Saturday, July 17, 2010

I've Got You Under My Spell.......

(music plays softly in background) I know, Frank Sinatra, old Blue Eyes himself sang, "I've got you under my skin..." Well I'm taking some poetic license here and changing it to "spell." I'm talking about the magical power and influence of spinning (not the cycle class at the local YMCA, but the wheel with the fleece that becomes yarn.) This blog is dedicated to all those that spin and find that they have literally reached nirvana. I shall explain of course....

I have recently learned of an event called the Tour de Fleece. From what I gather you give yourself goals for how much spinning you wish to accomplish starting on the first day of the Tour de France and you spin each day of the race along with the riders. A totally cool activity. This makes sense since I do like to spin. I mean if I'd never spun a fleece before and had no drive to do so, this might just sound like another weird activity that people dream up to pass the time. Anyway, since I heard of the event, I started thinking about my history with the spinning wheel.

When Dave and I were first married almost three decades ago, we were the typical young, poor married college students. We lived in Dave's home town of Bloomington, Illinois as that is where the university that we were attending was located. Every Autumn right outside of town in a lovely apple orchard there was the annual Apple Festival. You could go and watch them press the juice from the apples, hand make brooms, look at quilts and (wait for it) watch spinning demonstrations. Now as I was already a knitter, I found the spinning demo completely fascinating. This woman was sitting there with a wool fleece and making yarn - real yarn that could be knit into lovely gifts, warm slippers (we tended to keep the heat down as paying for electricity was a big budget item for a couple of married students,) sweaters, etc..... All I can remember of that day was a thought that kept running through my mind, "Diana, you have to learn to do that, it's so cool. You could make all of your own yarn and surely that's cheaper than buying it at the shops." OK - all of you knitters and spinners can stop laughing now, I was young and uninformed at the time.

Now we can fast forward five years and Dave and I have moved to Pensacola, Florida. Dave is in flight school for the U.S. Navy and he has just been stationed to Whidbey Island, Washington. However, I have a contract at the hospital where I work and I need to stay in Pensacola for six months to fulfill that obligation. After Dave moves, I started spending a little more time at the local yarn shop. My sisters of the "needle and yarn" where all there to support me through this time alone and I was ever so grateful. One day, while I'm there someone mentions that they are going to have a spinning class and they will provide the wheels as part of the class. No big outlay of money at this point. Yeah!!! It may have been five years later, but we were still a little less than flush with cash. So, off I went happy as a little lark. I was going to learn to spin and save yarn money and make all of my knits from beginning to end. Hurray!!!!

OK- so you're wondering about this "spell" business. Well, I'm sorry for the big run up, but you need to know just how long I had been waiting to learn this skill, to feel the wool slip through my fingers, to take the strands and ply them together. This dream had been roaming the halls of my mind for five years. Maybe it had grown a little over that time as well. Then the night of the first class arrives and the instructor mentions that people have been known to fall into a trance while spinning. The motion of wheel, the timing of your foot on the pedal, the even movement of the wool through your fingers, it's all very calming and relaxing. Well, that's interesting, but let's spin already! I wonder why she thought that was an important piece of information to share with the class??? Hmmm.. We begin and progress through class and as it is late into the evening when we are done, I take my rented wheel and my wool home, set them in the living room and head off to Bedfordshire.

The next night after I get home from work, I can barely eat any dinner as I am full of energy and cannot wait to start practicing my spinning. I pull out a dining room chair and place it in front of the TV, place the wheel in front of the chair, I get my wool and place it by the chair and I pop in a VHS tape of my favorite TV program, "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Honestly it's the funniest program I have ever seen and I stand by that to this very day. You really do not know what you're missing if you haven't seen this show. Your TV education is not complete. Oops, a little rant there, sorry. OK - I'm ready now, I pick up the wool and start to spin. I pedal, I pull the fibers and the wool becomes a thread and I am giddy with excitement. Then the next thing you know it is an hour later and two Dick Van Dyke episodes have played, but I don't know which episodes they were because I find myself coming out of a daze so heavy that at first I think I've been asleep, but I'm still spinning and the bobbin is well on it's way to being full and the fleece that I was spinning is almost gone. Then I remember what the instructor said and I realize that I have been in a spinning induced trance for an hour. It got me....I was under it's spell....and let me tell you, it was the most peaceful and productive hour of my life. Now, I realize that there were many factors that played a role here, I was tired from work, I had a history of these type of events, such as being a sleep walker as a child and lucid dreamer as an adult and I had even been hypnotized in a high school assembly once, so I guess I am susceptible to this type of thing. However, on that night in my little apartment in Pensacola, all I could think was, "I have reached spinning nirvana." I had lived my dream, literally.

A few months later I moved out to join Dave in Washington. Two days after I arrived he was sent off on a two week flying exercise and I was alone with no friends or job on an island. Time to explore!!! I got in my car headed down the main highway on the island and found a lovely little yarn shop and guess what??? They sold spinning wheels and fleece and everything else that goes with the craft. The woman and I talked and talked and drank coffee and in the end she offered me a wheel on a payment plan of two months and the name of a woman on the island that raised sheep for their wool. I packed my wheel into the car, along with some fleece and headed back to our little room in the Bachelor Officer's Quarters on the Navy base. The next day I called the "sheep lady" and she said that if I wanted to come and learn to sheer, I could have all the wool I wanted at no charge. Cool!!! I did it! I learned to sheer a sheep, clean the fleece, card the wool, spin the wool, knit the wool. Hurray!!! For the two weeks that Dave was gone, I had our bathtub full of fleece being cleaned, I had rope hung across the room for wool to hang and dry, and I sat and spun myself into nirvana each and every night. Once again, I had lived my dream that started all those years ago in an apple orchard.

It was not cheaper than buying the yarn, but it was one of my top ten life experiences. Just this summer I am using the last of a very fine light weight cream colored wool that I spun during those two weeks. I've had tons of it from that one sheering and I've always used it for making baby gifts. This final gift is going to friends here in my new home town. I guess I have to find a new sheep farm in the local area in order to build my supply once again. (music fades.)

Peace and joy to you all,
The Green Girl....

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