Friday, February 8, 2008

Turn of the Wheel

Here’s the tool that has turned my life upside down in the past few months. It’s a Robin Wheel, by Gil Gonsalves of Maine. My amazingly dear mother gave it to me last summer, knowing I would tumble easily into the world of fiber obsession.

When I was a kid, I crocheted a bit. I learned to knit when I was in college, but it never “stuck.” I knitted most of a Noro yarn vest, and a good part of a black mohair sweater, but when it came to doing the parts where I had to concentrate, I lost interest.

Mom knows best. She’s a master knitter who easily creates the most extraordinarily fabulous sweaters—the kinds I might see in the window of a zillionare’s store in the Hamptons. Mom laughs and says she’s been knitting since she was tiny; it’s easy for her. She also understands her daughter well enough to anticipate just how intrigued I’d be by this wheel. It sat in my room for a month, waiting patiently for me to unlock the mysteries of its workings. I asked around, but none of my local friends were able to help me turn flax into gold overnight.

Then I attended a local meeting of my spinning guild, and took the Robin. With the kind help of the friendly people there, I actually made yarn! Yes, it was lumpy and pitiful … but it was recognizably twisted fiber, and that was good enough for me. For the next seven months, I have devoted at least a half hour every day to spinning. My work has improved rather a bit. I’ve made baby-soft merino fingering yarn and coarse Lincoln chunky yarn, yarn with Romney, Corriedale, and alpaca. And I’ve spent a fortune on the loveliest rovings I could find.

But … just as with soapmaking and candlemaking, I’m insatiably curious about how things are created. And, as with the other crafts, I began to research everything from the best way to buy a fleece to the most effective tools to prepare it with, and how to dye it. After receiving my {mumble-th} package purchased from some other fiber artists, I carefully unwrapped it, analyzed how the colors were divided into sections of different lengths, consulted my book by Deb Menz, and decided, Enough! I took out my tiny stash of acid dyes for wool, prepared the materials, and … created my first handpainted roving. I was pleased!

And it didn’t stop there. My guild is amazing because it lends out spinning wheels and fiber prep tools for a very small fee per month. I begged the woman in charge for their drum carder, not sure whether I would love it, hate it, or be mangled by it. The carder turned out to be a Pat Green model, which blew me away; that’s a top-of-the-line manufacturer. This week, I fed the hungry carder all sorts of lovely fibers. First, I timidly gave it some Cotswold locks that I had flick-carded. Ooooo! It gave me back fluffy pink and burgundy batts with sparkly angelica. Nice! So I decided to test the thing. Today I gave the carder a meal of some dyed superwash wool, to see if I could turn an interesting result into something great. I was hooked! The batts are blended shades of amber, russet, mahogany, oak, and all sorts of woodsy tones in between.

I started working with the carder in the morning and almost forgot about eating breakfast. Then I wanted to do … just a little more … afterward, and skipped lunch. Then I decided to put my results up for sale in my store, New York Attitude ( Forget dinner, kiddies! Mom’s a fiberholic who can’t stop when she gets cranking. I wonder if I can convince my guild that the drum carder goes beautifully with my decor, and I just won’t be able to return it. Thanks, Mom!