Thursday, January 12, 2006

Spinning a Yarn...

Ooooh! My first comment here in the blog!!! (waaay down at the bottom, after my first post) **sniffs lavender-soaked hanky** Ok, I think I've recovered... I have shared the blog address with a few friends to see if they think it's going well &, with their encouragement, I decided to join the ring mentioned in the sidebar, but have had very little other feedback on this site to date. Thanks very much, Anonymous!

Um, right, back to business... I have been a handspinner for nearly 13 years (it's easy to remember how long because I began learning on my 35th birthday). I own a measly (by some standards :) two spinning wheels & many, many handspindles. Since B was born handspindles have become my preferred way to produce yarn since they do not require sitting in one place for long periods of time (& I think it goes without saying how impractical this would be these days). Fortunately, I really like the yarn I can make on spindles, particularly the cotton thread. Every time I pick up a spindle & some cotton roving I get that much closer to fulfilling the promise I made to C a few years back that I would make curtain for the dining-room windows. Being me, I decided that I would spin the thread & then weave the curtains from the handspun... so it's taking a bit longer than he expected... but he's being very patient :)

Right before the holidays I did a demo of wheel-spinning at school & nearly filled a bobbin, so I decided to actually sit at home & fill the bobbin so I could ply it & have another finished skein of yarn (much more useful than unplied yarn sitting on a bobbin). I didn't realise it, but B noticed & his interest was piqued. When our friend Nancy came to visit while he was on school break & brought her new wheel to show us, he got sucked-in by machine envy & asked if he could try mine.

Info break: I was a very crafty kid- always making cards, drawing pictures, folding origami, you name it. I have always enjoyed sharing crafts with kids & expected to do so with my own... but even before we knew for sure that B had developmental delays, it was clear to me that he was not interested in using his hands to make things. Knowing that the best way to create an aversion to any activity is to push it hard, I just packaged up the part of me that wanted him to be crafty too & hid it away. I learned to be delighted when he chose to use more than one colour in a kindergarten-age drawing, & B's first multi-coloured, themed & self-titled drawing "The Prtecshuns of the Sorcer's Stone" (from Harry Potter, of course) is framed & hanging in my sewing (etc.) room. B's had 4 1/2 years of Occupational Therapy now & his fine-motor co-ordination is approaching normal for his age, although he still has major motor-planning issues that prevent him from learning things by rote very easily. After we began Japanese lessons I got back into origami, which I've been interested in since I was younger than B is now. I started doing simple folds with him this summer, mostly as distractions when we were waiting for our meals in restaurtants or in other waiting situations. We've made flapping & pecking birds, & I once hopped a frog right into a votive candle at a posh restaurant in Boston (accidentally!) & got it out again without setting it on fire- much to everyone's amazment (must be a Jedi thing... :). Little bit by little bit, I'm unpacking the part of me that I hid away, & really enjoying the moments that B is interested & focused enough to want to try something crafty & new.

So, he wanted to spin! I found some of the coarse-ish roving that I use for teaching & got the wheel set up with us sitting side by side on the sofa. I showed him how to treadle & let him just treadle for a while (not unlike using a stationary bike, really). Then I began drafting the wool & let him treadle, so he could see what I was doing & see the yarn build-up on the bobbin. Then I took over the treadling & coached him as he drafted- pinched with one hand & pulled the wool with the other to attenuate it, then slid the pinching hand toward the pulling one to allow the twist to run into the fibres & make yarn. It really isn't as easy as it looks, but he got the hang of it, but then soon tired of drafting & asked to just treadle again. Then we moved on to other things, with the bobbin still showing some of the wooden core under the spun yarn... meaning that there wasn't really enough to ply... meaning that that wheel was out of commission for anything else (changing bobbins is a bear on this wheel) unless we just unwound what we'd done or spun some more.

He wasn't terribly interested for the rest of school break, but I was finally able to impress on him that it would be a shame to waste what we'd already spun. Heck, if we filled the bobbin & plied it, he could weave a potholder for dad's birthday from the yarn (early handspun is usually potholder yarn, tending toward the bulky)- & how many kids could say they'd done that? So we've had a couple more sessions of spinning together, sitting together on the sofa with him treadling like mad for most of the time & a break in the middle where we switch & he practises drafting. He's getting better! Especially when I remind him not to strangle the roving & take the time to smooth-out the "rabbits" (the big blubs he makes look like out dear, deceased angora). The bobbin is half-way filled & I think we may actually accomplish what we set out to do, & dad may get a potholder by Feb. 6th. What was even more fun, though, was B narrating a "Mr Know-It-All" segment (complete with Bullwinkle voice) about spinning. He imagined Bullwinkle trying a drop-spindle first... & dropping it off a cliff. Then, he tried a wheel, where he got tangled-up in the works, & then attempted to ply his yarn with... pliers :) I was just cracking up & mentally thanking my husband, again, for getting me seasons 1 & 2 of Rocky & Bullwinkle last year as gifts. (The kid does a killer Boris and Natasha, too!)


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