I grew up in a very small country town and my parents were both very practical and resourceful as working class country people needed to be. At my secondary school girls compulsorily studied ‘Home Arts’ or ‘Domestic Science’ or ‘Home Economics’ (depending which angle was the currently PC one). Both at home and at school I learnt to cook and sew (very basically in my case) and knit and crotchet and to enjoy all sorts of crafts.
Despite this background, I have absolutely no memory of how nearly four decades ago, back in the early 80’s, I became enamoured of spinning. I was living and working at my first ever job in Launceston, Tasmania. I bought a second-hand, Ashford traditional spinning wheel and a friend taught me to spin. I don’t remember anything about it except that spinning was now in my blood. This was the era of people dreaming of self-sufficiency, beautiful woodcraft and mud brick houses, wild, woolly hair, and homespun woolly jumpers.
In 1986 I moved to Hobart and during that year I regularly attended a local spinning group. All I remember about this group was that it was fairly small, the other women where all much older than me and were very kind and helpful. I couldn’t wait for these Saturday afternoons.
Spinning is a very time consuming, messy, space-invading activity and after I got married at the end of that year, I never span again. However, throughout a lifetime of moving house I couldn’t bear to get rid of my wheel. I knew I would do it again one day because my body couldn’t forget how lovely it felt to spin.
The Hand-Weavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria is a few minutes’ walk from here. I’d often visited the guild shop to buy gifts or just be inspired by the beautiful handmade items and had promised myself that I would take up spinning again in retirement. I obviously haven’t retired but In the last week of May this year, days before Melbourne's COVID 19 restrictions began again, I started an ‘Introduction to Spinning’ course at the guild. It was so interesting, informative, stimulating and exciting - I’m like a new religious convert, obsessed!
My sons follow in their maternal grandfather’s steps and are very useful to have around. The younger one, Ashley is fascinated by the simplicity and ingenuity of the spinning wheel and was very pleased to restore my old wheel to working order. He grinned at me as he watched me using it for the first time in his lifetime and asked “Does it feel like an old friend?” It certainly did.
I have a new double-treadle wheel on order from New Zealand and to tide me over while I’m waiting the teacher of my course lent me a demo wheel. I found my son sitting at the wheel, gently treading away, saying “I understand why you love doing this.” He makes me smile!
When I enrolled for the course none of us were expecting more lockdowns and certainly not for this length of time. I’m not happy to be told you must do this, you can’t do that anymore than the next person but I’m very, very glad that I have this beautiful, creative, stimulating activity to occupy me and this is the perfect time to do it.
Hand spinning has come a long way since the 80’s. It has evolved so many amazing techniques and use of different fibres and textures and colours, - there’s so much to master and so few years left to do so. But, I have more lockdown time to “just keep spinning …”
The Cup and Mug
The adventures of a small business (more interesting than we would have ever guessed!)