So many of you wrote in to compliment me on "my
very first yarn" that I felt a teensy bit guilty. These posts are so
short that sometimes I have to leave out parts of the story in order to
fit in the really important stuff.
But this time, I realized that perhaps the "rest of the story" WAS
really important, that it actually holds the key to just how important
Maggie's class was to me, as a knitter and as a spinner. So now, here's
the fabled Rest of The Story...
actually learned to spin about fourteen(ish) years ago, back when I
lived in California. I bought an Ashford Traditional wheel, dozens of
drop spindles, and had an absolute blast spinning every fiber I could
get my hands on. The yarn I spun was lumpy, bumpy, and, uh, "full of
personality," —not at all like the lovely smooth yarns I dreamed of
spinning. I always felt as though I was missing some Secret of Spinning
that would enable me to make those "real" yarns, but I never could
figure out what I was doing wrong. I was confused by all the
fancy-dancy spinning terminology, and I felt like I was fighting with
my wheel every time I tried to adjust it. Although I loved spinning, I
came to the conclusion I was just really bad at it.
Then a car accident left me with a hand injury, an injury that when
all was said and done left me with only partial use of my left thumb
and forefinger. I managed to re-teach myself to knit and crochet and do
beadwork, but no matter what I did, I couldn't manage the spinning
anymore. My left hand was my dominant hand for spinning, you see, the
hand that did all the pinching and clever stuff up front. Now that the
hand wasn't being particularly clever, my bad spinning got worse, and,
well...I gave up.
Not terribly fearless of me.
This is where Maggie comes into the picture. After years of thinking
I would never spin again, a friend at work recommended I take Maggie's
class, saying that Maggie knew so much about spinning that she was
often able to come up with alternate ways of doing things.
The best way to spin? In handknit socks!
is exactly what Maggie did. She taught me to spin so that my "good"
right hand did all the clever work, and my "not-so-good" left hand was
just hanging out there back stage, to guide and supervise and
provide running commentary. It was tough at first, because my brain,
which thought it knew what it was doing, had to become a bit humble,
and realize that it needed to be completely retrained now that I was
learning to do everything the opposite of how I had originally learned
to do it.
The point is: Maggie was able to teach me to do that. And when I
spun my first smooth, fine yarn, yarn that looked like REAL yarn, I
felt as though she had given me back part of my knitter's heart.
We all have obstacles to overcome in our crafting. In my beginning
spinning class, there were several folks who had been to previous
spinning classes, and like me, thought they were simply bad spinners.
One woman was fighting with her wheel, and Maggie helped her learn how
to adjust it. One woman had had a rather cranky teacher who had
discouraged her. Maggie helped her spin a lovely two-ply yarn with
confidence. And the true beginners in the class, the ones who had never
held a drop spindle or sat before a wheel in their lives, well. They
came in saying "I'll never be able to do this" and yet they left with
hanks and skeins of beautiful handspun, dreaming of what they would
knit with the yarn they had made.
If you want to do something, find a teacher. If that teacher doesn't
give you confidence, find another teacher. If there are no teachers
nearby, find a good book. Find a way to do what you yearn to do. The
world's a better place if you are doing what you love.
Photos from Maggie's spinning class
I know Maggie
lives here in Boulder, and most of you cannot make it to her classes.
If you'd like to learn to spin, or if you'd like a refresher course in
everything from handcarding to fixing yarn with too much twist,
Maggie's new book, Start Spinning,
is almost as good as having Maggie sitting right next to you. It's
filled with step by step photos of Maggie herself demonstrating each
technique; the instructions are so clear that it's like having a
spinning cookbook as you learn the delights of fiber and wheel. My copy
is already a bit battered, and I've only had it for a few weeks. Plus,
it now has the ultimate Sandi Seal of Approval: page 52 in the
Troubleshooting section has a chocolate smear on it.
If you want to hear more about Maggie's passion for teaching
spinning, there's a conversation between Amy Singer and Maggie in the Spring 2008 issue of Spin-Off magazine.
Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.
What's on Sandi's spinning wheel? Beautiful hand-dyed alpaca roving from SakinaNeedles, which I am spinning very fine, about 38 wraps per inch.