Joy to the Whorl - Beginning Spinner

Joy to the Whorl - Beginning Spinner

By Pam Mondry

The opportunity to work at Schacht Spindle Company presented itself to me this summer, and two weeks before starting, Jane Patrick called asking if I wanted to be on the company’s Spinzilla team.

I love trying new things but spinning is something I believed I would never do. My thinking was: I like weaving and knitting, and making a “final” product ... There is so much wonderful yarn available out there, why spin? ... People who love fiber to a deeper degree than I are spinners, but not me ... It would take forever to spin enough yarn to make anything usable Bah. Humbug!

But what do you do when the Director of Sales, your soon-to-be boss, calls to ask if you want to be on a company team? You say yes, of course. It would be an opportunity to learn something new, be part of a fun company event, and get to know people. Why not? I was glad to participate but icy about my expectations of how much I would enjoy spinning and the success of the = final product.

My first encounter with spinning took place a few weeks before Spinzilla during lunch break. The spinning wheel I used was a Schacht Matchless configured in double drive using a slow whorl and a regular bobbin. Huh? What? Being such a newbie, nothing was familiar. Among other things, what is a slow whorl and why would I want to use one? My rock-solid belief in spinning’s value to me was certain to be confirmed.

Denise, Schacht's customer service specialist, gave me a quick overview on how to set up the wheel then quickly moved on to how to work with the fiber and spin. Her instruction lasted only about 10 minutes and then she handed me the fiber. “That’s it?” I thought, but gave it a try anyway. And after only a few minutes of instruction I was spinning! Not well, and not without difficulties, but spinning nonetheless. My first few yards were fat, lumpy and inconsistent but, with some guidance and a few adjustments, it did not take long to start getting the hang of it. My hand-spun was far from high quality but I was spinning usable yarn on the very first day! Hmmm. Learning to spin appeared to be easier than I had anticipated. My hard stance on spinning began to soften.

Fast forward to Spinzilla. . . As Spinzilla started, outside forces were throwing significant life stressors my way. How was I going to be able to participate in Spinzilla when I had so much to deal with? My not-so-brilliant plan was to grin and bear it. I began to spin, thinking it would be something I’d just have to endure. To my surprise, after spinning for just a few minutes I realized that I felt less stressed. In fact, I felt much less stressed. How unexpected. How fantastic! Focusing on the spinning rhythm, cadence and fiber flow was like a meditation. Clearly, there was more to spinning than I had anticipated. I was truly having fun. My icy view of spinning was melting away.

By the end of Spinzilla my enthusiasm was growing and I had 4 bobbins, each half-full of singles yarn in front of me so I decided to learn how to ply. I practiced on my earliest singles and then went to work plying my favorite bobbins together. Again, I was struck by how quickly I was able to learn how to ply and how satisfying it was to see my singles become usable yarn.

The rhythm and focus, though different than spinning singles, had its effect on me too.My hand-spun yarn had become something to be proud of, not merely an item to be discarded after the team event was done. I ended up making a small table runner with my yarn and, to be honest, I feel a lot of pride whenever I look at it. It symbolizes a point-of-view shift as well as a physical accomplishment.

I walk away from this experience with an expanded view of fiber art. I can see the worth of spinning that goes far beyond making my own yarn or having pride in making something from the fiber up. When I add it all up, what seems most significant is that spinning had an unforeseen effect on me. It brought me peace, pride and joy. I think I’ll try a few more new things soon!

Above, Pam spins at the Denver Art Museum; her handspun from Spinzilla.

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