I Am a Spinner: Dr. Heather Sloan

Marine Geophysicist

Spin Off Editorial Staff Dec 9, 2019 - 4 min read

I Am a Spinner: Dr. Heather Sloan Primary Image

Dr. Heather Sloan aboard a research boat in Lake Azuei, Haiti, being interviewed by a local television news crew. Dr. Sloan and her colleagues carried out a geophysical survey of the lake in January 2017, looking for evidence that would help estimate the future earthquake hazard in the region.

Tell us about your day job.

I am a marine geophysicist. As a professor at Lehman College, City University of New York, I teach geology and help to prepare future Earth science teachers. These students are my favorite part of my job. My research focuses on mapping the seafloor, usually at the mid-ocean ridge, and my objective is to understand how the seafloor forms. Since 70percent of our planet’s surface is seafloor, this has always seemed important to me. Most recently, my colleagues and I surveyed the bottom of Lake Azuei in Haiti. The last earthquake there killed over 200,000 people and left many more homeless and severely injured. A better understanding of the most dangerous areas will help schools, hospitals, and emergency services to plan for the next earthquake.

How did you become a spinner?

In 1986, I took an adult-education course in spinning. It opened a whole new world. We dove in at the deep end, each of us ordering a spinning wheel and a whole fleece. The course was wonderful. By the end, we had sorted, washed, carded, spun, and plied several beautiful skeins of yarn; I was hooked.

Do you have other fiber hobbies?

In addition to spinning, I am an avid knitter, and I am learning to weave. I have been working slowly on Level 2 of the Master Hand Knitting program from the Knitting Guild Association.

Do your job and your fiber/spinning hobbies ever overlap?

I wear my handspun, handkintted sweaters to work and out on field trips with my students. Wearing my sweaters has become a sort of trademark for me with my students. I also sell my work locally at the farmer’s markets and artisan fairs. I usually bring my wheel and do spinning demonstrations at the farmer’s market, drawing the attention of lots of children and some adults, too.

How does spinning fit into the rest of your life?

During the academic year, things are pretty busy, so I mostly spin in the summer. I like to spin outside when it’s warm. Since I usually spin from fleece, spinning outside means the various bits and pieces that nature includes in a fleece for our amusement are kept out of the house.

What is your favorite thing about spinning?

I love the look and feel of locks from a fleece, particularly the longwools, and I prefer natural fleece colors, especially the grays and browns. Watching plied yarn wind onto my bobbin still amazes me; it’s something about the twist.


Wearing a handspun, handknitted sweater is Dr. Heather Sloan’s trademark. Photo by Dr. Heather Sloan.

Do you know someone whom we should feature in “I Am a Spinner”?

We’re especially interested in spinners with unusual careers, locations, and perspectives. Drop us a line at [email protected]. If we use your suggestion, we’ll send you a treat from our stash of fiber goodies! Because of the volume of submissions we receive for this feature, we will only notify you if your nomination is selected.