Late last week, Debbie Held — intrepid writer of many fiber-y escapades — posted up in her IG feed that she was launching a recurring blog about her adventures and lessons with handspun yarns on Interweave’s website. Debbie has written loads of articles over the years about the fiber arts and is actually the reason I started subscribing to Spin-Off again after a lengthy lapse. She’s creative and thorough and — as we’re acquainted via the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group — she’s graciously helped me find the answers to a number of questions that have arose over the past couple of years with regards to my own spinning. In a word, she’s awesome.
Her first blog post was about her origins as a spinner (you can read it right here). I was really moved by her story. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of meeting other knitters and spinners is learning their own crafty origin stories. And I was inspired to share my own spinning origin story here. I don’t think that I have shared this before, not in one cohesive post at least, or if I have, it was a good long while ago. So how did “Knitting Sarah” morph into a spinner? Let me tell you that story today.
I learned to knit in the winter of 2003-2004. For the next 7 years, I was a die-hard knitter. As a die-hard knitter, I began meeting people who spin — in shops, at festivals, in the knitting classes I was teaching. So many people would ask, “Are you going to learn how to spin?” My answer was always the same. I’d shrug and say, “No. I’m really happy as just a knitter. I have no interest in learning to spin.”
It was in the summer of 2010, on the way back from a family vacation in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota that we stopped at a random roadside yarn shop in pretty much the middle of no where in northern Wisconsin. I’m exaggerating, of course, it was in Gordon, WI which has a population of 645. Now that I’m living much nearer the Northwoods, I can guarantee it does get more middle of no where than that.
In any case, the caravan of my little family & my parents needed a break, so we pulled off at this shop, named Kunert Kreations. Inside we browsed the loads of yarn and fabrics and as we wandered past a spinning wheel, either my mom or the woman minding the shop started talking about it. While I don’t remember who started the conversation, I do remember my mom being very enthusiastic at the idea of me learning to spin. In true Knitting Sarah fashion, I shrugged and said coolly, “I’m really happy as just a knitter. I have no interest in learning to spin.”
The wheels — the ones in my head — started to turn though.
That fateful summer, our son had just turned 5 and was starting kindergarten in the fall and our daughter was just creeping up on 3 years old. See look, she was teeny-tiny on that trip…
(please ignore the weird nacho face Mr KS made for her while out at lunch — these are the shenanigans that take place when I’m not around)
It was an expensive time and a busy time and with an almost-3-year-old it was really not the time to bring in a new hobby with a big initial investment that would undoubtedly captivate little hands and feet. My mom or Mr KS would occasionally mention it, but I wistfully think of it as something to consider “someday”, but definitely not in the present.
Fast forward to the WI Sheep & Wool Festival in September of that year. I attended with my mom and we shopped as you only can at the WI Sheep & Wool Festival for all the lovely yarns. And on a total whim, I picked up a “Learn to Spin Kit,” consisting of a rudimentary spindle, a bag of assorted bits of fiber, and a pamphlet on how to spin. I wasn’t quite ready to say it out loud, but I was actually interested in spinning after all. I was (sort of) secretly thrilled that I could just dip my toes into the spinning world without that big-time investment. I tried super hard to be nonchalant about it, but I’m pretty sure my enthusiasm was obvious. I don’t hide that kind of thing well.
It took me a while to get up the guts to try that spindle out. It felt B-I-G and I was intimidated. I secretly thought that spindle would change my life. Finally one evening when Mr KS was working late and the kids were both in bed, I greedily read through the pamphlet. It seemed simple enough — take spindle, put a leader on it, spin the spindle, take fiber, put twist in fiber, wind on spindle. Repeat. Easy, peasy.
Contrary to my expectations, unlike knitting I did not pick up spinning like a natural. That night the only thing that spindle did was drop, and not in a good way. That thing hit my kitchen floor so many times, it was a miracle on the level of loaves and fishes that it was still in one piece at the end. I laughed. A lot. Every time the spindle hit the floor, I laughed. The fact that the only thing I could do with the drop spindle — seriously — was drop it, was too funny to be tragic.
I realized quickly that I was not likely to make any yarn that first night. And I didn’t. At all. I think any normal human would have been discouraged and declare, “I was right. I’m happy as just a knitter. I have no interest in spinning.” In the 247 times I dropped that spindle to the ground, though, I somehow managed to grasp that spinning had a certain magic. And it was the kind of magic from which I was not going to easily walk away.
I hadn’t actually made yarn yet, but from that night forward I knew that someday I would like to get my hands on a spinning wheel and that someday I’d figure it all out. Mr KS and I started talking abstractly about the timing of such a thing. I was thinking maybe the Christmas of 2012, the winter after my daughter was set to start 4K. He seemed comfortable with that and instructed me to start researching so that when the time came I’d know where to start.
And then, after the WI Sheep & Wool Festival in September of 2011, my excitement bubbled over a bit. I talked with my mom about the plan for the next year. My dear parents offered to chip in with funds set aside for Christmas and birthday gifts (having a birthday at Christmas time does have perks!). With my parents’ generous help for the funding and my excess of enthusiasm, in true Mr Knitting Sarah style, early that October of 2011 (a full year ahead of schedule) we went shopping for a spinning wheel. I didn’t make a purchase that day, but I found my wheel of choice and within the month I brought it home.
And the rest, as they say, is history.