Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spinning Yarns and Weaving Scarves

Last night I watched two of my grandsons while their parents attended a university function. The boys are 5 and 8. After playing a couple of games, eating oatmal cookies and apple slices, and noting there was nothing interesting on television, we settled down to tell stories.
I like to spin wool while spinning yarns.

The classic tales never seem to go out of style, especially those dealing with spinning wheels. I imagine myself an exceptional grandmother, a rare one who can tell the tales of Rumplestiltskin and Sleeping Beauty while actually spinning. The boys listened intently, marveling at the wheel's magic, and added their versions of the stories as the wheel turned and the yarn built up on the bobbin.

When I was a child I wanted to learn to spin so badly, but no one I knew had the slightest idea where to get a spinning wheel or how one worked. All our minds had been pretty much industrialized in the 1950s. Many of the home arts disappeared during that era as we became more and more factory dependent for our food and clothing. In those days, I turned my bicycle upside down and threw leaves on the spinning tires in hopes they would magically turn into gold, or thread, anything . . .

But along came the 1960s and 1970s. God Bless the Hippies and the Back to the Land Movement for reviving so many of the home arts.

Last week, I felt inspired by hints of spring, so I warped up one of my looms with a soft commercial wool and wove tweedy scarves with my handspun, two-ply yarn. (I know, sounds like something I should be inspired to do in the fall in anticipation of winter, but there's little control over inspiration.) One of these weft yarns is made by plying dark gray with light gray singles, the other is two-ply light grey wool. I spin by turning the wheel to the right. I ply singles together by turning the wheel to the left. Plying relaxes the fibers to create a softer yarn, and a stronger yarn as well, especially if it's to be used for warp. Plying also prevents the finished woven fabric from "tracking" or "curling" as well.

The scarves turned out rather well, I think. I gave one to a dear friend and have two more to sell. $30 each, a bargain considering the time involved in spinning, plying, warping, weaving . . . but when does a craftsperson get fully paid for his/her time? Rarely, it seems -- another sad byproduct of our overseas, factory-driven, cheap labor economy.

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