Retired police captain takes up spinning

We asked Toni Tidwell from Griffin, Georgia, to tell us about how she got started spinning and how she managed to complete a handspun version of Ginny's Cardigan from The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits within nine days of purchasing the magazine. If you are interested in knitting your own version of the cardigan, the designer, Mari Chiba, is running a Ravelry KAL. Post photos of your handspun Unofficial Harry Potter Knits projects in our Spinning Daily gallery. 

Spinning and knitting Ginny's Cardigan in just over two weeks


Mari Chiba's Ginny's Cardigan is featured on the cover of The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits.

Toni: Spinning came into my life when I retired as a Captain from the Clayton County Police Department after thirty-two years. I was an alpha-natured person, I lead; I do not follow. Retirement was a challenge as I was an adrenaline junky. Over the years I had dabbled in many crafts: knitting bandages in the Girl Scouts, sewing clothes, stained glass windows, crewel, counted cross stitch, and weaving. I always viewed spinning as very intriguing, but I had trouble finding a spinning teacher. Luckily, I found out that Melissa Chasteen, my very good friend and large animal veterinarian, was a spinner and three years ago she graciously agreed to teach me how to spin. Not only did she open this new world to me, but along with Linda Appleby, we started the Flint Fiberistas spinning guild of Griffin, Georgia. I'm sad to report that I failed "Spindle 101." With bad knees, I could not stand and walk around like Melissa did with a spindle and I'm not very coordinated. I broke down and ordered a Kromski Minstrel for my first wheel. I felt that a double treadle would be good exercise for both my legs and would help prevent blood clots (which I have experienced in the past). Melissa also introduced me to Spin-Off and now I'm addicted. While I love spinning, I have to admit that those first three weeks of spinning wheel ownership were frustrating and I was so tempted to chop my new wheel up for kindling. But, finally, it clicked and I have not looked back since.

I am now the proud owner of four spinning wheels: a Kromski Minstrel, Kromski Mazurka, Majacraft Suzie Alpaca, and a great wheel. The wheels and I travel to schools, craft fairs, garden centers, pioneer days, libraries, and bookstores to give demonstrations. I have even taken my wheel to the car repair shop for an oil change. I found Ravelry and then the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival (SAFF). It was at SAFF in 2012 I found some stunning Merino/bamboo fiber from Ozark Carding Mill of Oklahoma. It spun up like a dream and I made a cardigan for me. It took me eleven days from spinning to wearing the cardigan.


After completing the spinning of almost a pound of a lovely Merino/bamboo top from the Ozarks Carding Mill in a week, before having knee surgery, Toni knitted up Ginny's OWL cardigan in nine days while she was recovering.

I loved the fiber so much that I contacted Gail White at Ozark for more fiber. I wanted more for another sweater, but the fiber combination I wanted was only available in a turquoise/purple colorway, which was a bit brighter than what I was imagining. I decided I would spin it up and make something for my granddaughter as they were her colors.

For three years I have participated in the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry and last year I spun up three and a half miles of 2-ply yarn. This year, I was not as ambitious with my goal as I was due to have a total knee replacement right in the middle of the Tour. When I had the first knee replaced last year after the Tour, I began to spin right after I got home as part of my therapy to keep those ankles pumping to prevent blood clots. My doctor and therapist were impressed. This year's Tour de Fleece gave me a week of spinning over ten ounces of fiber from Ozark and a worsted spinning technique (inchworm). I had over a thousand yards of a DK or light worsted weight yarn, finished in hot water and vinegar and I wanted to make a sweater, but had no pattern that inspired me. I went into surgery. Four days after surgery, I was back to spinning after I found four more ounces of the wonderful fiber that had been hiding from me. And then, the Interweave special issue, The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits came out. The sweater on the cover, Ginny's Cardigan, immediately called for the yarn I had spun for the Tour de Fleece. Nine days later, I had finished the cardigan with 400 yards left over, and no, it is not going to my granddaughter, it is MINE! I've already started spinning for Tonks's Togs.

—Toni Tidwell

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