This week a journal entry, writer’s block, migraine and a sore thumb led me to bold decisions, new perspectives and beautiful insights.
A sore thumb
I have been spinning my Icelandic fleece quite frequently lately. The other day I felt some soreness in my left thumb. Minuscule, really. A flap of skin was loose on my finger print and I realized that to keep spinning that wool – in the grease, I might add – while the skin was sore and reddened wouldn’t be the best idea. I got a bit sad. After all, I had worked out a process for this wool that worked very well and I had reached a soft flow in my spinning. A migraine restricted most other activities than slow and mindful crafting for the next few days.
At the same time I was looking for something to write for this week’s blog post. I usually work with a blog post during most days of the week. On Saturday morning I finally publish it. A void crystallizes itself and on some level I miss what I have just written, just as I miss a spinning project when the basket is empty. The process I have been working on and growing in suddenly becomes a product with the press of a button.
Sans a lot
My hands and my mind still need to write, but it does take some effort and recharging to come up with an idea for a new post. So, I was sans spinning and sans blog idea. Also sans capacity to do much else than activities that didn’t require moving my head.
I do free write every morning in my dawn journal and exercise my writing muscles daily. The other day I was scribbling away as the day broke, about crafting and creativity. I reflected over how creativity creates more creativity as I am in the moment, calming bouncy ideas that want my attention, making them less elusive and more mellow. How I am in the creating and the creating is in me.
Enter: Idea (with tart tone)
Half an hour or so later an idea knocked gingerly on the inside of my skull, hoping to get out in the air. It said (with a slightly tart tone, I might add): “Why don’t you change hands? Like you always tell your students to do? That way you get to spin without making the sore thumb worse and you will have something to blog about.” Well, that’s a thought. It will also enable me to spin through the migraine and experience what I torment my students with when I ask them to change hands. The idea was just the kind of idea that I had been writing about that same morning, an idea that had matured in my mind through spinning.
This is actually my favourite kind of blog writing process. I spin a bit, get an idea during the spinning process and write it down. As the idea gets clad in linguistic splendour – preferably with sparkles – I understand more and try my new baby reflection at the wheel or spindle. I realize more and need to put that into writing too. The process of theory and practice in spinning is something I treasure.
Changing hands for ergonomics
When it comes to spindles – supported, suspended, floor supported and in-hand – I have no problem changing hands. I always choose the hand that is most effective for the spinning direction I have chosen (read about spinning direction and ergonomics here and watch a free webinar in spindle spinning here). Ever since I realized its implications for spinning I have practiced this and feel rich with the opportunities it gives me.
This summer I practiced changing hands when I spun flax on my spinning wheel with a makeshift parasol stand floor distaff that I placed alternately to the left and right of me for a more ergonomic and balanced working position. All this has been first and foremost to work with my body and avoid strain in hands, arms and shoulders. I have also raved to my students about the benefits of understanding the work of both hands through both hands. But when it comes to my own default wheel spinning I have never seen any ergonomic benefit of changing hands and therefore never practiced it. Until now.
So what do the hands really do? Well, the two hands have two primary tasks in spinning:
- One hand, the spindle hand or spinning hand in spindle spinning or the front hand or spinning hand in wheel spinning, controls the spinning. This hand is closest to the drafting triangle and the point of twist insertion, where fibers become yarn. This hand is at the center of the action, where the actual spinning occurs.
- The other hand, the fiber hand in spindle spinning or back hand or fiber hand in wheel spinning, controls the fiber. This hand holds the fiber and makes sure the right amount of fiber feeds along to the spinning hand without holding the fiber too loosely or too tightly.
In my experience most focus is on the spinning hand, the hand that controls the fiber. The fiber hand just follows along and is in my experience not often debated. It is when we change hands that we realize that the fiber hand has an equally important task. So, to a student who says they are verrry right or left handed and couldn’t possibly change hands I say: Deal with it. Or something a lot nicer. My point is, both hands have important tasks that require fine motor movements. Hand dominance has nothing to do with it.
A rocky boat
In changing hands I will rock the boat and sail out on deep waters. But in the end I will get to the other shore. As I fumblingly place the fiber in the left hand and prepare my right hand for spinning for the first time it feels awkward and clumsy. And, frankly, quite intimidating.
My brain knows what should happen, but sort of doesn’t. Come to think of it, it’s like a migraine aura. I have my field of view in front of me but I can’t make out what it is I see. When I get the blurred vision in an aura I try to move my head around to get access to the whole field of view, at least enough to be able to email my boss and call in sick. I find a new perspective, or, rather, perspectives, that allow me to understand the world from my current reality. I need to find clues in my new perspective to understand what my hands need to do with their new roles.
My hands have no clue what to do but sort of do. The knowledge is there, but integrated in the wrong hand. A link is missing and I need to take leadership of the search party. The new roles for my hands is uncomfortable, but that’s ok. Sometimes we need discomfort to understand the comfort. And an understanding of other people in discomfort for that matter.
So, despite the discomfort I stick to my plan and move on. My movements are fumbly and my hands unused to the motions and decisions of their new roles. This is where I start doubting myself. How do I not know this? How come my hands feel absolutely outlandish?
This feeling is something I deal a lot with with my students. Most of them are experienced students that get very frustrated at not knowing what to do when presented with a new tool. Experiencing this sensation myself is truly valuable and I’m grateful for the opportunity. And a bit frustrated. Or possibly a lot.
As I practice I understand my hands’ new roles better and better. Placing my left hand role in the right hand forces me to have a conversation between my hands via my brain. I need to analyze the motions and challenges of the right hand through my left hand and digest it in my head.
- The fibers are stuck in the preparation or coming completely loose. How would my regular hand hold and manage the fiber?
- I’m clenching my fiber hand in my lap. How does it feel with my regular hand?
- I’m pinching the thumb of my new front hand. What do I need to change to loosen the grip, and without loosing the technique?
- The yarn gets too bulky or too fine. How do I find that “just right” sensation I always have in my regular hand?
Asking questions like these sharpens my senses and my interpretation of the components in the spinning process. I get to discover the spinning again and listen to the wool, through fresh hands. First-hand (pun vert much intended) I get to see how a new drafting hand and a new fiber hand develop, learn and flourish. Though my wobbly hands I get to understand the spinning process more fully, from a wider perspective. I feel very grateful for the experience.
Choosing the challenge
During this whole week I have worked with my fresh hands. My sore thumb has healed. I can go back to my regular hands if I want to. However, I also have the opportunity to change hands whenever I want, work with and through the discomfort. I can choose to keep challenging myself by keeping this new skill alive, feeding my fresh and sharp perspective of spinning and a humble view of the tasks of spinning hand and fiber hand.
Have you tried changing hands with any spinning tool? And have you stayed with it, exercising both hands in both roles? You are welcome to share in the comments.
You can find me in several social media:
- This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
- My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
- I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
- I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
- On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
- You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
- Follow me on Instagram. I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
- Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how
- Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
- I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.