29 March, 2011

Tell Me a Homespun Story

When you spin yarn in public, strangers talk to you.  Sometimes they tell you stories.

A man told me that in the 1950s when he was a boy, early in the morning after his paper route he would stop by a fabric mill to listen to the workmen start up the engine, engage the drive belt, and start up all the looms in the factory which took up more area than a city block.  One drive belt ran the whole thing, he said.

A woman told me that in Yemen they still spin yarn.  They keep their own goats and sheep, and they make mats for sleeping on, dyed blue and white and (I think) red.  The mats are good for rheumatism.

Some children came with their families to the museum this past Saturday where we were demonstrating handspinning.  I gave them simple handspun bracelets–"manly wrist straps" for the boys–and they liked them.  Two little sisters got to pull on the loose Romney wool I brought in hopes kids would do just that.  I helped a boy try my spare drop spindle.

A museum visitor said he had an antique spinning wheel at home but didn't know how to work it.  We'll help you, we said, bring your wheel to a guild meeting.  Do you make house calls, he asked.  Turned out he was from Nevada.

We had a good selection of fibres to exhibit.  People were quite interested in the flax, and one mother and daughter pair couldn't get over how shiny bamboo is.

We exhibited some of the clothes we have made.  Someone asked if it was possible to buy some lacy alpaca-fibre mitts that were out on the table.  Their maker sadly had to say the mitts were part of her current wardrobe and unavailable for sale.

A museum worker asked one of us whether she had ever dyed wool with butternuts.  I knew why he was asking; the museum interprets the Confederacy side of the American Civil War and Confederate uniforms were dyed grey with butternuts.

Another museum worker was wearing a reproduction Confederate uniform.  I admired the cloth of the coat so I asked him about it.  He told me where he gets his clothing.  He added that such things are only worth getting from people who do a good job with good materials.  I said as handspinners we find that quality materials are important to us too.

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