A couple of weeks ago, I attended Day One of the Spinning Certificate at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria. The Certificate is a rigorous grounding in a broad range of spinning techniques in order to design and produce yarns for specific purposes.
I was so excited the night before it started, I kept waking up in the night time, afraid I had over slept.
It was even more exciting to be there, amongst twenty or so other spinners all buzzing with anticipation and good will. Some students had travelled for a couple of hours from the country to attend. The course convener and principle teacher is Carmel Hanna who is an exceptionally experienced teacher. Every time I have said to someone associated with the Guild that I learned to spin there, they have asked me ‘Did Carmel teach you?’. She didn’t, though I had a lovely teacher. The answer to my negative is always the same, ‘Oh, that’s a shame’. Well, now I am learning from Carmel and a whole line up of spinning specialists!
As part of the course, which is assessed, we are required to build a folio which will include information on various techniques and skills, fiber samples, mini skeins and knitted swatches. As you know, I love a bit of project documentation so I am quite looking forward to this part. We also need to present a significant work that reflects our learning. I am dreaming big at this stage but will work towards restraint. Lest we be overwhelmed by the pace, we are assigned a mentor, an experienced spinner who will support our learning journey over the next year.
After the necessary introductions and explanations of the way the course will run, the Guild president Tricia Costello led the spindle spinning unit. It was such a treat to hear someone speak so passionately about spindle spinning. I learned how to spin my own leader instead of using a commercial thread; Andean plying; spinning supported in a bowl; and, using a woollen long draw with spindle.
Funnily enough, when I mentioned proudly to a good spinner friend who is much, much more experienced than I that I had just learned how to spin woollen on a spindle, she said kindly but in a slightly bewildered way, ‘Isn’t woollen long draw on a spindle, just the same as on the wheel?’. Well, yes, it is, exactly the same but for me it was a bit of an epiphany and after her response I needed to think about why.
I learned to spin on the spindle in a worsted style, before I even knew what worsted was. I held my hands out high and concentrated on drawing out a small section of fibre and then letting in some twist. Inch by inch, I drew off fibre and let in twist, making a smooth single. I thought this was how you did spindle spinning.
Last year, I tried woollen draw for the first time on the wheel. And I have been practicing consistently since. At the same time I kept spindle spinning in the same way as I had always done. Then, Tricia demonstrated the use of a supported spindle which was primarily developed to spin short fibres woollen style. I mimicked her hand positions, twirling the spindle with one hand and drawing out the fibre with the other and realised the movements felt familiar. Oh, I am woollen spinning! Then, I tried woollen spinning on my top whorl spindle. Oh, wow! I am woollen spinning! Did you see that? I am woollen spinning!!! Yes folks, I realised the bleeding obvious, woollen spinning on the spindle is the same as on the wheel. I had assumed that spindle spinning was different to wheel spinning but I hadn’t even been conscious that I thought that. So, I really did learn how to spin woollen on spindle!
Intensive study like this, offers us many opportunities to gain insights into ways of doing things that we have come to take for granted. It brings our awareness to our practices, prompting us to ask why do we do things in this way and to consider other ways of doing things. It seems that for me, this Certificate is going to be all about spinning mindfully, with purpose and intention.
Any epiphanies in your crafty life?