Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. I think I would love walking around wearing many layers of skirts, having to hike them up while walking stairs – thank you for that, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don’t think I’d mind going back in time to, say, the 1860s for a couple of days, but I’m not so sure I’d want to stay there.
Maybe its more admiration than nostalgia I feel for the people of that era, and their self sufficiency. I am impressed by all the skills average people had, allowing them to raise, slaughter, prepare and make use of their own animals, building their own houses and clothe themselves. While I don’t necessarily feel that everything was much better in the olden days, I am sad that skills like these are not commonplace anymore.
Anyone who are skillful at what they do are impressive to me, but I am easiest to impress when it comes to handicrafts. Show me a talented and dedicated cobbler, or a bookbinder, or a glass-blower or piano-tuner, and I will be in awe, or want to be like them! I’ve had so different jobs on my “what do I want to be when I grow up”-list, but they are much alike – they are all about creating, one way or another. I too want to know my craft, and be really good at it. Now, I’m not planning on spinning being my trade, but that doesn’t need to stop me trying it!
The spinning wheel belongs to my work, a museum, and a co-worker showed me how to use it. Mom had some wool lying around at home that I could use, and she also let me borrow her hand carders. As soon as I started using them, I remembered the technique – I think there was some wool carding and crafting in my childhood that my hands remember!
It’s a fairly simple concept: the spinner pulls a section of the prepared wool apart, and the strands of fibres gets twisted to create yarn. How thin the wool gets pulled apart, affects the thickness the yarn gets. This is pretty much all the variables with a drop spindle; it’s all about the yarn and a weight and the weight set in motion. But add the foot rhythm and hand-eye-foot coordination of the spinning wheel, and it takes some trying and yarn breaking before it all comes together! Now that it’s going better, I’m finding the process quite meditative – I think it’s the rhythm of the pedal and the whirring of the wheel that does it.
As with other crafts, I get excited about the usefulness about this – I could technically go from cutting the wool off the sheep (for now I’ll leave the shearing to those who know how), to carding, to spinning, to finally knitting a sweater. Now, how would that be for “I made this myself”?