In E.M. Forster’s, A Room With A View (1908), old Mr Emerson, a radical thinker, has a wardrobe on which is painted ‘Mistrust all enterprises which require new clothes‘. It is a quote(ish) from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and I have always rather liked it and have expanded it as a mistrust of all enterprises requiring new things in general, tools, equipment and other stuff. Curiously I don’t include books in this category, as I do have the habit of thinking a book of information is always necessary for any new endeavour!
I tend to be rather conservative about buying new tools or better tools, preferring to make do and try the new enterprise first before investing in stuff. This both a desire to acquire only the most useful and applicable thing but also because I find I become easily overwhelmed by excellent materials/equipment. I feel rigid and unable to make things freely as I get all worried about doing something worthy of the fine tools/materials. Instead, I prefer to sidle up slowly against a potentially new piece of equipment and sniff it out for a while, acquiring bits and pieces slowly and cautiously. It is usually a pretty useful strategy as it prevents me from accumulating lots of artifacts from old enthusiasms which our small house is grateful for and my equipment can grow as my capacity and confidence grows but sometimes my wariness gets in the way of actually doing the job I want to do. There is a fine balance I think between paucity, over abundance and the necessary amount of tools.
Recently, I bought a sampling niddy noddy and a replacement flick carder. The delightfully named niddy noddy is a tool used to wind yarn into a measurable, consistent skein for washing and dyeing, whilst a flick carder looks like a dog grooming tool and is used to open out locks of wool to spin them more easily.
The niddy noddy was an easy decision, as we were told we needed one for the Spinning Certificate Course, but I have vacillated for a couple of years about replacing the flick carder. The flick carder was my first spinning tool. Before I owned a wheel or spindle, I owned a flick carder. For many years it was my only fibre preparation tool and so of course I used it for every situation, for every fibre. My action was more akin to whacking than flicking and the poor thing aged rapidly in the hands of a beginner. The tines were very wobbly and bent in unusual ways. It snarled the wool rather than setting the fibres straight. Rather than replace it, I stopped using it. I used the old hand carders I had been given and I used some English combs I worked up to buying. That is all very well at home but English combs and hand carders are large, cumbersome and spikey. They just do not travel as well as the humble flicker.
Just after I bought this brand new one, I was given this lovely old one. It belonged to my friend’s mother who would have used it in the seventies and eighties I think. Its tines are still firm and stiff so perhaps I was particularly hard on my poor old flicker.
What is your relationship with your tools? Do you enjoy collecting tools and experimenting with the new opportunities they represent or are you cautious and minimal, working slowly up to careful purchases?
In the Winter 2015 issue of Yarn Maker, Debbie Zawinski, a minimalist handspindler wrote about the very basic stick spindle she uses on her treks, reflecting ‘…it will spin yarn as beautiful as the finest wheel can – the skill is in the fingers, not the machine’. This may indeed be true but perhaps there are also tools that help bring out the skill in our fingers? Is there an indispensable tool in your craft that you are prepared to invest heavily in…scissors, rotary cutter, needles?