Through learning, sharing and making I often feel a strong connection to the spinning students in my classroom as well as to past and present spinners around me.
Just recently I taught a two-day course in floor spindle spinning. There were seven students in the classroom, with varying degrees of spinning experience. Through wool, wool preparation, spinning and learning we all felt a strong connection to each other as spinners.
Connection through sheep
My very generous friend Lena was one of the students. She lives near the church school where I taught the class and had brought a soup for us to share at lunch break. She had also brought beautiful raw fleece from her gene bank flock of the Swedish conservation breed dalapäls sheep that we prepared and spun in the course.
Lena told us tales about the sheep and the shearing. Usually she shears the sheep herself with hand sheers, which tends to take around an hour for one sheep, but this year she had booked a professional shearer to do the job.
Just a few days before the shearing the sheep had walked through a patch of some sort of plant that spread its seed pods with the help of barbs. Suddenly all sheep were covered in nasty little seed pods that had caught the fleece with the barbs. Lena had to brush every sheep for an hour each to get rid of as many seeds as possible. Even if there were still some seeds left, the brushing left the shorn fleeces very clean.
Through Lena’s stories we connected to the wool in the basket in the middle of our spinning circle, as well as to the sheep that had given us their fleeces. We all carded and the same rolags, with the oh, so soft undercoat fluffing up the shape and the shiny outercoat armouring and adding strength.
You can read more about dalapäls wool here.
At the end of each day and/or course I always encourage my students to reflect over the day in quietude. We sit there in a silent room while they make notes of what has happened during the day, catching and developing all the thoughts, questions, aha-moments and frustrations that are still vividly floating around in the room. I watch them as they write, stop, think and write again. I can see their minds settling as their thoughts take a written form.
When all notebooks have closed and the students sighed in the calming silence I ask if anyone has something they want to share: What have you learned? What was difficult? What are you proud of? The students are generous, sharing personal insights, struggles and successes: “I finally carded an even rolag!”, “The joins were so difficult to get right.” or “When I learned how to open up the twist everything became much easier.”.
Connection through learning
On this course one of the students, a total beginner, said she so enjoyed the connection we shared in the course. Learning together, connecting to each other, back to spinners before us and out to spinners beside us. She was proud of having given herself the time to learn something new.
I too experience a deep connection in the courses. Just like this student said, to each other, to the spinners before and beside us, but also to the wool, to the sheep, to the making and to our learning process. The students in the classroom all have different spinning backgrounds, skill levels, learning styles and learning pace. Still, we all take part in each other’s joys, frustrations and vulnerabilities with kindness and compassion.
We’re in this together
After all, we are all there, in that same room, with the same wool and the same tools. In that room we take that wool and those tools and make our connected, collective, but still individual journeys. As soon as the first chafing of being in a new context has settled, we find trust and a connection to the group. We are in this together. During the course we are making, learning, frustrating, progressing and exploring together. We may be vulnerable in the new learning context, but by having an open, generous and curious mind we can disclose our fears and struggles, explore together and learn through both our own and each other’s experiences.
In my classroom I want to make the learning a connected experience. As I see or hear struggle or success, I encourage exploration, articulation and reflection of what happened. How can we all learn more from this? There is such a power in learning in and through a warm and safe connection. We give ourselves time to learn.
As the day settles
When we had finished the first day I went home with Lena to her house. We talked for hours over a sweet dinner she had prepared for us while the fire mumbled quietly in the background. I picked up a two-end knitting project with spindle-spun dalapäls yarn. The yarn reminded me of that connection we shared to spinners before, beside and after us.
When I went home the following afternoon I had an extra paper bag with me, with the soft and shiny fleece from Lena’s dalapäls sheep Nehne, reminding me of all the connections we shared during the course. The connections will be spun into the yarn, passing the sweet memories on to the touch of my two-end knitted sleeves.
The following day I washed Nehne’s fleece that I got from Lena. It has been drying in front of the fireplace, smelling faintly of sheep. She reminds me of the course and the connection we all shared in the classroom. I even enjoy picking out the last remaining seed pods.
Next weekend I will attend a gym instructor course and can’t promise a blog post.
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- 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.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
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