Spinning is not something I’d ever thought about until a few months ago when I met Frances. I knit, make my own clothes, craft and adore the process of creating slow fashion – a counter-fashion industry movement that aims to make things that aren’t disposable from one season to the next but something treasured for many years. My introduction to spinning has been recent but it has fast become an obsession.
When I met Frances she was constantly tinkering with what I thought was a bizarre thing, which I now know intimately as the “Turkish drop spindle” or her beautiful Jenkins’s finch Turkish drop spindle fondly known as “Vera”. We would be sitting at a café or going out to lunch and she would always have Vera. People would glance across their tofu and pesto scrambled eggs and turn their heads on their side inquisitively. Brave children would come over and ask out of curiosity what she was doing.
I finally caved and asked to have a go at spinning. It was a lot harder than I had initially anticipated. I started on park and draft. Pinch, park, draft, spin, pinch, park, draft spin. I’d pull too hard and my fiber would snap or I wouldn’t spin enough and my fiber would fall apart. The whole ordeal would become too overwhelming and I’d have to put it down to give my poor brain a break. I’d sit and watch Frances spin, making everything look so simple, effortless and easy. I’d look down at mine to see some kind of reincarnation of earthworms on steroids.
All my little turtles and balls of handspun yarn waiting to be plied on my 1930s dresser
Perseverance is key when learning to spin. I would sit watching Frances, elegantly spinning the most fine lace Muga silk yarn, “It’s all in your fingers. You’ll get the hang of it.” I finally finished my first batch of yarn. Slubby, brown-green, slug-like thing that we plied together, washed and hung out to dry. It was hideous but it’s so special.
I hadn’t touched the spindle for about month when I came back to visit Frances. She put a little second hand Turkish spindle in my hands with a little packet of white mulberry silk fiber. It might’ve felt like a long time since spinning but my hands had retained all the information. Everything suddenly made more sense. I started spinning over the fold and everything was easier, more fluid, thinner with the odd slub that I was slowly learning to work out with soft persuasion and a gentle tug.
My first attempt at spinning Mulberry silk
We ventured out one day to a local café to sit together in solidarity, with a cappuccino and our spindles and began what Frances calls “a public display of spinning.” Sitting out in the open was an entirely new experience but I reveled in the experience and now spin regularly while I’m out. I have even taken to keeping my fibre in my ancient kindergarden library bags.
With patience and practice I am becoming more confident, my strands are becoming thinner and my turtles elegantly wound on in beautiful colour combinations. I’m still a bit nervous every time I have to ply my little handmade creations but I’m sure this will pass.
Beloved little colour turtles
I’ve just received my first order from http://www.feltfine.com and I can say with all honesty that I went a bit overboard. However, with three new spindles turning up (from Malcolm Fielding, Sistermaide woodworks and Snyder spindles) I figured I would need a lot. I’ve even begun learning to crochet after following in my Mother’s knitting footsteps since childhood.
Candy stripe pink Merino getting finer with every attempt
I love the fact that I feel as though I’ve stumbled into a new world with spinning and discovered something I never knew existed. I can’t wait to introduce spinning to my crafty friends and watch what I’ve dubbed “the spinning cult of Frances” spread like wildfire. The move towards slow fashion, handmade wares and creating with love is gaining the popularity it deserves.
– Alyssa Hanley