Spinzilla 2015

“May I help y—”

I breezed past her. I was in a hurry. I couldn't be late for my meeting. But it was imperative that I stop in at the yarn store on my way into work.

The woman at the cash register who had tried to greet me, spoke to my back, “You look like a woman with a purpose.”

Spinning.jpg

Without stopping, I tossed over my shoulder. “Definitely a purpose.”

And I was—I was out of fiber, and I had a lot more spinning to do. As I strode towards the back of the store I tried to remember which particular wool I needed. Was it Wensleydale, Corriedale, or Blue Faced Leicester?

When I reached the bin with the fiber, I rummaged through it. Definitely not Merino, or superwash. Nope, it wasn't Wensleydale—too shiny. I needed Corriedale or Blue Faced Leicester. I tried to wrack my brain. Wait. They only had one of each. I checked through the bags again. One. That wouldn't be enough. I went out to the front of the store for help.

When I returned to the cash register, I had four bags of wool in my arms, two of Corriedale and two of Blue Faced Leicester. I dumped them onto the counter, ready to check out. I smiled apologetically. “Spinzilla.”

She nodded. “Ah. Spinzilla.”

According to the Spinzilla website (http://www.spinzilla.org/): “Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals compete in a friendly challenge to see who can spin the most yarn in a week!” I'm a member of Team Schacht. Schacht Spindle Company—a loom and spinning wheel factory (http://schachtspindle.com/).

I spent the weekend prior to Spinzilla rushing around clearing my desk to maximize my spinning time during the following week.

Before I went in to work on Monday, I sat down at my spinning wheel and spun half a bobbin. I couldn't wait to get back to it when I returned home after work.

Sarah showed up with Gus during the day. No worries, I'd spin while hanging out. After a pleasant dinner, Sarah went out for the evening, leaving Gus behind. No worries, I'd spin while he napped.

Except he didn't nap.

He was very cute trying to figure out the spinning wheel. He was also cute when he asked me to throw a ball for him—I tossed the ball a few times. He was very cute lying on the floor looking at me reproachfully. And even cuter when he asked to go outside.

I didn't get much spinning done.

Tuesday was deadly at work. I came home late. I'd managed to get some spinning done before work and a wee bit more before I surrendered to exhaustion. This was not going well. No matter, Wednesday would be better.

Wednesday was worse. I looked at my spinning wheel on my way to bed and walked right past it. No spinning on Wednesday. None. Whatsoever.

I stayed home on Thursday. I'd get a lot of spinning done. First I'd do some writing, then spinning. I was going to spin a couple of bobbins easily, probably more. No, certainly more. Probably four.

I almost reached a good stopping point in my writing when I got a calendar notification—a therapy appointment I'd totally forgotten about. Finally, after I got home from the appointment, I sat and spun, and spun, and spun some more. Until... I ran out of fiber.

I stopped in at the yarn store on the way to work Friday morning.

At the cash register, trying to make up for my brusqueness on my way to the fiber display, I chit chatted. “Do you have a spinzilla team?” Apparently they did, twenty or twenty five strong. “I'm on Team Schacht.”

Her easy smile slipped from her face. “Well that doesn't seem fair. They should have something in the rules about not having really advanced spinners...”

I assured her that though they made spinning wheels, most of the Schacht workers were not spinners, and there were quite a few beginners on the team.

I walked out the door shaking my head--some people take Spinzilla a little too seriously. Thank God I wasn't that obsessed.

I quickly shrugged it off--I didn't have time for that kind of thing, between work and Spinzilla, I would be far too busy over the weekend. I'd get a lot of spinning done this evening, and if I'm too tired, no worries, I planned to spend most of the weekend spinning. I had to pass the 2,000 yard mark no matter what. If all went well, I should be able to double that.

Teaching Paul

 

  • Overview and motivation.

  • Demonstration.

  • Break down into individual steps.

  • Put all the steps together.

I'd already bought the fiber, I was now mentally preparing myself to teach Paul how to spin.

Paul and I are kindred spirits. We discovered each other through yoga. When we first met, I knew there was just something about him. It was as if we'd been close friends in a previous life. In time, we learnt that though we came from completely different backgrounds, we had a lot in common.

I quickly found out that we had extraordinarily similar tastes in literature—we both enjoyed children's books and liked the same novels and memoirs. Next, I discovered that he'd done some miming—I'd dabbled briefly with street performing. I was amazed when he mentioned that he'd done some rug weaving. He's also a knitter and a felter. I too am a weaver and a knitter, I also crochet, and have done quite a bit of felting. The clincher came last week—we both took a quiz “Which TV Mom are you?” and we both got Morticia Addams.

But there was one glaring difference between us—I am a spinner, and Paul is not, at least not yet. It was time for him to learn.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought one of my spinning wheels (the #Schacht #Ladybug) to yoga class. I was going to rectify the wrong—I was going to teach Paul to spin, after class.

