I am a native Kansan, and love living on the prairie – in spite of the extreme weather and occasional prairie fires we have to deal with (it can make life interesting). The extreme weather also includes extremely beautiful days!!
I am a wife of 30+ years, mother of 2 daughters and one son-in-law, and Nana to three grandsons. Besides knitting & spinning, some of my other interests include gardening, with an emphasis on fragrant herbs and roses, books & reading, outside activities like the occasional mountain climbing & rappelling, and breeding & showing Mini Rex rabbits. We have two Italian Greyhounds and a Dachshund (also known as two gazelles and a hippo). I had horses for many years, and still miss them, but get an equine fix occasionally at my sister’s. I can’t imagine being bored!
Most of my working life has been spent in libraries. I worked for 22 years in a local library (town of about 7,000), then in 1999 went to work for our regional library system as Automation & Technology Consultant. In an nutshell, I work with librarians in public, school, academic & special libraries in a 12-county region, helping them with almost anything that has to do with computers. I never wear a dress to work, because I never know when I’m going to be spending time under or behind someone’s furniture. And I learn something new almost every day!
Knitting & Spinning
When I was about 8 years old, I learned to knit and I also learned something important about myself. A friend’s mother got us both started knitting on a sampler swatch – casting on, knitting, purling, several pattern stitches, even cables, a bit of lace, and bobbles (which I still don’t much care for). We eventually lost interest, and I later realized it was because I wasn’t making anything! I enjoy learning new things for their own sake only to a certain point – then it has to get useful or relevant, or I’m on to something else. So I didn’t pick up knitting needles again for years.
I saw my first spinning wheel in action the summer I was 19. We had stopped by Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska on vacation, and my husband asked if there was anything I wanted to buy. The spinning wheel was the only thing I really wanted, but of course that was out of our price range.
I learned to crochet when I was about 20, and did some filet crochet (a horse for my sister),
and eventually a granny square afghan for my brother-in-law. I learned something else from that afghan – if I find myself unwilling to pick up a project, it’s probably because the yarn doesn’t feel good to work with. So the tactile experience, for me, is an important consideration on any project.
Learning to spin on a borrowed antique wheel and starting to knit again happened around the same time, when I was about 21, but I don’t recall which came first. I checked out a knitting book from the library where I worked, but was amazed to find that I really didn’t need it much. My fingers remembered what they learned all those years ago, even though I thought I’d forgotten! I didn’t buy much yarn, though. I recall raveling a damaged wool sweater for sock yarn. That first pair of socks I knit were pink lace, and I wore them out.
There was a spinning & weaving shop in the city not too far from where we lived, and I took the wheel in for one lesson (I found out the drive band tension was messing me up). I was off and running, spinning everything I could get my hands on, and reading everything I could find. I still like to experiment with fibers, and I still have my old issues of Spin-Off, back to 1978.
I saved as much as I could, asked for money for my birthday and Christmas, and eventually bought a Country Craftsman spinning wheel. I still use it, and still love it (you see it in the header photo above). It fits my spinning style exactly, and I love that it has the traditional look. Over the years, I’ve demonstrated spinning at county and state fairs, day care centers and schools, nursing homes, and a college-level design class, sometimes in costume ranging from the 1500s (when the flyer & treadle came into use) through the 1880’s.
I’ve found that spinning fascinates all kinds of people, for all kinds of reasons. Some are intrigued by the mechanics of the wheel, others by the transformation of the fluffy fiber into smooth yarn, or by the thread of history that connects us all to our ancestors; children think they are seeing a bit of fairy tale come to life, and the very littlest ones are simply mesmerized watching the wheel go around.
Spinning has also influenced my knitting philosophy; nobody writes patterns for the yarn I’ve just spun! So spinners have to learn the basics of knitting design as a survival skill. For me, that’s just as well, since I seem to be congenitally unable to follow someone else’s directions exactly. I always ‘customize’ any pattern for anything, if I use a pattern at all. Starting with an idea in my head and creating a finished product gives me a lot of satisfaction, and I usually learn a lot along the way. (Sometimes what I learn is, “Don’t do THAT again.”)
There have been fairly long periods of time when I have not done any spinning or knitting, but when the hiatus is over, I come back to them as if no time had passed at all. And I guess you know you’ve been around a while when some of that stuff you knitted way back when is coming back into fashion…