Tell us about your day job.
I am a forensic DNA analyst with the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at the University of Florida. I work only with animal DNA and mostly within the criminal realm—crime scene investigation (CSI) for animals. I deal with the poaching of our natural resources and animal abuse cases not only from Florida, but from all over the world. I process samples to extract DNA, looking for answers to questions, such as what species is the sample from and what gender is it? Does the evidence left behind from that individual animal match the evidence in a truck or on clothing? I identify and compare the DNA from different pieces of evidence to determine whether they have come from the same animal. It is very satisfying to be able to assist law enforcement and contribute to bringing poachers and other nefarious individuals to justice.
How did you become a spinner?
My then-husband and I bought a small farm so we could have dairy goats. As part of the farm, we got two sheep—Amos and Annie. Amos was aggressive and ended up in the pot, but Annie was sweet and gentle and spent her life on the farm giving wool. It was her wool that I learned to spin; my husband wanted a sweater from Annie. He bought me an Ashford Traveler, which I put together, and a book on how to spin. I eventually became proficient at it and was a commercial spinner for 10 years. More than 40 years and about 4,000 pounds of yarn later, I’m still spinning and still totally fascinated by the way the individual fibers twist together, yielding yarn that is strong enough to knit, crochet, and weave. I’m as amazed now as I was when I started!
Do your job and your fiber/spinning hobbies ever overlap?
Because of my job, I need to be careful about animal fibers traveling into my lab. However, I have a takli on my desk that I spin cotton on, and I spin a lot of cotton. I spin on conference calls, when I need a break from lab work, when I have to think about how to proceed with a case, or when I’m writing a difficult report. Spinning occupies my physical side and frees my thought processes, allowing various solutions to pass by until I find the right one.
How does spinning fit into the rest of your life?
Spinning has always been my place of refuge. It is what I do when I can’t do anything else, mentally or physically. It is where I go when I need to recover from a day, a week, or life in general. When 9/11 happened, I felt frozen in place. I spun miles of yarn while waiting to hear from loved ones and for some sense of normality to return.
This article was published in the Winter 2021 issue of Spin Off.