I totally learned how to spin!
See that up there? I spun that. (Or I span it? Not sure…)
That’s about seven and a half metres of 100% tussah silk, spun with a top-whorl drop spindle (see me with all my fancy terminology?), and I am dead proud of it.
The workshop was taught by a lovely North American woman, Ruth MacGregor of Spinning Forth, and the whole experience was a heady combination of electrifying and serene.
From what I gather, after a handful of hours’ experience, the spinning goes much better if you’re relaxed. This can only be a good thing for wound-up, whirly-brained me.
I have more unspun top from the workshop, in colours that would undoubtedly pop against the purple if I put them together (though admittedly this might also cause a rather more squelchy popping effect in the viewer’s eyes), and I … well, I may have had a leeetle credit-card accident in the Oliver Twist stall at the show.
It was all so beautiful.
There was nothing I could do.
I was wandering around after the workshop, in the slightly fevered daze that attends the last half-hour of the show, and as I passed the stall of Mr X Stitch, its doyen, Jamie Chalmers, called out a greeting and asked if I had any highlights from the day. I’d never met Jamie before, but such was his personability that I stopped to chat.
“I’ve just learned how to spin!” I squeed, and Jamie and his colleague – who I believe may have been Bridget Franckowiak, aka BeeFranck – offered their congratulations.
“Learning to spin is one of the most political things you can do, really,” said Jamie.
“My sheep and I are going off the grid!” declaimed Bee (if it was she), with a grand gesture of the arm.
(My sheep and I are going off the grid! I took a moment to savour the accidental iambic pentameter. I love those.)
We agreed that spinning was pretty damn political: a radical revival of a skill that’s been all but wiped from our culture. A statement about autonomy, about individual engagement with the material world.
I told them about Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – because I rarely miss a chance to enthuse about that book – and we chatted for a while about textile politics, gender politics, and the contemporary craft revival.
It was a lovely, serendipitous moment.
And yes, the acquisition of this new skill feels political, feels important. It’s odd, maybe, but when I started String Revolution I had no notion of learning to spin. I identified as a knitter, an embroiderer, a crocheter, an aspiring quilter.
I saw myself as string user, not a string maker.
It’s only as I’ve become more immersed in the history and politics of textiles that I’ve developed this drive to understand the whole process by which we put simple fibres to the complex, varied, culturally nuanced, multi-faceted matrix of uses that we experience every day.
It wasn’t until I read Should Everyone Spin? (and my brain went woomph!) that I was truly seized with the intention to learn.
And now I’ve taken the first step.
Wonky and exiguous though it be, this little skein is significant.
So what about you?
Do you know how to spin? Would you like to? Comment and tell me your thoughts!
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