It was an odd thing for a little girl to ask for. It was the only thing a little girl could want.
Every Christmas, my younger sister and I received identical gifts. That took all the fun out of Christmas, and I pretended to happily let my baby brother open my presents for me. Inviting him to open my gifts masked the discomfort and disappointment I knew I’d feel when my gifts matched my sisters.
One year, though, things were different. I got a spinning wheel.
The wheel was made of wood and child sized. There wasn’t anyone to teach me to use it, and I struggled on my own to make yarn with meager supplies. I got interested in spinning at eight or nine years old, from reading books. Books were my escape from a tough reality. Books were friends I could depend on.
I loved that little wheel – I could do something no one else could do! I had something no one else had or wanted! The bright light by the window shone on me as I turned the wheel, twisted the fibers. I felt very special.
It didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t make perfect yarn or that no one could teach me. I had a booklet to guide me.
I didn’t have the wheel very long. We were moving again. I felt sick to my stomach. We were parting ways.
At the new address, I watched quietly and waited for my precious spinning wheel to come off of the moving truck. My mother took me aside and said, “Your spinning wheel was broken in the move. It can’t be repaired.”
Brokenhearted, I felt as if I’d lost a beloved pet. The wheel wasn’t repaired or replaced. I never asked for another one.
Over the years, I thought of my little spinning wheel. I’d read about spinning, visit museums with various types of spinning wheels and thought about spinning again.
While shopping a thrift store, high on a shelf was a child sized wooden spinning wheel. It was antiqued an avocado green, typical of the 1970’s. I could hardly contain my joy, my tears. The little spinning wheel finally came home! I still have that spinning wheel today.
A friend of mine had an old Castle wheel for sale. Eventually, I gave it a home, along with a few drop spindles, antique spinning wheels and a modern Louet S90. I use the modern wheel and drop spindles now, and can spin most anything.
I started spinning creatively when I got my horses. Their winter down came out by the handful and after some research, I learned that some American Indians have spun horse down, horse hair, dog hair or dog undercoat. Most cultures spin something. The Turkish people spun directly from their Angora rabbits. Peruvians spin Vicuña. Most Americans spin wool, alpaca, mohair and Angora rabbit. Chinese spun silk from the cocoons of silkworms and people still do. Indian people spin cotton and have made cotton goods for centuries. Gandhi had his own wheel, called a charkha.
With some practice, anything can be spun or blended into a fiber for a variety of uses. I’ve seen artwork created with spun newspaper. People have spun plarn, which is yarn, from plastic bags! Anyone can learn to make plarn!
Now that I’ve spun successfully and joyfully, having the little wheel isn’t as important to me. What’s important is that I was finally able to explore the art of spinning and fulfill a little girl’s dream.
Here is some Angora Rabbit fiber before spinning and then some, after being spun and plied.
- spinning at my side (soulemama.com)
- Spinning Class (peasinapod.typepad.com)
- Spindle plying for the Tour (somanyhobbies.typepad.com)
- Spinning the second sock (somanyhobbies.typepad.com)
- The Spinning Wheel and Irish Poem by John Francis Waller (serendipityplus.wordpress.com)