Old skills, new student

First I learned to crochet.  That was 1965 at Shrine Mont, where our family gathered each year with other families who had become as close as extended family.  One of those “Aunts” taught me the skill, using cotton thread and a very tiny hook,  making simple lace edgings.  I fell in love with fiber arts at that point, getting some minimal instruction in knitting and making a sweater that didn’t fit for my first knit project, but alas, another fiber. Subsequently, I taught myself crewel, counted cross stitch and a few other non fiber related old world crafts like basketry.  Having the left handed quirk, most crafts were self taught at least until the basics were firmly ingrained, then questions to the more experienced would send me on to more challenging tasks.

The fiber art that really stuck was knitting, which has made me a “fiber snob.”  This a desire to use nice natural fiber yarns.  A side effect of this snobbery is wanting to know what is in the yarn and what you can do with it, and finally, can I make it myself.  So far I haven’t gotten  a spinning wheel, but two summers ago, I took a 2 hour class in using a drop spindle, the earliest form of spinning, sampling several fibers.  My first yarn could be sold as novelty yarn, thick and thin, fluffy and tight, many different wools spun together.  The next attempt with a lighter spindle is more consistent, though insufficient to make more than a headband.  As knitters, crocheters and spinners, we collect, trade and sell equipment until we find just the right tools to suit our personal style.  I have settled with my knitting tools with two beautiful handmade wooden sets of interchangeable circular needles, and a set of double pointed needles in the sizes I use the most also handmade wooden beauties.  Though I have one handturned crochet hook, I am less fussy about them, as I only use them now for finish work.  But spindles, I’m still experimenting with, having acquired a heavy starter spindle and having purchased three handturned lighter ones, one of which has gone on to a new home as we didn’t work well together.  The others are awaiting a new sibling that is changing hands and is in the mail to me.  The lighter two suit me well.  I have been spinning a beautiful robin’s egg blue merino top that I purchased locally from Unplanned Peacock, an independent dyer and friend.  Last night, I plied the two spindles full of near thread, making 200 yards of very fine weight yarn.  I have a newfound respect for my ancestors, who made all of their clothing by spinning, weaving or knitting, sewing their clothing from raw fiber or from hides they killed and cured.

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