Q&A with Spinning Instructor Abby Franquemont

  Abby Franquemont

Many of us in the fiber community already appreciate Abby Franquemont’s skill with spindle, wheel, and other tools. In fact, she's teaching an upcoming webinar on preparing fiber. What we may not know: she’s also highly talented at one-liners. Read on for a behind-the-scenes interview–it’s more fun to let Abby speak for herself. –Deb

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the product of a nature vs. nurture experiment intended to learn what it takes to create a human textile mill.

Where are you from originally, and where do you currently live?

I was raised by anthropologists (who were better-educated than wolves), and raised at least partly in a barn (which explains a lot). I live in Lebanon, Ohio, with my husband, our son, and enough textile stuff to smother several elephants.

  Photo by Abby Franquemont

What do you do besides spinning? (What’s your day job?)

My day job IS spinning! I’m a full-time textile educator, specializing in teaching spinning in hands-on environments.

How and when did you start spinning?

My first memory is actually of crawling inside the enormous 1700s barn loom my father was weaving on at the time, and watching the sunlight filter down through the warp as sheds opened and closed.  But I didn’t become a spinner until we moved to Peru for my parents to do their textile research. In the weaving town where we settled, all the kids could already spin, and I was behind the curve as a 5-year-old. The whole town pretty much took me in hand to make sure I was up to speed with all the other kids.

Do you prefer to work from patterns, or draft your own?

It’s possible I’ve never completed a pattern without making modifications! I love the idea of working from a pre-existing pattern, but yet, even if I start with one, I seem to end up changing something about it, whether it’s a knitting pattern, crochet pattern, sewing pattern, or heck, probably even a recipe for cooking.

How would you describe your personal style?

In my rich fantasy life, I rule the world with a perfectly manicured iron fist wrapped in a delicate glove made from handspun qiviut and silk. I look like Lauren Bacall (and stole her wardrobe of great 1940s suits) and issue proclamations from balconies like some 20th century dictator, my hair flowing all around in intricate patterns like an Ertė print, and those proclamations are about how making things with your hands is a basic human right.
Sadly, in real life, I can mostly be found in jeans and t-shirts, my hair up in a tight bun to keep it out of the way while I’m doing stuff, and my cuticles are always ragged from doing things like washing yarn, tending dyepots, and the like.

  Photo by Abby Franquemont

What other creative pursuits do you enjoy?

I’ll try anything twice. Seriously, because the first time could just be a fluke. You have to try it at least twice. Every year, I make sure I try my hand at least one totally new thing, and one thing I don’t think I’ll enjoy. There’s pretty much no textile process I don’t enjoy to some degree, but non-textile pursuits I’ve enjoyed a lot lately include brewing beer and TIG welding. I also collect, restore, and play pinball machines, and enjoy sitting on the front porch playing guitar.

Tell us about your  studio… what kind of space inspires you?

In my dreams, I have a small, perfectly organized studio where everything is always in its place. In reality, though, I have an office and a studio, and both have a variety of workstations for different activities, usually set up and ready to go at the drop of a hat. This summer, though, I’m redesigning it all — centered around function.

What’s your spinning secret weapon?

It’s a sneaky, stealthy technique: sampling. Sampling makes it possible to figure out all kinds of things before you’ve made a huge commitment to a project.

How do you stay motivated on long projects?
It depends on the project to a degree, but the big thing: set small goals, and reward myself for reaching them. For instance, “Once I’ve got this bobbin full of yarn, I’m taking a break and having a fancy chocolate,” or “When I’m done with spinning all the singles, I’m taking the family out for ice cream.” Taking breaks is also important. Pushing too hard doesn’t actually mean things happen faster; that’s when mistakes and frustration tend to happen, and that’s something I’ve learned from long, sad experience.  It’s harder to come back and get on track again after something going wrong; pushing into the fatigue zone pretty much never works out well.

What has been your favorite project recently?
Collaborations! Lately I’m all about these, and there have been several — where a friend dyed the fiber, I spun the yarn, and then another friend knit the project. It’s fun to do, emotionally satisfying, and pushes my boundaries. I love any project that does that.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve made for a client?
I’ve made lots of *things* I liked, but there’s something even more satisfying about helping a client become a spinner who can make his or her own yarn.
What would your dream studio look like?
I’m thinking about that a lot with a pending studio renovation coming up for me this summer! But I can’t tell you everything yet, because there are still decisions being made. I will say this: I want it to be all about the function. And have an awesome sound system.

How has blogging and owning a business influenced your process?
Probably the biggest thing is that I have gotten really bad at just doing personal projects. I start them, but before I finish, I’ve turned it into something I can use for my fiber education work, or a sample I’ll show in classes, or that showcases the fibers I make.
What’s your current working soundtrack?

I’m fortunate to live near an incredible radio station (WNKU) that plays an incredibly broad range of music and has a real commitment to live music. It’s even better than my absurdly large music collection on shuffle, because I discover new things I didn’t know about.

>> Click here to register for Abby's webinar! <<

imageplaceholder Deborah Gerish
Group Content Manager


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