Monday, March 21, 2011

A New Arrival

Meet 'Viola Margaret'
Not long ago, my friend and neighbor Dan invited me to take a drop spindle class with him at our village's local yarn shop, and after an evening spent in the company of a handful of fiber fans, surrounded by yarns and wheels and knitting supplies, I was soon smitten.

The feel of the roving in my fingers combined with the rhythmic zen-like focus of the task seemed to reach me on a personal level. Spinning made me think of my Swedish grandmother, for one thing -- perhaps because I seem to connect all yarn- and fiber-related things to her. And, of course, it made me think of simpler times. As I clumsily worked, I thought of childhood moments spent on Grandma's lap as she taught me to knit, and I entertained country dreams full of sun and sheep. By evening's end I'd created half a yard's worth of the ugliest yarn imaginable, but to me it was gold spun from straw.

James met us at the yarn shop when our class ended, and he and Dan and I went out for pie and conversation. It was apparent that Dan had been smitten similarly with the act of spinning, and it wasn't long after our class that he purchased a wheel seen in the window of a local antiques shop. Prior to our class I'd seen a wheel there as well (not the same one as it turns out). To me it looked like something that had 'come over on the boat', and I imagined it once standing proud in a Swedish ancestor's clean and spartan parlor. I couldn't afford that particular instrument, and I was happy for Dan that he could. And I was envious, too....

So imagine my surprise when I encountered Dan recently on his way home from the village and in his arm was a modern and efficient little spinning wheel, the Scandinavian-looking collapsible kind -- all blonde wood and wheels. I stopped to admire it but hesitated to ask about the antique one he'd purchased. We walked back to his house together, and once there I waited outside while he brought the new wheel in and the old wheel out. I'd never seen the 'old' one before. It wasn't the one I'd coveted in the window of the antiques store, it was infinitely better! A classic, castle-style wheel that looked as if Rumplestiltskin himself had once used it.

As I ran my hand across its wood, I told Dan how smart he'd been to snap it up. And his response was, bottom line, "Maybe, maybe not. You want it?" It took me more than a moment to realize that he was offering it to me! His reasoning was that he only had room for one, the antique wheel needed repair, he had no idea how to make that happen, and he was anxious to get spinning. Plus, he knew I'd been jonesing for one ever since our class together. Want it!? I fell all over myself in my excitement to take it home.

When James arrived later from work and saw the wheel, he was just as excited about it as I was. And the next day he loaded it up in the car and drove us back to the yarn shop to see if the owner there could tell us what we could do to get it up and running.

First thing: she threaded a cheap belt around its middle, got it spinning, then managed to draw an inch or two of roving in before the instrument lost interest. She said a tension adjustment was needed, but after studying it all at great length couldn't figure out how to make that happen.

So James and I wrote down the number of someone who may or may not be able to help us and then we took the wheel home again. We both agreed: if nothing else, it would be the star tchotchke in a whole house of tchotchkes. And we were prepared to let it be just that. Until the very next day when my dear friend Louise and her sister Ann paid us a visit. And guess what? Ann just so happens to be very familiar with spinning wheels, and together, she and James solved the tension problem! Looking back on it now it all feels like magic....

So now it appears as though my new arrival might prove to be more than just a pretty dust-collector, and -- like the one in my imagination -- she now stands proud in my parlor - er - living room. That's right: it's a 'she.' And even though my Swedish grandmother had a loom and not a spinning wheel, I've decided to name this new addition after her, so welcome 'Viola Margaret.'


  1. It's gorgeous! I'm jealous! I can totally see the draw. Good for you! I hope to see the yarn at some point, even gnarly. It's so cool you can do this! Hugs —Chris

  2. Thanks, Chris! But time will tell whether or not I can actually do this (:D)....

    I've signed up at the aforementioned yarn shop for a beginner's spinning class so that I can (hopefully) learn on one of the newfangled modern wheels before tackling this one proper. The Yarn Lady there tells me that only very fine yarn can be created on this antique wheel and I'm sure it'll take me years and years of practice to be able to do that.

    So we'll see! The interest is there, though, which is half the battle, right? :D