Monday, October 08, 2007

Spinning a New Tail

This past weekend was a wonderful experiment in something new for me. Spinning. No, not spinning around in circles until you fall down giggling in self amusement, but the kind where you take wool and turn it into yarn or thread.

The wool I chose for my first attempt is of a vibrant purple. It is almost a royal purple. The thread, string it makes is just as vibrant and eye-catching as the wool itself. The idea I had, when I picked this particular wool for my first time spinning was to knit a warm winter hat for myself and I wanted something that made me smile.

Beth, of Stone's Throw Artisans in Georgetown, gave me a quick demonstration with a drop spindle. It was amazing to watch as thread seemed to magically fall from her hands. Perfect thread with no bumps or lumps. It was amazing to watch. Beth concluded with, "And that's it. You'll do fine!"

So, yesterday I took her simple instructions and tried. It isn't perfect like Beth's. There are lumps and thin spots, but watching the thread magically appear as the whirl spins there is a different sort of peace than knitting gives. It is peaceful. Quiet. The quiet like a peaceful prayer. Perhaps this is why I chose, quite spontaneously, to begin my spinning experiment at the Church festival this Sunday. Was it only just yesterday?

The first ten minutes had me spinning. The thread and string forming. It called to people. A friend, a very manly man at that, sat down and tried his hand at spinning. He is from Ethiopia and he told me how they would sit and make their yarn and thread out of cotton. He was excited at seeing something that reminded him of his own culture and people. Kids appeared and stood off about five feet because they were afraid of "bothering" me or making the thread not appear. Although I encouraged them, they still remained five feet away, their eyes wide and, after a few minutes, they began smiling broadly with each time I paused to wind the new thread around the pole of the spindle.

Even our priest came up to where I was sitting to watch me at our labors and others came forward to tell me of icons they had seen of the Theotokos, The Virgin Mary, with a spindle, just like the one I was using (the same type of spindle) and that they had never seen anyone using one before. Lucky for me I had researched spindles and spinning quite a lot before I decided to try my hand at it, and was able to tell them that the drop spindle is one of the oldest forms of spinning tools in the world and that it is in almost every culture that has textiles. It is just a natural progress of need and figuring out how to provide that need.

In nearly every culture that has a spindle and produces thread, the spider is a representative and usually stories follow of how people learned to spin and knit from a spider. I have a horrible fear of the creatures naturally, but Saturday, during tai chi, I did a movement, and there was a spider dangling from my left hand on a virtually invisible silk thread. Normally I would have screamed and flailed frantically to get it away from me, but the thread was so calm and still and the spider didn't move (I think it was the spider not moving that made me less afraid) that caused me to just relax. I gave my hand a good shake to remove the spider and went into the next movement. It was still there as my hand came up into a ward off position. It wasn't swaying or bobbing with my movement (maybe I was doing something else right?). It was perfectly still, dangling from my hand. For a moment my mind stilled even further and suddenly I accepted the spider and managed to get it free from my hand in some type of peace.

If I was one to believe in omens I would call the spider an omen. One of peace and stillness. These are two traits quite useful in spinning, or knitting, or living.

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