Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | June 26, 2010

Turning, turning, turning

Spinning is meditative.  I’ve said that before.  Lately, I’ve been just itching to get spinning again.  I’ve been busy with my job search, sewing a ton of projects, and the various family duties and events.  I’ve been feeling ungrounded and a bit like a hamster on a wheel.  I need to spin.

Recently, I took my spinning to sit with friends at the hospital and in recovery.  I’m always amazed at the way my spirit just kinda takes a breath and settles down.  It becomes a pattern and rhythm of drafting, spinning and winding on.  The whorl spins steadily and spindle gets full.  A cop forms, soft and pliable and orderly.  Heathered brown merino.  Natural.  It’s what I’ve been working on my handspindle for these outings.   So soothing.  It reminds me of river stones.

A few weeks ago, I took my spinning to faire to demonstrate wool working to patrons.  I love it when the children come up to me.  Some are hesitant, while others make a straight and impressively speedy bee line for me and my wheel.  It’s the moving bits that catch them.  I usually slow my wheel down as I wave encouragement to them.  There is absolute delight on their faces when I let them turn the wheel carefully.  I’ve had a 2 year old resolutely turn my wheel by hand for about 10 minutes straight because she wanted to “help” me turn her coarse carding into a yarn bracelet to take home.

I’ve found stories of the magic of spinning.  I’ve looked up names of goddesses associated with spinning.  I’ve read fairy and folk tales of spinning.  Rumpelstiltskin and Sleeping Beauty are stories that most people think about when they think of the fairy tales.  When I’m at faire, I’m asked about  about which part of the wheel Sleeping Beauty/Aurora pricks her finger on.  I always laugh when people are wondering why the maidens (the upright parts that hold the bobbin) on my wheel aren’t sharp.  I tell people that the original  illustrators must have all been men who didn’t know a thing about spinning.  It’s always a great way to interact with patrons at faire.

Call me superstitious or sentimental, but I’ve named my spinning wheels.  (Hey, there are a lot of guys who name their cars and pieces of their anatomy.  Give me a break.) My three wheels Habetrot, Ishka Holda,  and Hope.  (No, I haven’t named the charka wheel yet because I haven’t worked on it yet.)  Basically, I feel that I am in partnership with the spirit of the wheel.

Habetrot was my first wheel.  Habetrot is the name of a Scottish goddess of spinning and healing.  It is the name I gave my original generation Lendrum single treadle wheel that I bought from a friend’s mom.  She has been a steady friend.  She packs up into a backpack the size of a large guitar.  She isn’t too finicky.  She is sturdy and constant.  I love her.

Hope is a beauty.  She was rescued from a garage sale that dear Husby was running past on one of his jogs.  He loves me…he ran back home and told me where it was, the asking price and that I should get there quick.  She was missing her flyer and bobbins and drive band.  She was covered with dust, dirt, grease and mildew.  They were asking $15.  I bought her and took her home.  We then went the next weekend to Carolina Homespun to get the lovely ladies there to assess her condition.  Bingo!  I spent more on parts and refinishing supplies, but now she is my workhorse wheel for when I go to Ren faires to demonstrate spinning.  (She’s an Ashford Saxony for those who want to know.)

Ishka Holda is named with a sense of humor.  She is an old old single treadle Schacht Matchless.  I named her- after I had spent 8 hours refurbishing her – Ishka Holda to acknowledge that Ferengi tendency I have and to recognize Holda, a German goddess of spinning ( ).

(Ishka is the name of the mother of Ferengi Quark in Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  You see…I am known as “the Ferengi” by my guildmaster because I have a way of acquiring goods for cheap or free, and see things for the value that others don’t always recognize.  In my first year at Renaissance faires I ended up with 7 fleeces, multiple bags of roving and locks, a ton of yarn, a bunch of fabric, and two spinning wheels – the little charka wheel and the other the Matchless.)

Ishka (1) photo

This wheel reminds me that it pays to take risks – like the impulse I had to say “yes” (sight unseen) to the offer of the faire patron who asked if I wanted her late mother’s fiber arts supplies.  Ishka Holda is wonderful.  She has a fast smooth rhythm that challenges me to improve my skill and speed.  She is a gift from the Universe because there is no way I could have afforded to buy her.  I am also so happy to have rescued her from the hot dusty confines of a storage locker where she could have become warped beyond use.

Each of these ladies has taught me something and all of them have a sense of healing they share with me or my visitors.  My favorite memory so far is of a visit from a young man I met at Valhalla in June.  His name was Jacob.  He was brought to my corner of the pavilion by his adult friend with a toddler.  At first I thought he was just another awkward young teen who was being dragged to various “educational” demonstrations around faire, but then I noticed that his distraction was more ingrained in his body.  His friend asked me if I could show Jacob the various steps of the wool processing.  I remember putting myself in direct line wth Jacob, so that our heads and hands were aligned with each other.  I felt as if, by creating a little bubble of focus, he could be in the present time and place with me.  He seemed slow, like he was struggling to follow my movements at the wheel and listen to my words.  Then I had a flash of intuition.  I needed to slow down and get closer.

I went from across from him to behind him, my lips inches from his ear.  I put my arms around him and placed my hands over his as one held a wool card and the other brushed the opposing card against it.  His focus shifted, became clearer.  Together we carded the wool.  Then, sitting close next to him, I held the spindle and he spun it to turn his rolag into yarn.  As I quickly plied the length of nubby white single into a soft yarn, he watched entrance.  As I tied the yarn into a loop around his wrist a small smile appeared under his peach fuzz moustache.  He rewarded me with a grin as I quietly told him, “The green will remind you of me, and the white will remind you of what you learned today.”  I caught a look of pride and gratitude on the face of Jacob’s grown up friend.

That experience reminds me why I try to interact with patrons at faire, why I share my spinning with others.  You never know how what you show or do will affect another person.  Sometimes it’s just a burst of laughter as someone struggles to learn something new like controlling a spinning top of a hand spindle.  Sometimes it is a chance to have a modern day person think about the energy that goes into the creation of material goods.  Other times it is a deep moment of accomplishment and connection for someone who is otherwise discounted or isolated.

A couple of days ago, I washed down Hope.  Yesterday, I oiled and buffed her.  Today, I’ll put on a new drive band and spin.  I’ll watch the wheel and flyer turn, turn, turn.  My breath will slow and my fingers will quicken.  I’m looking forward to it.




  1. No fair! You made me all weepy.

    Love you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: