Spinning yarn

December 12, 2014
One thing I really love about my job is getting to choose the stories I write. I freelance out some of them, and the rest I write on my own. This can include interviewing people and sometimes getting my hands dirty, which I did for an upcoming story.
I thought it’d be fun to write a story about local yarns. Since it’s winter, a lot of people hunker down and knit and crochet (myself included). I thought it’d be cool to feature local yarns. An initial interview with a sheep farmer led to an interview with a second sheep farmer who invited me to her monthly spinning group in Zumbrota. Who was I to pass up an opportunity like that?
So last night I found myself in a super cute fiber arts store in little Zumbrota surrounded by spinning wheels. My patient tutor explained the process and kindly let me use her wheel to spin some of her gorgeous wool. She had some white wool from her own sheep and some purplish wool sent to her by a wool company.
I thought I was pretty good at multitasking, but having to pump my foot to keep the wheel spinning while guiding and pulling the wool with my hands proved more difficult than it looked! The basic premise of a spinning wheel is thus: your foot turns the wheel which spins a bobbin. The bobbin twists the wool in your hands and winds it up, creating yarn. Your job as the spinner is to pull the wool to your desired thickness and try to maintain correct tension while the bobbin spins. Unless you want a more natural look, in which case you can alter the tension and the thickness of the wool.
After spinning with two different types of wool (I never knew there were so many varieties of wool and how to process it!) my tutor took over and, seemingly without effort, began spinning beautiful yarn once again.
Here’s my finished yarn, which my tutor graciously let me keep. She said a bag of wool might cost 60 cents to a wholesaler but could be bought at upwards of $15 from a spinner, so I was incredibly thankful she let me practice with her wool.
Yarn spun from my own two hands (and a foot)!
Doing interviews, reading memoirs and actually spinning yarn myself has given me new insight into just how labor intensive making things by hand can be. And while there are machines that can take raw wool and spin it into yarn quickly, I have absolutely fallen in love with the texture and the story behind hand-spun yarn.

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