The idea of making something that people can see, feel, and instantly know— appeals to me. Stories unfold; songs begin and end. Garments wrap around you as you live your life. They decorate the world you create for yourself.I didn’t plan to be overtaken by animal and plant fibers… the feel, the colors, the textures and patterns…but then Arthur and I went to an Alpaca show about seven years ago. The Northwest Arkansas Handspinners Guild was demonstrating carding the fleece and spinning the wool and I was hooked. There were drop spindles and spinning wheels of different designs and even kids were spinning. The alpacas were delightful. I left the show with some yarn and a desire to knit and spin. The Guild meets at Ozark Folkways in Winslow, AR, once a month. I joined and continue to love the wealth of knowledge and generous spirit of this amazing group.
What do you do with the yarn once you make it? I discovered that many of the spinning guild members were also participants in the weaving guild! I joined. So knitting and weaving with handspun yarns have become passions. Creating fabric on a loom is like working a giant puzzle that makes sense in the end. It has a life of its own.
Natural colors of alpaca and sheep intrigue me, but now I’ve branched out to dying the fibers. Marigolds from the garden yield a golden yellow and black walnut hulls with alum provide a rich cinnamon color. The more you learn, the more you discover about the history of cloth. Arthur and I have been growing colored cotton in our yard for four years now. Yes, naturally green and brown cotton were widely used until after the Civil War. I pick the seeds out, card it, and spin cotton thread for knitting and weaving. Boiling not only shrinks the fibers, but also sets the colors.
Not that long ago, everything was done by hand. Young girls made all of their bed linens and blankets before they could marry. Coverlets from the late 1700s still show amazing skill in design and durability. Earlier, even wooly mammoth hair was used by early spinners. The history is fascinating. The doing is a physical link to the doing of mankind and womankind for eons.
A friend told me that spinning is relaxing, centering, and cheaper than therapy. I agree.