Paul, eager to learn a new fiber technique, needed no motivation. He also understood the bigger picture. I just needed to fill in some details here and there, which I did as I demonstrated.

Next I had him practice treadling while keeping the wheel moving in one direction, counterclockwise. Once he had the treadling under control, I attached a length of yarn to the bobbin and had him experience the pull on the yarn and later the movement of the twist. Then it was time to put it all together.

I started by treadling while I talked him through the hand motions. Then I demonstrated again while he treadled. I showed him how to pinch the fiber at the source to prevent the twist from traveling into the virgin fiber.

Then it was his turn again. As he spun, I kept reminded him to maintain a light touch on the fiber and the yarn in the making. “It's like riding a horse, you don't want to yank on the reins, nor do you want them loose—you hold the reins to keep in touch with the horse's mouth. It's the same with spinning, you want to feel it as you spin, to monitor the quantity of fiber flowing out of the source, and the quality and form of the twist going into the yarn.”

I watched him struggle for a while. He had the right idea but clearly needed something more to help him acquire a sense of the rhythm. It was hard not to take over. As I envisioned my hands on the fiber, I realized how to give him that sense of rhythm--I guided his hands with my own, applying and releasing pressure when needed, to keep the fiber flowing evenly from the source and to control the twist. When I felt his hands take on the rhythm, I let go, and he was off and running.

I have enjoyed teaching children to spin and weave and I've have a lot of fun teaching felting and dyeing. But teaching Paul was special. I came away from the lesson with a goofy grin on my face. Not only had I enjoyed myself because of my love of teaching and spinning, but also because I was giving Paul, an unexpected friend and lover of fiber, a piece of myself. I gave him a gift he I knew he would truly appreciate and might actually come to love as much as I do.

Spinzilla

The words jumped out at me.

“October 6—12, 2014

Spinzilla—A Monster of a Spinning Week

On your Mark! Get Ready! Spin!

Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals compete in a friendly challenge to see who can spin the most yarn in a week!”

All those exclamation marks really hyped me up. I clicked out of the website and went downstairs. I made sure I had enough fiber to keep me going for a month, then oiled my Schacht Ladybug and placed it in front of one of the dining room chairs. I was ready.

I accepted the invitation to join the Schacht team a few weeks ago. Then a couple of days before the beginning of Spinzilla week, I received an offer to write a guest-blog post for Schacht, and a promise of a T-shirt. A T-shirt? I had trouble containing my excitement.

Unfortunately, October 6 happened to be a particularly busy day at work and I couldn't start spinning until the evening. Wanting to spin uninterrupted for several hours, I decided to wait until after a quick supper.

Finally, I sat in front of the spinning wheel and dipped my hand into the various bags of fiber. I fondled some creamy white merino, black, brown, and caramel alpaca, and an alpaca/silk blend. The choice was made for me—caramel alpaca for an appetizer and the alpaca/silk for dessert. And the rest... I'd play by ear.

As soon as I began treadling, a cloud of alpaca flowing through my fingers, I felt the calm descend on me. And I remembered all over again why I spin.

There's an earthiness about spinning that connects me to the land, to our past. It reminds me of times when the rhythm of our lives was more in tune with the rhythm of the natural world.

I love losing myself to the rhythm of my feet treadling and the wheel turning. I love meditative quality of spinning, the quiet it brings me. Unless the fiber is particularly luscious, when I spin, my mind roams, imagining shearing and carding, dreaming about projects past and projects to come. I feel connected to other spinners past and present.

During Spinzilla week, I felt that connection more acutely. As I spun, I felt a sense of community with all those others spinners who were spinning with me, some focused on the process. Others, their attention on the end product. Some solitary, enjoying the quiet, others, in groups, chatting and laughing.

All of us industriously creating the yarn that binds us together into a community.

As I sat and spun my caramel alpaca, wearing my team T-shirt, I imagined the spinners on my team, in a circle on the patch of grass by the gazebo outside the Schacht factory. I saw them, in my mind's eye, sitting at their wheels, focused on their spinning.

When I spun the black alpaca, I envisioned the hat I would knit. Would I use an Aran pattern or keep it plain? Or perhaps I would weave a scarf instead.

As the alpaca flowed and entered the twist, the words for the guest-blog flowed through my mind. I'd set them free into the world later, after I filled my first bobbin. Perhaps after the second, or after I finished plying.

Finally, it was time for dessert, October 12, the last day of Spinzilla. I was exhausted by the time I finished plying the black alpaca, I really should have gone to bed, but I couldn't resist the alpaca/silk.

It spun like a dream. I watched it flow through my fingers, enter the twist, and wind onto the bobbin. All I could see in my mind's eyes was the swirl of caramel alpaca and white silk. I saw nothing else, no hats or scarves, no spinners from the past, or from the present. I was in a dreamlike state, unaware of anything else other than spinning. All my senses, my entire being was focused on this luscious fiber.

http://blog.schachtspindle.com/