Handspun Immersion

Spinning with Rita Buchanan

Imagine this: you sit down for dinner at a table set with your handspun, handwoven table runner and napkins. You clean up the kitchen wearing your handspun, handwoven apron, and dry dishes with your—you guessed it—HS, HW dishtowels. You lay yourself to rest on your HS, HW pillowcases, under your HS, HW blanket. You rise in the morning, take a refreshing shower, and dry off with your HS, HW cotton terry-cloth towels, doublefaced, no less.  You dress for the day in your HS and HW or HK (that would be handknit) skirt, blouse, jacket.  If it's cold outside, of course you put on your HS, HW, HK cap, scarf, and gloves.

Rita Buchanan, star of the new
How I Spin

A discussion of different fibers types from
How I Spin.

This may sound like a fantasy, but for Rita Buchanan, it's just life. This woman loves to spin. Really loves it. Rita bubbles over with the joy of spinning, and of using her handspun yarn for weaving, knitting, hooking, and on and on. So she does it almost all the time. Her love is contagious—after a couple of days in her home and studio, I could almost imagine myself being as thoughtful, creative, and above all, productive, as she is.

I spent this magical time with her during the filming of her new DVD, How I Spin. I learned a lot—fiber preparation (including a dye technique that is easier than baking a cake from a mix),  flicking, carding, combing, blending, drafting, plying, finishing. But what really sticks in my mind is how her general approach is just so efficient. Else how could she get so much done? Part of her secret to efficiency is that she keeps careful track of everything, and the other part is that she spins in a very intuitive way. Rita doesn't count twists per inch, but she's careful to develop a rhythm and stick to it. She doesn't split hairs over whether she's spinning woolen or worsted style, but she finds a set of hand motions that achieve the yarn she wants in a comfortable way, and then just keeps doing it and doing it until she has as much yarn as she needs. She samples incessantly, and there is clearly joy and creativity in that exercise.

If this sounds a little dry, do not be fooled. When you least expect it, up will pop Rita's faithful sidekick, Polly Ester the Spinning Pig. (P.E. for short, since she is a capitalist pig.) Lester the Sheep was on set, but didn't make the cut. (He's darn cute, but he can't spin.)

If you watch the 2 ½ hours of information-packed content in this DVD set, you'll learn a lot of technique, but even more important, you'll see a way of thinking about and practicing your craft that is both refreshing and inspiring. Thanks, Rita.


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