How I Got My Spinning Groove Back

The #spinoffmittalong was the opportunity I needed to reconnect my hands with making yarn.

Anne Merrow Mar 23, 2020 - 5 min read

How I Got My Spinning Groove Back Primary Image

These eye-searingly pink mittens beckoned me back to spinning regularly.

I have a confession to make: for the 5 years that I was the editor of Spin Off, I did almost no spinning.

In fact, from the end of 2012 until the end of 2019, I can count on one hand the number of projects I spun. I finished the spinning part of the #combosalkal, and I spun and plied a fleece for Spinzilla 2015, but for the most part, my wheel sat unattended (though my fiber purchases kept up, of course).

The thing about not spinning any more—like not running any more or reading books any more—is that when I stopped, I didn't know I was stopping. I just had to move to a new place, and then I'd get my wheel out again. When it got warmer and my shinsplints healed a little, I'd be out pounding the pavement again. I'd just leave a receipt to hold my place in this book until I came back to it.

It takes a while to realize that I'm no longer doing the things I did, but the hard part is wondering if I'm still a doer of those things. When I no longer have a pair of serviceable running shoes, does it mean I'm not a runner any more? How about the fact that I really don't expect that I will run again? (Believe me, I've done the physical therapy, and it is not in the cards for me.)

I didn't dare wonder whether I still was a spinner, because being a spinner has burrowed right down to the root of who I am; not being a spinner was unthinkable. It wasn't just that the editor of Spin Off was either a spinner or a fraud, it was the way that I insisted to everyone who would listen that twist is magic glue (thank you, Judith) and surrounded myself with spinners and had a very spinnerly veneration for wool. Still, what is a spinner who doesn't spin?

I don't really know what turned the mitt-along from something to consider in the abstract to something I was doing. I reached into my stash, and without thinking much about it, I grabbed a braid of outrageous fiber and set up my wheel. My travels were taking me to Michigan, so I chose the Mittens from the Mitten State by Amy Tyler from our Delightful Mittens eBook, which were also just-right knitting: simple but not endless, with a stitch pattern that forgave uneven yarn.

And my yarn was uneven indeed. I might have been thinking about yarn for all these years, and my fingers remembered how twist works, but they didn't respond as effortlessly as I remembered. Where I used to spend weekends spinning and plying several braids of hand-dyed fiber into yarn with perfect twist, my new yarn was uneven. I pressed on—the yarn was so bright, nothing would show anyway. On a roll, I knitted those mittens in a week.

Halfway through the knitting, a friend admired the mittens, and without a second thought I offered them as a gift (after the ends are woven in and the mittens are blocked). He seemed surprised, but I realized that it hadn't really been about the mitts. The point was the doing.

Besides, I already had another pair of mitts in mind. Wanting to switch from the short forward draw that used to be my favorite to a more relaxed long draw, I reached into my stash and brought out some short, fine fiber for the next project.

I'm delighted and relieved to be doing the thing that I am again.


Toby the cat is delighted, too. Pattern: Mittens from the Mitten State by Amy Tyler, originally published in Spin Off Winter 2018; fiber: Hedgehog Fibres superwash merino blend, label lost already...

(My husband is a bit less delighted. We met during my spinning hiatus, so although we have always had spinning stuff in the craft room, he's never gotten the full effect of living with a handspinner before.)