Back to the Spinning Wheel

spinningWhen I first arrived on this small island nine years ago, I was instantly aware of the thriving community of fibre artists- avid spinners, keen knitters, committed weavers, and exultant felters.  Already being the knitter that I was, I yearned to explore the fabulous world of yarn creation amidst fields of abundant sheep.  With my two year old in tow, I joined the weekly gathering of spinning ladies in the Community Hall lounge as they spun a variety of yarns and poured afternoon tea.  All of them were excited to have me stop in and try out my hand at their wheels, and soon I was bringing along my own wheel on loan from one of the ladies.  Not long after that I found a used Ashford wheel for myself.  I was eager to try processing local wool, and found that many sheep keepers do nothing with the fibre from their sheep as they are focusing on raising lamb.  At first I was happy about finding a use for this waste, but soon learned about qualities of fibre.

Alpaca fibre from Salt Spring Island

Alpaca fibre from Salt Spring Island

Most sheep breeds here do not have spinning quality wool- it is short and rough and difficult to get lined up well enough to spin yarn that could be comfortable.  Since I had already amassed a few garbage bags worth of this wool, I decided to send it to the Gulf Islands’ Spinning Mill Co-op on Salt Spring Island and have it processed into batts of wool.  I spent $175, and in return, I had enough natural wool batts to make a king size duvet, a queen size duvet, and a few pillows.  But I digress.

Aurelia's Merino colour blends spun in long colour changes

Aurelia’s Merino colour blends spun in long colour changes

Back to the spinning wheel!  Fast forward and the spinning wheel had been put into storage at my mothers house while we moved into a small trailer to build our house.  Fast forward again, and four years later we are moved in and the wheel is finally being dusted off and my bin of roving cracked open.  Since my first encounter with the local sheep’s wool, I learned to decipher the qualities needed for different processes and applications and had managed to collect quite an array of colours and textures.  I was directed to a west coast Canadian company,, specializing in importing beautiful New Zealand rovings of Merino and Corriedale with luscious colour combinations to play with.  I also learned that cleaning and carding vast quantities of wool can be rather tedious and quite impossible in a trailer, so I sent many bags of local wool with higher qualities of fibre for spinning with, to the Spinning Mill to be made into roving ready for me to spin.   (Really, the spinning part, as well as the knitting or weaving, is the best part anyways.)

the beginning of a sweater

the beginning of a sweater

I have decided that my first project on the wheel, (just to give me lots and lots of reconnecting time with the treadle and the bobbin), is to spin through a huge bag of local brown roving and hopefully have enough to then knit a sweater for my husband.  I am not sure how long this process might take, but I am feeling inspired to take on something long term and very hand made.  Spending time spinning is one of the most relaxing and meditative activities for me… as I watch the soft fibre slide through my fingers and become strong yarn, the rhythm of the treadle calms my busy brain and connects me to a timeless moment of creation.  Knitting and weaving have the same balancing effect.  There is always so much more to learn of these ancient arts, and I am excited to continue the exploration of colour, style, and warmth.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Macrobe
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 02:39:17

    Wonderful!!! Nice to see someone spinning, and makes me wish my Louet was repaired to do the same. Haven’t spun in 14 years since leaving Oregon and the sheep ranch, and only recently picked up knitting again (shame on me). Coincidentally, I mentioned to someone today that the most relaxing activities for me were spinning and chopping wood.
    A future project I hope to do is a light sweater with yarn of colors from the desert around me (and a hidden furry coyote). And maybe replicate it in plaster on a wall. 🙂 After all, both offer tremendous creativity, right?


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