Life, love, and spinning wheels


What were your thoughts and feelings when that first spinning wheel came into your life? Did you sit down for a trial spin on it at a fiber festival where it followed you home? Did its silhouette catch your eyes at a garage sale and become your one and only purchase of the day? Was it a brand-spanking-new model shipped to your door or a hand-me-down delivered from someone you knew? Over my lifetime, I have acquired or retired wheels in all those situations. But finding my first wheel seems like a fairy tale now, almost forty years ago. I was learning to spin on a Norwegian flax wheel when the decision to purchase my own was made. Anna, my teacher and an immigrant from Sweden, had offered a six-session course on wheel spinning during winter evenings at the old YMCA building in a deserted downtown area of Michigan City. I was her only student, and like every beginner, the clumsy yarn I was producing was more like tightly spun pencil roving than a usable thread.

Without years of piano lessons, my hands might never have learned to carry on their job while my foot struggled with the rhythm of the treadle. Slowly the wool I learned to card became yarn that could be knitted into a stocking cap (though lumpy and bumpy!). Anna was delighted to accompany me with my boyfriend Phil on the four-hour drive to Detroit, the nearest place to buy a wheel (or loom) back in those days (how blessed we are with shops so close to us today). Anna chose the flax wheel from Norway similar to her own and after a test-spin made me sit down to try it, and then gave her approval to buy it. The wheel fit into the back seat of our car leaving just enough room for her.

On the ride back to Indiana, Anna told us how spinning wheels were made in her country when she was a little girl. When a young woman became engaged, a local woodworker was commissioned to design and custom-build the spinning wheel to become part of her trousseau. The number of spindles and kinds of turnings had special significance, marking events in her life, both past and future. Retelling her story to my parents that evening became Phil's introduction to announce our decision to be married. I placed the spinning wheel within reach of my hand as I slept that night. In addition to the miles of yarn that I spun on this wheel, it was on this wheel that Phil learned to spin during a blizzard in our first year of marriage, and when we traveled to fiber festivals, this wheel was strapped between our children's car seats.

What memories do you have of the spinning wheels in your life ? Consider this an invitation to share them with us through this website! For those of you reading these postings for the first time, please know that the content comes from spinning guilds that send in their news to Spin-Off magazine via snail mail or email. Read on and regularly check in to find out what other groups are doing. If you are looking for a group of like-minded spinners to join, check the Spinning Groups and Gatherings listed at . You can register or update your guild's entry in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

 In September, I handed over the writing and recording of your activities to friend and fellow spinner Kate Larson. Over the past year, Kate has been helping readers connect with the news as it is posted and has been checking your websites to keep me connected to you. Thanks to all of you from around the world who enrich the entire spinning community through this means of connecting.

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