Old Fashioned Vacation #2: Spinning

Wow. I’ve been so busy living my old fashioned vacation that I’ve had no time to write about it — until now.

Let’s see . . . where were we? Last time, I had just finished carding a pile of wool and had it all laid out waiting for my spinning lesson.

Immediately after publishing that post, I had lunch. And a cup of coffee. And a rest. And perhaps a beer. (Perhaps. The memories are a little hazy so many days later, but this does feel like a true account of my typical lazy vacation day routine.)

Finally, bright and early in the middle of the afternoon, I headed out to the shady backyard for my date with Granny Brenda and her magical spinning wheel.

First, Brenda gave me a demo.

She and that wheel are old friends, methinks.

Then, my oldest had her own brief spinning lesson while I looked on. Don’t they make a lovely team?

Just lovely.

Then at last, it was my turn.

First, Brenda had me work the treadle with my foot without getting any wool involved (or hands, for that matter), so that I could get a feel for it and learn to keep a steady rhythm.

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack.
Hey, this is easy!

Rhythm achieved, we pulled the leader through and knotted a bit of wool to it, and I began spinning in earnest.

Of course, “earnest” might be overstating my beginning by just a little.

The rhythm I had so carefully learned immediately went out of whack. Apparently, working the foot treadle and the wool together is a bit like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time — extremely tricky, at least until you get used to it.

See Rachel concentrate.
On second thought, perhaps “earnest” is the right word, after all.

And I very quickly found that spinning doesn’t work exactly how I’d always assumed it did.

I’d always thought that I would just hold the wool and let the machine twist it up neatly.

Not quite. What I had to learn to do is to let the spun wool (the wool in front of my pinched finger) build up potential energy, while I got the not-yet-spun-wool (the wool behind my pinched finger) into a wispy triangular “spider web” (to use Brenda’s apt description).

When the “spider web” was ready, I would pinch the wool behind it and release the pinch at the front, and — wham she-bam — the potential energy would burst into kinetic energy, spinning the prepared “spider web” of wool in a flash. I would then feed the spun wool through onto the bobbin, all the while getting the next “spider web” ready to go and keeping the treadle moving at an even pace.

It’s all much more complicated than I would have expected, especially given how quickly all of the above actually happens.

See how nice and wispy Brenda’s “spider web” triangle looks?
Yeah, mine don’t look like that — yet.

It took me quite a while even to begin to get the hang of it — actually sitting down and spinning for an extended period of time is, I suspect, the only proper way to learn spinning — but by the time I did finally start to get the hang of it, I was hooked. There was something at once so relaxing and so exhilarating  (not to mention deeply satisfying) about the whole thing.

As an outsider to the craft looking in, I’d always half wondered what the appeal could be. It all seemed a little, well, dreary and monotonous, however fascinating and old-timey it might also happen to be.

But no. Spinning isn’t monotonous. It’s mesmerizing.

Utterly mesmerizing, I tell you.

In fact, I dearly hope to find a little time to do more of it before I have to say goodbye to Granny Brenda and her magical wheel later this week.

Now, if only I could persuade myself to wear wool (which I have always abominably itchy), maybe I could someday justify getting my own spinning wheel!

One more.
Just ’cause.

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