Cabin Fever

About the time the Winter Spin-Off issue arrives, cabin fever strikes Indiana handspinners. The symptoms we exhibit seem to appear or disappear based on the amount of snow on the ground. Commonly, if there is too much snow, we feel flat and lethargic and have no energy, much like a singles thread left on the bobbin for a year. If the snow has been here too long, we start to mentally ravel, similar to the way fiber drifts apart when the amount of twist inserted is not enough. If the snow (too much for too long) gets covered with ice before melting, we may finally snap, like locks of weak fleece breaking under tension, or (probably worse) turn into hard, compact, tightly bound pieces of felt instead of being the warm, comforting people upon whom we depend to cope with this weather!

The cure for all this comes, of course, when a thaw reveals signs of spring underneath the layers of white. Until nature obliges, packing up my wheel and taking to the road to meet with other spinners for an extended gathering is a guaranteed reprieve. Whether you are snowed in by the weather or snowed under by life’s demands, spinning in the company of like-minded companions can become your personal escape route. Here are some stories from other spinners of how they found their reprieves.

Twenty years ago, Lois Heinsen wondered how many spinners there were in her area, near Las Cruces, New Mexico. “Just for the fun of it,” she decided to find out and get them all together in one place at one time by sending letters to every guild address she could find. Leona Whitworth (now living in Idaho) arranged for the gathering to take place at a campground in Cloudcroft, and volunteers were recruited to cook the meals, while others offered to teach workshops. Thus the first Southwest Regional Spinners Retreat came into existence! Since then, the energy and enthusiasm marking that first retreat has carried through for twenty years and was held last July in a new location in Sacramento, New Mexico. Sixteen “playgroups” were offered, the annual challenge contest was held (this time toys, in other years socks, gloves, and shawls), and those participating in show-and-tell were entered into door-prize drawings. Family members were welcome with special rates for kids staying in the same room as their parents. Local amenities included hiking trails, horseshoe pits, riding stables, a golf course, and picnicking areas in the surrounding national forest. The “crowning achievement” was everyone got a crown and royal name, just for the fun of it!

Debbie Webb, a member of the Friendship Spinners (Northern Kentucky/Southern Indiana), attended a retreat at an Ursuline monastery near Owensboro, Kentucky. When introductions were made, Debbie mentioned she is a shepherdess and handspinner. Before the retreat ended, she was teaching another nun to spin on a spinning wheel and had volunteered to help with a new arts program focusing on traditional craft skills. The emphasis was on making tools and equipment from materials on hand instead of buying commercial products. So Debbie brought in CDs and dowels to make handspindles. Natural dyestuff was collected, and soon dye pots were steaming. PVC pipe was fashioned into a two-harness frame loom, and popsicle sticks became shuttles. Under Debbie’s direction, participants learned to wash, card, spin, dye, and weave from wool donated by Friendship Spinner Rebecca Dougherty. Mug rugs were the first items to come off the loom, and then students embarked on a larger project to create a shawl for the nun’s mission work. The Ursulines immediately identified with the contemplative aspect of spinning and its potential as an avenue for prayer. Eager to continue the enjoyment “newbies” were experiencing, Debbie was asked to help the sisters host quarterly spinning gatherings at the monastery beginning in November. Located in a century-old facility off a state highway, the second all-day gathering will take place in February with fiber enthusiasts from three states invited to attend.

If you would like to create an escape and connect with other spinners, click here for a list by state or country of groups meeting near you. For those reading this column for the first time, the content of what is posted comes from the newsletters of spinning groups sent in from around the world. As the year begins anew, I want to thank the many editors who serve in this capacity for your guild, and ask you to include [email protected] on your mailing list. Read on to learn what other groups are doing and stay connected in 2008.


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