I am a spinner

Many people have asked me how I started spinning. I tell them my story, how it began and how it continued. But the other day someone asked me how I became a spinner. And that is to me a totally different question with a totally different answer. During the first few years after having learned some basics of spinning I could say I know how to spin. For the past few years, though, I can say I am a spinner.

When I stream my webinars I always begin by telling the story of how I began. The very first time I had any kind of spinning tool in my hand was on my first spinning lesson. I got a very heavy suspended spindle in one hand, a pair of hand cards in my other and a cardboard box of the newly shorn fleece from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finull lamb in my lap (You can read about how I began spinning and how I continued in the two very first posts in this blog).

From fleece to project

That is how I started and that is how I want to approach wool – I want to go through the whole process, feel the fibers go through my hands every step of the way from raw fleece to a finished yarn and get to know the wool as I work with it.

On my very first spinning lesson I got to dive into Pia-Lotta’s beautiful finull fleece.

Back then, in 2011, I didn’t know that that was the way I wanted to approach wool, because it was the only way I knew how to approach wool. After a while I did try commercially prepared wool, but it didn’t sing to me.

Doing or being?

A few years ago I listened a lot to Brenda Dayne’s brilliant podcast Cast-on. In one of the episodes she talked about knowing how to knit versus being a knitter. I’m not exactly sure how she phrased it, but her reflection stuck with me. She talked about being a knitter as something more, something deeper than just knowing how to knit.

As I reflect over being a spinner as something deeper than knowing how to spin I think about spinning as the main event, something I always come back home to. Everything I do has its foundation in the wool and in the purpose of spinning. When I discover a fleece I do so with the intention to find its soul and translate it into a yarn with my hands and some tools. When I knit, weave, nalbind or otherwise make a textile of my handspun yarn it is to continue that intention and make the yarn shine in the project. I do spin for a certain project to, but always with the spinning as the foundation and guide.

Spinning is something deeper to me than just a craft. It is a way of being. I am a spinner. Photo by Dan Waltin.

As a comparison, I know how to weave, but I definitely don’t consider myself a weaver and I don’t think I will ever become one. Don’t get me wrong, I love weaving. But weaving is far too complicated for me and I just know the basics. Still, enough to make my yarns beautiful as a woven fabric. The reason I learned how to weave was just that, to be able to use yarns from a wider spectrum of handspun yarns than just for knitting purposes. I learned how to weave for the sake of spinning.

Following my inner guide

To me, being a spinner also means allowing the wool to be the guide, alongside my inner guide, which would be the experience I have built through the years. My hands know and remember earlier projects. I can trust that knowledge to guide me in the fleece I have in front of me. I know enough to trust my experience. I also know that I can make mistakes and learn from them. Perhaps even more than if everything went smoothly.

I listen to the wool and let it guide me as I work with it. Photo by Dan Waltin.

With the experience I can also see patterns on a larger scale, connecting the dots and see a larger whole. While grounded in my experience I also have the confidence to explore new perspectives of a fleece and see where it takes me.

Grounded in my experience I can experiment and find new perspectives.

Spinning is nourishing to me. My main creative output is through handspinning (and to some extent writing), but spinning also gives me something more, a peace of mind, a moment to be in my spinning bubble and just breathe. In that flow of creativity and nourishment I find a sweet balance that I don’t want to be without. A balance where I am a spinner.

Finding the shift

So, back to the question of when I became a spinner. I look through my Ravelry project page to see if I can find a point in time or mind when I shifted from knowing how to spin to becoming a spinner.

For the first few years I did make handspun projects, mostly knitted, alongside commercial yarn items. But in 2014 something happened. A Fair Isle vest finished in May 2014 is the beginning of a turn where 75% of my projects are handspun. What happened during or leading up to the vest project?

Norwegian breeds

I had knit the Fair Isle vest with small skeins of yarn I spun from Norwegian breeds. In 2013, when I had got my first spinning wheel, I had taken a summer course in spinning with my spinning friend Anna.

Old Norwegian Spælsau, part of Kia’s fiber club. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I also entered a fiber club with rare and endangered Norwegian breeds hosted by my wool friend Kia. Kia has had a long career in wool and has worked as a wool classifier in Norway for many years. Tons and tons of wool has passed through her hands and she knows wool deep in her core (she is a wooler by heart). In four deliveries I got fleece from different Norwegian breeds that were either rare, endangered or both, all hand picked by Kia.

More than just a vest

I spun the yarns and enjoyed the characteristics of the different breeds. Kia wrote with love about the breeds, how rare a certain quality or colour was and what she imagined that particular wool to become. Her passion is such an inspiration and it lit a spark in me. I decided to make something real with the small skeins of Norwegian yarn. Thinking back of when I knit the vest I remember a special connection to the yarn and how it turned out in the Fair Isle pattern.

Spinning for and knitting Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang may have been the place in time and mind where I became a spinner. Photo by Dan Waltin.

At the time I didn’t know I had become a spinner. In hindsight though, Kia’s beautiful fiber club and my relationship to the yarn as I knit that vest can have been a place in time and in my mind where spinning became something more than spinning just as a craft. It became a part of me as a person and I became a spinner.

Kia’s passion for wool is truly inspiring.

I have known for some years now that I am a spinner, but it has never occurred to me to look for the shift between knowing how to spin and being a spinner. So thank you JM for your question. It allowed me to explore and learn something new about myself as a spinner. And thank you Kia for holding my hand as I did become a spinner.

Do you know when you became a spinner?

The wool is my guide.

“Do you think you will ever stop being a spinner?” my husband asked me after I had enthusiastically told him about finding a point in time when I shifted from knowing how to spin to becoming a spinner. “If you for some reason take a break for a while, will you stop being a spinner?” A terrifying thought, no doubt, but probably possible. We never know what life throws at us. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Happy spinning!

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 I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. 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.
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6 Replies to “I am a spinner”

  1. Thank you Josefin, this certainly resonates with me. I’m new to wool and wool related crafts, currently loving, exploring and learning. When I was ten years old, I learned how to play the cello, and I’m still learning now I’m in my fifties. It’s a ‘hobby’ not a job, but I consider myself a musician. When I’m performing, rehearsing, resting, cleaning, working, listening, playing together or by myself, I’m always a musician. I believe you’re always a spinner, even if you’re not spinning today. Once a spinner (or a musician), you’ll always be one.

  2. Hello Josefin! Another thoughtful post, that leads me to think more about why I spin and to gain more satisfaction and feel less frustrated when things are not going as I THINK they should (as opposed to understanding the wool and how it is performing as it is meant to). Just recently I have begun to feel I am a spinner rather than someone struggling to learn how to spin. Your posts have been, in part, a huge help to me. And spinning has become much more of a mindful practice I look forward to each day. Processing my own wool gives me a deeper understanding of the wool and like you, it is my most enjoyable time with my wool. Thank you for your insights!

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