The image shown—freshly spun yarn, drying at the stove—was taken in my Hoswick sitting room this week.
As world events continue to develop frightening new dimensions, I have found myself reacting by gravitating towards the most primitive of processes and materials: making yarn.
Working closely with wool and simple tools allows me to feel connected to the past, whilst also being reminded that there is a future. Treadling a spinning wheel means being rooted to place, feeling earthed — and making links between hands, head and heart.
I hope that this finds you well, and safe.
Spinning: a complement to my knitwear
Many who have visited the studio, and have seen my handspun yarns, will know that I am very reluctant to part with them. I wonder—why?
The purity of the natural materials remind me how rooted the process is to our very being. The engagement with the most basic tools, the textures, the colours, the smells, the touch — listening to each wheel whir in its own peculiar way.
Every sense is so finely tuned with my hands and feet, all simultaneously. It is about my own balance, my centre of gravity, the connection with the earth and therefore my place in it.
The process is slow and protracted; each step is honest and humbling.
When I am troubled, I always find some kind of equilibrium washing wool.
The excitement of finding a beautiful fleece, sorting, washing — and then perhaps dying the wool — is laborious yet uplifting.
Then there is designing the yarn itself.
Playing with different ways of carding, choosing the wheel, and preparing it for spinning (which in reality means finding all the bobbins…). Every step seems to settle me.
For me each skein is so full of promises and dreams, special in it’s own right. It’s little wonder then, that I find it difficult to see them leave the studio. However, it is undeniably wonderful to receive pictures of what those skeins of yarn become.
With all that’s been happening in recent months, I have found myself returning to the comfort and security of hand spinning.
In the past few weeks I’ve even been known to talk to my friends about the possibilities of knitting.
Drawings by young visitors to the studio in Hoswick, for whom I gave a spinning demonstration.
When I talk to visitors in the studio and the subject swings round to the topic of spinning (I often try to shift the conversation in this direction), I become very animated.
I say to visitors, and to you — reading — if you glean anything from your (virtual) visit to Shetland, it is: learn to spin.
Please do get in touch if you would like advice on learning to spin by hand.
Note to novice spinners
Handspun yarn does seem to get everywhere...
There’s just something that I find so relaxing, yet energising, so personal about spinning a bobbin of yarn.