Going Back to School for Earth Day (Never Stop Learning)

High Meadows School is a small primary school north of Atlanta that promotes kindness to animals as a way of teaching general good stewardship to others. The school’s Earth Day 2016 celebration was intended to be a day about the children (and, of course, sustaining the earth). It turned out to be a joyous day of lessons for me as well.

My job was simply to spin at my spinning wheel, turning handfuls of the freshly shorn fleece of their beloved Gulf Coast Native sheep, Lulu, into yarn. I had been with the children for the shearing earlier in the week, and they remembered me.

Youngest to oldest, they eagerly approached me at my wheel as I spun the thick, grabby, almost cloudlike puffs of fleece that I’d washed.
“IS THAT LULU?!?!” was without doubt the most frequently asked question of the morning. In fact, 9 out of 10 children that day asked that very question. “How does that [spinning wheel] work?” was the second most popular, usually asked by the older kids, as well as all the fathers. (Truthfully, those were the only questions I heard, but often.)

My answers, in order: “It is!” and “Uh, it’s all about the twist made when I treadle.” Other than that, I would point out the parts of my wheel, particularly my flyer and bobbin. Everyone seemed satisfied with that second answer, except I knew that I’d felt nervous inside, as if maybe I needed a refresher myself.

T came home from Earth Day with a vintage wheel to rehab and reuse. Photo by Deborah Held

T came home from Earth Day with a vintage wheel to rehab and reuse. Photo by Deborah Held

I left High Meadows that day feeling exhilarated about having shared my lifestyle with others who were genuinely interested, a rescued vintage-looking spinning wheel in need of some TLC (to be returned to the school), a whole lot of Gulf Coast fleece of my very own, and a request from the school to do some after-school teaching (of adults and children). I never expected so much to come from such a simple Earth Day spinning gig, but I learned long ago that spinning can be wondrous that way.

I also came home and watching a lot of beginning spinning videos over the next weeks, which helped me feel much more comfortable discussing with others how my wheel, and hopefully all spinning wheels, get a spinner from the point of treadling to a handspun yarn.

A few weeks later, I had my first afternoon teaching a crash course in wheel spinning for two teachers who fell in love with the process of handspinning that Earth Day.

To learn how sheep and cotton can come together for environmentally friendly fiber, read about Sally Fox and her Viriditas Farm.

—Debbie Held

Featured Image: Lulu, before and after her haircut. Photo by Deborah Held

All natural spinning for Earth Day!

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