The Life-Changing Magic of Learning to Spin Yarn

For many of us, learning to spin yarn can be a life-changing event! In the Fall 2017 issue of Spin Off, Kathy Augustine took a brief and very unscientific survey of some of Spin Off’s contributors. Here’s what they had to say about joining the handspinning fold, and how once they got started, they just couldn’t stop!

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Roving Reporter Kate Larson at age 14 or 15 preparing Della, a Columbia ewe, for 4-H show day. Photo courtesy of Kate Larson

A respected author, teacher, and spinner for more than 50 years, Maggie Casey reflects: “I took a drop spindle class on a whim; I have no idea why. It was not a successful class, the spindle was heavy, the fiber was not good fiber for beginners, and my yarn was a spaghetti mess. Since that was such a disaster, I went out and bought a wheel. Go figure. I taught myself at first mostly from books, but there weren’t as many available at that time and [it was] way before the Internet. Later on, I joined the Handweavers Guild of Boulder, and a whole new world opened up . . . I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t taken that spindle class; I had no idea it would change my life in such a wonderful way.”

Amy Tyler describes how spinning has changed her life: “Becoming a spinner has certainly improved my quality of life. Not only is the act of spinning satisfying and useful, but the people in the fiber arts world are universally kind, generous, and a pleasure to be around.” Sara Lamb agrees, saying, “Spinning, and the people who spin, have brought me great joy, wonderful friendships, a craft that continually satisfies, edifies, and keeps me entertained after all these years.” Kate Larson sums up her experience saying, “Wool is the glue in my life in many ways.”

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Maggie Casey was already an accomplished spinner and teacher when this photo was taken at the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat in 1988. Photo courtesy of Spin Off

In today’s high-tech fast-paced world, those who spin their own yarn may seem to the non-fiber-lover as old-fashioned or just a bit off kilter. But this ancient craft beckons to us, and we are firm in our convictions. We tend to flock together, gathering in groups and guilds. We mark the sheep and wool festivals on our calendars and reserve hotel rooms months or even years in advance. We have come to the craft at many different stages in our lives, spinning for many different reasons, each with a different story to tell. But we remain united in our passion and our legacy.

—Kathy

Enticed by the notion that she would have “plenty of time,” Kathy Augustine purchased her first spinning wheel 25 years ago shortly before going on maternity leave. It was only about 15 years ago that her wheel began to receive the attention it deserved.

How did you become a handspinner? Share with us in the comments below!

Featured Image: Spin Off editor Anne Merrow had been spinning for less than a year when this photo was taken in 2006. Photo courtesy of Spin Off


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6 Comments

  1. Anonymous at 6:12 am July 11, 2018

    When I was a young, newly married woman, pregnant with my first baby, we moved to Evansville, Indiana. I had studied weaving I college and fell in love with that craft along with handspun yarn. I found out that Marilyn Kluger lived nearby & signed up for a spinning class. I really admired Marilyn & wanted to be like her! She was my hero! I got my first Ashford wheel 42 years ago and have been happily spinning & demonstrating ever since!

  2. Anonymous at 6:34 am July 11, 2018

    I worked at a state museum where we taught a “carding and spinning” 1/2 hour program. We did finger spinning after picking and carding the wool. A co-worker was a spinner and offered to teach me how to spin. Her wheel was not for me! I couldn’t treadle and draft and got very frustrated. I found another wheel (borrowed) and was able to spin some large, lumpy yarn and another “spinster” was born. I have made new friends, expanded my horizons into weaving, needle felting, lucet braiding, etc. It feels so right to sit down at my wheel and get lost in the feel of fiber sliding through my fingers. Bliss. I try to convey that to every person who watches me when I spin in public. I love to inspire new spinsters!

  3. Anonymous at 7:42 am July 11, 2018

    My friend really wanted to learn to spin but couldn’t afford a wheel. We were at a fiber festival when she told me she’d heard about using something called a drop spindle that would be much more in her budget. Sure enough there were vendors selling these magical yarn spinning tools. Whether it was her excitement rubbing off on me or just the fact that making yarn is stinking cool, I don’t know, but I was carrying birthday money with me. Birthday money is meant to be a little wild, a little out of the ordinary, so I decided to get a drop spindle too. After all it was something new to do, had the potential to create yarn which I love, and that spindle with the violet flowers trapped in a resin whorl was so darn pretty! Little did I know… Now I have several drop spindles and more recently a Joy 2 wheel, my fiber stash is beginning to approach the level of my yarn stash, except when I’m on a spinning binge, and I take more spinning classes at that same festival than I do crochet or knit!

  4. Anonymous at 8:45 am July 11, 2018

    It was the Late ’80s and a dear friend I met through showing and raising dairy goats kept saying you need to learn to spin. With two teenagers and a show/production herd of Nubians my stock answer was “in my next life.”

    Little did I know my next life was right around the corner. Another goat friend and I took lessons from a gal who raised Jacobs in the foothills of Fresno county. And I began by spinning mooring for boats.

    Now years later I can spin a respectable single and learned volumes about our craft from joining the original “Sheep Thrills” online Yahoo! Group.

    Spinning is my happy place , my cheap therapy and gives me many an opportunity to say “do you spin? No? I can enable you.”

  5. Anonymous at 6:00 am July 12, 2018

    I was raising sheep for milk but also fiber because I wanted to learn how to spin but hadn’t found anyone to teach me in my area. We were on our way home from vacation in the late 90’s and stopped in at a festival in Brown County State Park in Indiana. I walked into the first cabin and a lady in 1830’s garb was there spinning on what I found out was an Ashford traditional wheel. I told her I always wanted to learn how to spin. She told me to sit down and explained what to do and I was spinning. I sewed on a treadle sewing machine for years so I had the working of the treadle down already. From there I found someone selling hand carders and from there I found someone selling a used Ashford Traditional wheel. I went home and practiced. Now I have several wheels, raise Alpaca’s and teach spinning and do 1830’s re-enacting with one of my antique wheels. So rewarding.

  6. Charlie R at 12:10 pm July 13, 2018

    My wife saw an article in the local newspaper in Eugene, OR about a man that built spinning wheels. She called him and was told he had a 1 year waiting list. She said “sign me up”. She wanted to take spinning lessons. About 6 months later the builder called that he had 2 spinning wheels for her to look at, she could buy 1 or both. Still not having her lessons we went to see them.

    She was shy about trying them out and said I should try it. I did and was surprised and intrigued, We returned home with one of the wheels. I took the wheel to my study and taught myself to spin. More than 30 years later we are both avid spinners.

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