First Yarns Put to Use!

MonChere came over for a visit the other night, and began knitting up the reddish yarn I had spun recently.

"I need an identity!"

I am so glad!  This yarn needed to be made into something. It made me feel obligated, like I was somehow failing the yarn by not giving it an identity as a finished project. MonChere solved the problem.

I think we’re onto something here. I spin and spin, and then feel obligated to the yarn I’ve spun, having no clue what to turn it into. She has no interest in spinning, and sees finished items in the yarn, like Michelangelo and his stone.

"Ahhhh....."

Here’s a picture of the front of the bag–as far as she got during our visit.

You Don’t See That Everyday!

I returned from a trip to Boston last night, and as I waited outside the terminal for my daughter to pick me up, I took out some knitting I had carried with me.

A mid-forties’ man walked by me and did a double-take.  A huge grin spread over his face, and he said, “Now, that’s something you don’t see every day!” He nodded in my direction, and went on.  He’s right, I thought.  You really don’t see people with handcrafts in public much. Which of course got me thinking about a time when making your own garments was the only means you had of staying clothed.  Now that’s a motivator!

The “Modern” Spinning Wheel?

Because we live in a time when clothing is simply something we grab off a rack in a store, we’ve lost appreciation for what it takes to make fabric or cloth of any kind.  We rarely think of it at all–unless we were raised in sewing homes, like me, where our mothers measured, pinned, and cut large batches of cloth into pieces they would sew into our tops, shorts and matching Easter dresses.  Or maybe you’ve admired a period costume in a film and given a nod to the past ideas of spinning or whatever else it took to make such things.  That was me.  Until I started spinning myself.  (Yes, it was only 2 weeks ago!)

My natural curiosity got to me and I started wondering about origins of spinning wheels, who invented what, and so forth.  So I dove in to take a look, and I am simply flabbergasted at what I have discovered. Flabbergasted.

The spinning wheel itself is actually a very modern device, and used in only about 8% of the time that humanity has been wearing clothes and making cloth.  The very first images and mentions of spinning wheels only date back a mere 760 years. Here are some key context points:  The Magna Carta was established in 1212, Marco Polo was packing for China in 1271, and the Vikings were settling down and raising sheep instead of pillaging. (Okay, these things seem old, I’ll admit, especially compared to the latest version of MicroSoft Windows.  But it’s only 800 years!  We’ve been wearing clothes a lot longer than 800 years!!)

So, I next had to ask:  What on earth was used prior to 1250, and the invention of the spinning wheel?

The fiber: animal wool or hair, fibrous plants such as reeds, bamboo & flax, and silk

The spinning tool: a spindle and a pair of hands

The fibers have stayed consistent throughout history and are an assortment of animal and plant fibers. A spindle is basically a stick (or bone or other hard material carved like a stick) upon which fiber is twirled to produce a “twist” while the fibers are also being slowly drawn apart.  The fibers “twist” into yarn, and if they’ve first been “combed” in the same direction, the fibers “twist” even more easily. That is spinning in a nutshell.  But what’s so astonishing is that for 11,200 years every piece of cloth or fabric or yarn or thread was produced by a pair of human hands on a stick.

Now aren’t you flabbergasted, too?

Fiber Farmers are Attracting Quite a Following

Jacob’s Reward Fiber Farm, located in Parker, Texas, is the first CSA Fiber Farm in the Southwest.  Though there are many, many fiber farmers in Texas and surrounding areas, Jacob’s Reward was begun specifically to be a co-op farm, utilizing the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Model.  Juniper Moon Farm (read this article on Susan’s farm in the Wall Street Journal) started it all in 2008, when Susan Gibbs came up with a brilliant twist on the existing model of alternative funding used by community produce growers–instead of “shares” of the food harvest, she offered “shares” of her upcoming fiber harvest for purchase.

Utilizing etsy.com and the very active blogging knitters and spinners communities, Susan spread the word and sold out of her shares quickly.  She’s been doing it ever since, and other fiber farms are following in her footsteps–in the Southwest, that’s Cindy and Jacob’s Reward Farm.

I am fascinated! I hope to visit Jacob’s Reward Farm next week — Cindy not only sells “shares” of the fiber harvest, but also invites you “to share in the life of the farm”  through all sorts of fiber classes at the Little Red Barn.  You can read about how Cindy and her family got started with their fiber farm here.