Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spinning In Public

I take my spindle pretty much everywhere.  Anywhere I'll be standing or sitting in a position convenient for spinning, either Jara or Akitla has an invitation to accompany me.  I'm especially partial to places where there will be a balcony and enough time to get a good make or two over the edge, such as one of the college campuses I attend for classes regularly.

It's always fun to see the reactions I get.  A lot of people just stare out of the corners of their eyes.  Some people ask me what on earth I'm doing (at college, sometimes with stronger language!), while others ask more intelligent, informed questions.  Here are some of my favorite stories:

One girl stopped dead outside her classroom and asked, "Are you spinning??"  I wanted to answer, "You know what that is??" but I just nodded and grinned and kept going.

I attracted a crowd outside the testing center while waiting for my brother to finish his math placement exam.  I ended up explaining what I was doing, how it worked, and what I'd be using the yarn for.

In my history class one girl asked me how many cotton balls it took to spin what was on my spindle (although she didn't know the word "spindle" either).  I winced inwardly: Cotton balls? It was angora!  (And while it's possible to spin cotton balls, the preparation is terrible and I can't imagine the cotton is very high-quality stuff to begin with.)

My geology teacher opened the lab door and stared at me.  "Are you making thread?"  I told him it was yarn, but yes.  He was quite impressed.

Before a Shakespeare reading I sat in the audience quietly spinning short makes, humming along to the familiar instrumental guitar played on repeat before every performance.  The woman in front of me glanced over her shoulder and nearly flipped out.  She told me she had just bought a spindle, and she and her husband and I conversed for several minutes on spinning, owning sheep, how I practiced, etc.

Last week it was a lovely warm day, so between my classes I studied for my lab final out in the sun.  When I was finished I pulled out Akitla and began to spin, first standing on the bench and then the table for extra height (and no, I was not in the least self-conscious about it!).  I got plenty of odd looks, and eventually a young man found the courage to shyly walk over and ask me what I was doing.  We talked for the rest of my break about art (he intended to go back to drawing with focus on realism rather than cartoon), our approach to homework (wait until the last minute and pound out something good), how we pay for school (I've been saving since I was a kid; he took a year off school to earn enough for the semester), and people we know who are way ahead of the educational game (a sixteen-year-old girl who works at the reception desk, and my best friend).  It was a pleasant exchange between strangers who aren't likely to meet again.

The other day I was curled up in a chair at college with Akitla, having just finished spinning the second angora single.  Having nothing else to do, I dug around in my backpack for a suitably long straight object and came up with only a pen.  So, I began winding off the single onto the pen (which wasn't the greatest choice, but it worked).  People of course stared at me as they walked past, and one lady had a brief conversation with me about what I meant to do with the yarn when I was finished.  Then an old gentleman approached me from the stairs behind, craning his neck to see what I was holding.  He must have been about 60 (and I call him old not for his age, but for the tired way he walked and the cracking in his voice), and probably Indian due to his accent, passable grasp of English, and beautiful dark tan skin.  He seemed to know exactly what I was doing, although he couldn't express it in my language.  I offered him Akitla to hold, and he inspected my handiwork with appreciation.  He told me his grandmother used to "do that" with wool, for clothes.  "Very nice, very nice," he told me, and ambled on his way.  I seemed to have improved his day just slightly, and he definitely made an impact on mine.

Spinning in public is really an excellent way to talk to strangers.  It hasn't made me any friends, per se, but it has connected me in a small way to at least half a dozen lives, people who now have this knowledge of a weird thing that people do.  And that makes me happy enough to continue.


  1. My story is not about me spindling, but rather a very kind lady at the library charity book shop. We were both looking in the craft section and started talking. I mentioned that I hadn't spindled much, and had some very fine single on my spindle, that I was afraid to ply as I'd never done anything so fine before. She imediately pulled a spindle out of her bag and showed me a couple methods that I'd not heard of before, including Navajo plying while spindling. It's not just the Boy Scouts who follow the motto Be Prepared!

    1. Wow, that IS being prepared! So sweet of her to help you out like that. I hope your yarn turned out lovely!


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