Every Skein Has A Story

My in-law’s arrived early last Thursday and after a busy and very fun weekend of visiting and gallivanting, we saw them off yesterday morning. Like the true impatient person that I am when it comes to to-do lists, I immediately started the process of tidying up — got the laundry going, the kitchen organized, the floors swept, and sheets changed. You know how it goes. Between this and school with the kids, the morning flew by and before I knew it our mail carrier had parked his truck at the end of our driveway.

I’ve come to learn that when he stops the truck short of the mailbox, it means that he has more to deliver than will fit in the box. I was expecting one package, but not an overload the box situation. I hesitated. The irrational fear that one of those carts of dream yarn had accidentally been purchased tightened my chest. It’s never actually happened. I’m very careful about that sort of thing, but I still stress about it when I’m unaware why the mail truck is sitting at the end of my driveway.

In any case, I went out and collected my mail. I found a couple of bills. There was a skein of yarn I was expecting. The third issue of Laine Magazine which I’d pre-ordered from Wool & Honey was in the mix, too.

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And then there was a simple manila envelope from my friend Jennifer containing this…

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Before we open it, let’s take a few steps back.

Many moons ago I taught a knitting class where I discovered one of the students shared a lot of the same interests and values. Over the years, Jennifer and I have become good friends and, of course, as she was a knitter, I started giving her my handspun yarn to knit. Eventually she became interested in spinning and I attempted to show her how to use a spindle. She was the first person I ever tried to teach how to spin, so I’m 1000% sure that my instruction left a lot to be desired. In fact, I was so unconvinced of my teaching abilities with spinning that for a long time, I didn’t even realize that I’d been her teacher.  To my mind, she was teaching herself — I think she might as well have been because I was certainly not very coherent. Despite my often scatterbrained and not super logical teaching methods, she kept at it. Luckily, she is made of a lot of the same stuff I am. That love of yarn and fiber and creativity and perseverance runs deep.

Before long, this budding spinner mentioned that she was interested in getting a wheel and it just so happened that I had a friend interested in selling one. They were able to strike a deal and ever since she’s been spinning away and I’ve been joyfully sharing my favorite fibers, so happy to have a fellow spinning friend to share the journey. We shoot texts back and forth of our latest spins. We oooh and ahhhh and troubleshoot and talk about our latest dreamy fibers. We share ridiculous photos of our pets and families, too, but that’s a whole other can of worms. In short, she’s awesome and her spinning has been steadily improving as the days and weeks and months go by.

That plain manila folder that I received yesterday contained — as you may have guessed — a skein of my dear friend’s handspun.

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Isn’t it beautiful?!

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This is her very first attempt at a 3-ply fingering weight yarn and it is absolutely incredible. I am humbled and touched that it should land in my hands, that I will have the honor of knitting with it. I am very nearly without words.

It’s not just because it’s from Jennifer and she is undoubtedly awesome (which she is!), it’s because I’ve been there since her first spin. I’ve never been there, in-person, to witness a spinner evolve. I remember the first evening I tried to show her how to use a spindle. I remember the first time I let her test out my wheel. I remember going to her house to help her sort through her first plying efforts. I’ve seen her spins take shape and her confidence grow with each new project. It’s been so incredible to watch her branch out and take on more challenges. She gives me so much more credit than I deserve in the process — all I did was offer some poorly executed demonstrations, encourage her always to be fearless, to use the good fiber, and to just go for it with whatever skills she wants to learn. This beautiful yarn is totally of her own making. and yet somehow she felt I deserved to have this, her first 3-ply fingering weight yarn, land in my hands. I just… I don’t have the right words.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this yarn. I think it will sit on my desk for a bit while I marvel at it and try to wrap my mind around the whole experience that has led to its existence. Its beauty and the skill it took to create it, but also the whole journey. And that’s just the thing about handspun, isn’t it?! This is what sets handspun apart from commercially mill spun yarn. Every skein has a story, a history that goes so far beyond fiber meeting twist. Some skeins start long before we’re treadling at a wheel, long before the fiber with which it made is ever dyed. Some skeins start with two friends and a spindle, on a dark evening in a tiny kitchen.

18 responses to “Every Skein Has A Story

  1. What a wonderful story and such lovely yarn! I treasure your handspun in much the same way. Glad the family visit has gone well too – many hugs!

  2. Oh my goodness Sarah…that skein is just gorgeous… a true token of a beautiful friendship … I tend not to part with any of my handspun 🙂

  3. what a nice treat! I love when the mail brings something I don’t have to pay for, lol. (But otherwise, I would LOVE for my whole shopping basket full of yarn and fiber to get delivered someday!) And to have it be something so special and that means so much is pretty darned amazing.

    I think you underestimate your value as a teacher and mentor. I have seen you in action with a spindle and a green spinner. You are beyond good. You have such a gentle patient way about you, and you have such skill that people can’t help but learn from you.

    • I appreciate your kind words! I do believe that what you witnessed over the WI weekend was a much improved version of the instruction Jennifer received. I’m *much* better now than I was a couple years ago — partly because I’m better and more knowledgeable myself, but also because I’ve had a lot of help regarding & tips on how to teach spinning. I am so very lucky to have the help & direction!

      I will add that I love the mentoring from afar and I know that is something, too, but it’s another animal entirely to have a new spinner sitting next to you, depending on you. I’m looking forward to a day when I have a lot more confidence in that endeavor. I’ve come far, but I’ve taught things I’m confident in before and I’m not yet there with spinning. I will get there though!

  4. Sounds to me like you may be a better teacher than you think. 🙂 You are probably the teacher that she needed, especially if you and your student think alike and therefore communicate well with each other.

    • I think it’s always a steep learning curve in the beginning and this friend was the first student so I made plenty of missteps. The bright side is as friends, it made access to troubleshooting easy for both of us. 🙂

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