The Path from Cloth to Fleece

We have had an active spinning group in the Portland Handweavers Guild for several years, since one of our members taught spinning classes as her education grant project. The spinning circle created new friendships and brought us some vibrant new members. At our 2011 guild retreat, many participants brought their spinning wheels, and my friend Mary Cooper, a talented weaver who does exquisite warp painting, was curious about the process. The spinners were happy to let her try their wheels, and with a little coaching and a few hours practice, Mary was spinning as if she had done it all her life. For the last year, every time I see Mary and ask her how things are going, she responds with a peaceful smile and says, "I spin every day." During a recent job transition, she spent her free time creating gorgeous handspun yarn to sell at our guild's annual sale. Mary is an artist in everything she does, and I can't wait to see where her artistry will lead her as she masters another step in the process from fiber to cloth. ––Anita

  Mary Spinning Away
  Mary tried everything from spinning wheels
to drop spinning on her first day. Rebecca
Martin stands by to coach and kibbitz.

It had never occurred to me to learn to weave until I walked into the Salt Lake Weavers Store in 1990 and saw a loom on display. I took my first class in my early thirties, ordered my first loom after one lesson, and was off with a bang!

Many weavers are also spinners, but when I contemplated learning to spin, I thought "It takes too long to spin enough yarn for 2,000-plus yards for a weaving project." And so the years passed––twenty of them. FINALLY I got the urge to learn to spin during the Portland Handweavers Guild retreat in April 2011, where many friends were willing to teach me to spin, especially our editor, Anita. Talk about passion! I was incredibly hooked and have spun on a spindle or wheel almost every day for the past year.

Mary's Shawl  
One of Mary's first spinning projects: a 
Merino/Tencel blend handspun and then
woven into a shawl. 

To me, spinning is soothing, creative, and joyous. I don't regret that it took me so long to open myself to this art. In the first fifty-four years of my life, I was becoming familiar with fiber by knitting, crocheting, doing needlepoint, tatting, dyeing, and weaving with commercial yarn. Now I am creating it!

In a way I am working my way backwards through the fiber-making process and now want to go to the beginning––the fleece. (My friends tease me that I really need to grow my own flax, cotton, and bamboo, and raise sheep, goats, and silkworms, but I don’t have the space for all that).

In June, at the Black Sheep Gathering in Oregon, I am taking a class that will take us from fleece preparation to carding to spinning the fiber. Will my next obsession be making my own designer batts? 


––Mary Cooper

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