the process of preparing the fleece or raw fibre, to spinning, then skeining the yarn and finally what to do with all that yarn!
History is a bit unclear of the actual origins of how people began spinning fibre into yarn but it is clear that we would be hard pressed to find a fabric in our homes that was not the result of spinning fibre.
“For thousands of years, mankind has been spinning fibers into threads to produce fabrics. Up until the Middle Ages, hand spindles in different variations were mainly used in Europe to produce yarn from vegetable or animal fibers. In India, charkhas were already used in the 9th century as a further development of the hand spindle. In Europe, the first hand-operated spindle wheels only appeared in the 13th century.” It was then “the use of the spinning wheel in Central Europe became widespread.”
Heitne, Marco (nd) Discover the History of the Spinning Wheel – and learn how to use it. Retrieved from https://www.worlds-finest-wool.com/history-of-the-spinning-wheel/
Spinning wheels favoured by guild members vary depending on what works best for the fibre and spinner. Cherry shared these thoughts about her wheels “Finding the right rhythm with my hands and feet to be one with my wheel. Each wheel depending on the whorl has its own preference of tune. My Ashford traditional likes classic tunes. My Majacraft Is more of a folk gal, and I find the Hansen prefers rock and roll.” Pat has a selection of wheels tucked around her home but the Ashford is her go to wheel. I have a Louet that is sadly neglected but I am inspired by my fellow guild members to bring her out of the corner and try my hand at spinning once more.
Why we spin is a fascinating question. Holly first encountered spinning when visiting New Zealand in her 20s and thought it was fabulous. She writes “though I didn’t take it up until my late 50s, spinning is one of my hobbies because I simply love the activity of it and the fascination of producing yarn from so many different fleeces and commercial rovings. “ Pat shared “forty-three years ago I didn’t even know I needed to spin until a friend talked me into talking a class….with Judith McKenzie no less! After one day I was hooked. Spinning is very akin to meditating for me, and I think that it has helped me endure the last two years of life with Covid.” Sarah wrote “after a time when I’d spin almost anything, I now spin the traditional fibres (wool, silk, cotton, linen, nettle). My favourites are the fibres and fleeces that make me think a bit about how they could or should be spun for different uses.”
Karen just finished a carding project which took about 600g of small bags of miscellaneous roving from her stash and combined to give her matching roving in a larger project quantity.
Spinning is not always a solitary activity. Often our guild meetings will see members spinning away on their wheels. Distaff Day is celebrated by many spinning guilds as a way to bring spinners together. The TSWG organizes an annual Distaff Day event that brings spinners from many parts of Vancouver Island to spend the day spinning and sharing their love of spinning with experienced and new spinners.
Michele works with local youth in her community and teaches many aspects of fibre arts to enthusiastic young people. She is teaching spinning to a young guild member in this photo. (photo used with parents’ permission).
Now what to do with all that yarn? Some spinners spin for the joy of spinning with no expectations of what the yarn will be used for. Their goal is to enjoy is the experience of creating a beautiful yarn from fibre. Sarah suggests that “might be possible to say that you can tell you’re a spinner when you don’t really feel a need to do anything with all that yarn 🙂 The yarn is the end product!”
Cherry wrote that spinning “is where the magic happens. Adjusting the wheel to get just the right take up and twist. Finding the right rhythm with my hands and feet to be one with my wheel.” is why she loves the process.
Where ever you are if you have the chance to sit down with a wheel and spin please try it. You never know you might find a new way to connect with fibre that fills your soul.