I Am a Spinner: Pat Maley, Handspinning Teacher and Ham Radio Operator

“CQ CQ (which means “seek you”)—are there any other ham/spinners out there?” In the Summer 2018 issue of Spin Off, we featured handspinning teacher and ham radio operator Pat Maley in the “I Am a Spinner” department. Pat told us about how her two seemingly different hobbies sometimes converge.

How did you become a spinner? Do you have other fiber hobbies?

I became a spinner when I was teaching in the Textiles Department at Edgecliff College in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 1960s. I was able to take art classes, one of which was weaving. There were never enough looms, so we also did “off-loom” projects as part of the course. One that I chose was learning to spin. It was during this time that I learned of the Weavers Guild of Greater Cincinnati and joined. At the guild, there were study groups: spinning, lacemaking, rug hooking, backstrap and tablet weaving, kumihimo and ply splitting, and dyeing and surface design. I tried them all. I decided in the 1990s to work on the Handweavers Guild of America’s Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning and passed both levels. I began teaching spinning at our guild, at conferences, and at fiber fairs. I also did a lot of demonstrating at pioneer and colonial festivals. Spinning had become my passion.

handspinning teacher

Mixing several of her interests, here is Pat Maley at a pioneer festival, putting up an antenna for a propagation test run by the Red Cross.

How did you become a ham radio operator?

“Ham” is the term for a Federal Communications Commission (FCC)–licensed amateur radio operator. My ham name is KD8PAT; it’s my call sign. I have volunteered with the Red Cross as a disaster shelter manager for over 30 years. When we had a 100-year flood in 1997, I opened a shelter but had no ham operator. I had no communications with Red Cross. I decided that at the first opportunity I would become a ham. It was something I had wanted to do when I was in Girl Scouts and first heard of hams. I signed up for a license class, and within a year, I had upgraded to Extra, the highest level. I now volunteer not only with the Red Cross but also with our county emergency management agency in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

Do your ham radio activities and your fiber/ spinning hobbies ever overlap?

Oh, yes! I carry a spindle with me everywhere. I spin at meetings, including those for the radio clubs. It’s fun to watch the guys watch me and try to figure out what I am doing. We string a lot of cable in radio work, and my knowledge of twist has been used many times to keep kinks from forming when uncoiling heavy wire from big spools and stringing it through buildings. One of the weavers in my guild wove towels with Morse code messages woven into the cloth, as they did in WWI. Of course, I had to take one to the radio club. The code hams were fascinated trying to decode the towels. Then they wanted me to weave towels with their call signs. I just wish there was more time in the day for both hobbies. Each fiber has a unique potential that must be discovered to coax out the yarn within.

Do you know someone whom we should feature in “I Am a Spinner”?
We’re especially interested in spinners with unusual careers, locations, and perspectives. Drop us a line at spinoff@interweave.com. If we use your suggestion, we’ll send you a treat from our stash of fiber goodies! Because of the volume of submissions we receive for this feature, we will only notify you if your nomination is selected.

—Elizabeth Prose

Featured Image: Pat Maley indulging in some spinning time. Photos by Matt Maley


Indulge in your favorite hobby!

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