Some thoughts while the wheel is spinning
By Hanks Yarn and Fiber on October 14, 2008
Like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Morgaine, I sometimes go into a trance when I am at my spinning wheel. It’s repetitive; it’s calming; it’s something that sets my mind free when my body gets into the groove of the motion. My blood flows along with the clickity-clack, clickity-clack of the wheel. Like rain on a tin roof, the sound is both natural and soothing. I can see that were you a witchy sort, you could be sucked into this motion and relaxation. How it could bring on a daydream, a reverie, make you contemplate the future. And the past.
The power went off one day, in those freaky Florida summer afternoon thunderstorms, and since that meant no Interwebs with which to dull my brain, I eyed my spinning wheel and the latest wool I had ordered online. It was somewhat dark in the house, and the storm was raging outside. I opened the windows to let the breeze and wet air inside, and I sat at the wheel and began to spin. As the wheel spun around, the sound matching the drumming of the rain on the roof, I wondered about the generations of spinners before me. Here I was, taking time out of my self-inflicted busy schedule, to sit at my spinning wheel and relax. How many years ago was it that women had to spin—and not even at a wheel, but at an even more laborious drop spindle, for the spinning wheel as we know it today is less than 800 years old—in order to clothe themselves and their families? How many of them saw spinning as a chore? How many of them were on their feet all day, working, only to have to sit in the evening and continue working at the wheel? And here I was, spinning, because the power was out and I couldn’t go read blogs or hunt down spoilers for my favorite science fiction TV shows. Would these women, if they saw me today, laugh? Shake their heads? Would they understand the calm that comes over my troubled spirit when I take fiber in my hand and begin to draft it into the orifice as my legs begin the repetitive motion of pedaling the wheel? Did they feel the same? Or did they see it as necessary chore work and in it no joy was found? Those were the things I thought about as I spun in the dusky light.
I didn’t want to learn to spin my own yarn. In fact, when cleaning out my father’s office after his death, I threw the boxes of processed wool in the trash. I hadn’t liked living on the farm, didn’t want the reminder, I didn’t care to know how to make that pile of mess into yarn, and I had no plan to pick up yet another hobby that was going to become a time sink and possibly expensive. To this day I am grateful for my friend going into the dumpster behind me and dragging it out, keeping it for me as she knew I would one day be sorry for tossing it.
When I asked around I was told that it was so much wool that it would be cheaper to buy a spinning wheel and teach myself how to spin. That nobody in their right mind would hire themselves out to spin it all for me… and three years later I can see that they were right because I have hardly made a dent in that wool. But I have made a connection with the things I think my father wanted from the farm, and I have made a connection with generations of women who have come before me. And when I sit at work and spin, sometimes children like to stand and watch me. I hope I can inspire some of them to pick up this craft, this zen-like pleasure, and pass on my joy of spinning.
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