Fiber Fondlers (not) Anonymous

Everyone has their own path through the textile arts. For example, I am a filthy fiber fondler.

My handspun yarn  
Perfect inspiration: my own yarn handspun
from roving dyed by friend Klaus Kronenberg.
Blue scarf being woven on a rigid heddle loom  

Perfect vacation fun: weaving a handspun

scarf on my sweet little rigid heddle loom.


It's true. I would belong to Fiber Fondlers Anonymous if I could be quiet long enough to remain anonymous. So I was a spinner before I was a weaver, lured by the chance to fondle and twist anything fuzzy, fluffy, soft, silky,  or shiny. I waited eagerly for every issue of Spin-Off, and learned not only about spinning, but about weaving, dyeing, and other aspects of textile art. Years later I took a weaving class from Madelyn, and while I knew from the first throw and beat that I would be a weaver forevermore, I am a different weaver than I would be had I never spun. I love looking at a yarn and understanding it from the fibers out. I love to be inspired by my own handspun, often woven together with beautiful commercial yarns (because who would sully handspun with yarns that weren't beautiful). I cherish the ability to create pieces that are mine from fleece to fabric, designing the color, texture, weight, and drape to suit my exact needs.

For me, spinning led to weaving. For some of us, weaving is a path to spinning. A member of our handweaving guild taught spinning classes several years ago as part of a study grant, and a close-knit and enthusIastic group of spinning weavers has grown from her efforts. Which points to another aspect of the spinning/weaving synergy: while weaving is often a solitary pastime, weavers tend to enjoy the company of other weavers, and spinning is a sociable endeavor.  Many a great conversation springs up round the spinning circle at our guild retreats.

I asked some of the other spinning weavers in our guild how they think spinning affects their weaving, and everyone had a different tale to tell. Betty Davenport, rigid heddle weaver extraordinaire, says "When I do spin it is to achieve a yarn that isn't available commercially.  In recent years, I spun some multicolored silk fiber quite finely to weave a scarf with overtwist wool weft for collapse.  I also enjoy spinning colored cotton very fine with a tahkli spindle.  I enjoy the display of all the different shades of colored cotton. Maybe some day I will use the little skeins to weave something."

My thoughtful friend Eva Douthit sent a great quote from Jack Lenor Larsen:  "A power loom is simply a hand loom with a motor attached to it. If you feed it the same material, the result will be exactly the same." And he concludes that "the great loss of the industrial revolution was not hand-weaving, but hand-spinning." Eva said, "I had taken my spinning wheel along for the trip to Vancouver Island, where I found this book, and as I was spinning on the rooftop of the hotel in Vancouver BC, looking out over the city, I gave plenty of thought to the concept that handspun yarn is dramatically different from machine-spun yarns, not only in terms of uneven touches of the human hand, but also in terms of preparation of the fiber. However, I did disagree with his premise about the power looms, because looms cannot manipulate the weft the same way the human hand can. It all made me think seriously about what kind of yarns to spin and how to weave them."

And exquisite weaver Mary Cooper also learned to make perfect, even yarn within a few hours at our last retreat. (I'm thinking this is a case of karma, and that she was a master spinner in a former life.) Mary says that although she hasn't yet woven with her handspun, "I am spinning every day and am quite obsessed – but there are worse things to be obsessed about!"

Are you a spinning weaver? If so, how do you use your handspun, and how do you think spinning informs your approach to weaving? Or did you spin long ago, and give it up to devote yourself to weaving? Either way, would you take a break from your solitary loom and click on over to Weaving Today to share your stories and thoughts? (And check out this article on spinning for weaving, from the latest issue of Handwoven.) We love to hear you spin yarns of your weaving lives.


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