Every now and then you find a person who has so much talent and skill that you probably should be jealous, but you can’t because you’re just so stinkin’ proud of them. I have a friend like that. A couple of years ago, we were at a fiber festival and she was test-driving spinning wheels, just to see if she might be interested in taking up spinning. At that point, she was already a pretty good knitter and was ready to try something new.
Well, she did take up spinning and in a very big way. Rather than buy a new, modern wheel, she began buying antique wheels and fixing them up to make them spin again. She became what we started to call a ‘wheel whisperer’ and used her talents to help others find and rescue antique wheels as well. It’s become more of a calling than a hobby, it seems to me.
She’s been spinning less time than I have but her skills surpass me. And her work is lovely – she’s not only learned this skill, she’s practiced it intensely and you can tell that in her work. With her permission, I’d like to share one of her latest projects and in so doing, tell you a bit about how wool gets from the sheep to the garment.
She started with Corriedale top that she purchased at an Illinois spinning shop. Corriedale is a breed of sheep. Top is wool that had been sheared from the sheep, washed, combed, and processed into a long roll that looks like this:
Then she began to spin, using one of her antique wheels.
She spun and she spun and she spun…lots of singles (which is one thickness of yarn; finished yarn has two or more singles plied together).
Then she plied… which is spinning two singles together to make a balanced yarn. The yarn is then wound off into skeins, which are washed to set the twist and make the yarn ready to knit with.
Then the finished yarn is made into balls, ready to knit.
Then she began to knit.
And finally, she was done. The finished shawl, washed and blocked to spread the lace. A true work of art.
So, I think you can see why I consider her to be a true artist. My memory is fuzzy but I think she’s been spinning less than two years, and to turn out work as lovely as this is amazing. Watching her transform from ‘I think I might want to learn to spin’ to ‘I made this’ has been a great thing. It also means I need to get moving so my skills can catch up.
Thanks, Vern for the inspiration, for letting me be part of watching you become a spinner, and most of all, for giving me the push I needed to keep building my own skills.
Credit also goes to Susan Lawrence, designer of the Forest Canopy Shawl pattern. This pattern is available on Ravelry in case you’d like to knit it yourself.