About Me

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!

Work

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),

Filet crochet horse

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…

7 Responses to About Me

  1. Shirley Linn says:

    Jeanie told me about you and your blog. How ambitious you are! Your interests sound as varied as mine!
    I am a weaver, spinner, fiber artist, the list goes on and on.
    I belong to the Topeka Handweavers and Spinners who have a great library. As a librarian, it probably would be interesting to you. We have books of samples woven by previous members as long ago as in the late 30’s and 40’s as well as many other books on weaving and related arts.
    How fortunate your daughter was able to be at the right place at the right time! This is an experience she will never forget.
    Shirley

  2. prairiespinner says:

    Hello, Shirley! I’d love to meet you some time! Jeanie told me we’d have a lot in common. 😉
    – S

  3. Dianne Rehman says:

    I have a 13-spoke Country Craftsman made and stamped by Jerome Rooney, the original owner of the company (1972-1981). Do you know anyone else who has one like this? An email from Cindy Franzek, wife of the 2nd owner of CC, said Mr. Rooney made some 13-spoke wheels but Mr. Franzek only made 12-spoke wheels. When did you buy your CC wheel. It looks like it has 12 spokes. I’d appreciate any information you have on this wheel. I’d love to send you a picture of mine!
    Cheers,
    Dianne

    • I know you wrote this quiet a while ago, but I brought home a 12-spoke wheel today!!!! I was just about to buy an Ashford when I saw a wheel in my mother-in-laws basement. She had recently passed away and though I knew she had a Singer sewing machine, I had no idea she had a spinning wheel. I did not care what kind it was. Today when I packed it in the truck I saw it was a Country Craftsman by J. Rooney. Now I am searching the internet to learn more about it and came across this great blog.
      We have a fiber and wool expo this weekend in our neighborhood. I can’t wait to go, get a drive band and some top coat/fleece and get spinning.
      Yeah!
      Nicole

      • Mary says:

        I am a quilter and a fabric artist. I have never spun wool. I wanted to buy a spinning wheel for decorative purposes only since I love all hand crafts and their implements. I bought one the other day at a small antique shop. I talked him down from $150 to $100. Today I turned over the stool and found “The Country Craftsman, Littleton MA, J. Rooney” on the bottom. It is 13 spokes and has not only the bench but 2 other pieces along with it. Even some wool is still in it! I want to know more! Names of attachments? How to use it? Looks like I got it for a fabulous price. Send any suggestions. I can try to send photos. Thanks. Mary Molly Lansdale PA

  4. Charlotte simmons says:

    We bust bought a 12 spoke wheel and the stool is marked The Country Craftsman in littleton, ma. All appears in very good shape I know nothing about it would like to know how to use its true value and how to correctly configure any clues please.

    • prairiespinner says:

      Hi, Charlotte! Congratulations on your purchase! Country Craftsman spinning wheels are a good value right now – I have seen them go for $100 – $400, depending on the area AND on how much the seller knows about spinning. Personally, I think they don’t get the respect they deserve. 😉
      There are some good free instructional materials out there on learning about spinning and spinning wheels in general… have a look at http://tutorials.knitpicks.com/wptutorials/category/spinning/ and http://www.spinningdaily.com/media/g/spinning-how-to/default.aspx . You’ll probably need to create a free account at Spinning Daily. You may also want to try a search on YouTube for “country craftsman spinning wheel” (use the quotation marks for the most specific results).
      I hope this helps!

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