Spin it forward
Alpaca shearing day on the the working farm on the Compass Montessori campus.
I've mentioned before how, when I have the chance, I volunteer at Compass Montessori (a pre-K through twelfth grade Public Charter School in Golden, Colorado). The school has a vibrant fiber arts program (called the Farm Studio because it is linked to the working farm on the campus and part of the work is caring for the resident alpacas). It is part of the junior high and the children have the unique opportunity to learn all the things that one expects to learn (and more!) in school through hands-on activities such as spinning, weaving, dyeing, felting, knitting, sewing, etc. (They also have a bicycling occupation where they repair and ride bikes, but that's another story.) Doesn't this sound like the kind of school you would have loved to attend as a child?
Not only do they have the opportunity to learn math, science, humanities, literature, geography, politics through hands-on applications, they also do a lot of field trips. At the end of the last semester, the Farm Studio went on a two-day trip to Boulder, Colorado, where they visited (among other things) Cathy Bickell's sheep ranch and studio, the fiber shop Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins, and Schacht Spindle Company where loom and wheels are manufactured. Earlier this year, they visited Jefferson Farm Alpacas and Paco Vicuñas in Lakewood, Colorado, and had a chance to share stories about their alpacas and spinning and weaving experiences with owner Jane Levene.
Learning how to spin on a CD spindle.
In Montessori education teachers are called guides—so when a child has a great idea, they are given support to implement it. Before the school closed for the winter break, one of the farm school students suggested that they put up a giving tree in the commons and invite the students, parents, and teachers to contribute hats, coats, scarves, and other necessities for staying warm to donate to a local shelter. Many of the students used their fiber art skills to make hats, scarves, and mittens to hang on the giving tree until it was time to take the donations to the shelter. It was a beautiful and profound sight to walk into the building and see the fruits of their labors on that tree—the handknitted, woven, and handspun hats and scarves that swung from the branches brought tears to my eyes.
It seems like the world needs more of this—more people with a spindle and some fiber in their hands. When we participated in Spinzilla in October, our entry fees went toward funding educational programs through the Needle Arts Mentoring Program—and providing CD spindles, fiber, and instructions for learning to spin. It's pretty natural for spinners to want to share our craft—how many of you started spinning because someone generously shared their tools, fiber, time, and skill to teach you? How many times have you sat down with someone who expressed a desire to learn and helped guide their hands so that they could feel the thrill of making their own yarn?