Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Putting a Spin on Things

I think I mentioned this already at some point, but every year I make a long list of goals, some more urgent than others. I live by my daily To Do lists, but these bigger, broader annual lists are more of the wish variety. Will I ever really learn Spanish? Maybe, maybe not. But if I never put it on the list, then it's a pretty good bet there's no chance at all that I'll ever conquer it.

Taking more classes at HCW has been on the list for years now. Last January I told myself this would be the year I took every single class my schedule allowed-- this is how much I've transformed from "I will only ever knit rectangles and never learn to purl lest I get all consumed by complicated patterns." Now I want to learn tricks, even if I won't likely use them in my everyday knitting. I want to, eventually, earn the equivalent of an honorary Ph.D in everything knit. I want to know all the kinds of yarns and techniques and abbreviations. So putting "take classes" on the list was one of those goals that actually took on some urgency for me.

Unfortunately, my past year was so busy I hardly had time to sleep and breathe, let along follow through on class-taking. This was so frustrating for me. By the time I finished my latest book (which comes out next year) I looked at the calendar and it was practically November. I'd let just about every knit-class opportunity slip by me because I just could not fit it in.

Then I got the note-- an Express Spin class was happening and, no small miracle, I had time for it. It took me two days to find the drop spindle kit I picked up at a craft fair some time ago. I showed up to find Deb circled by others like me-- those of us officially addicted enough to want to know how to make our own fiber. (My own goal-within-the-goal is to get a spinning wheel and learn to use it.)

It is always funny and humbling to me to take a 101 class and find myself, if not befuddled, at least put in my place. Sure, I can research the hell out of historic documents, teach fidgety little children poetry, and hold my own improvising in the kitchen. But when it's time for motor skills lessons, boy do I struggle. And, too, beneath whatever frustration initially visits me, I get very excited. Because I love a challenge, and I love learning about process.

And so I sat, more enraptured than frustrated, as Deb covered an awful lot of territory for such a short two-hour stretch. She introduced us to all sorts of helpful books, naming Start Spinning and Respect the Spindle as two good get-started manuals (and telling us that, if we're like her, we'll also wind up building an entire collection of spin books as there is no shortage or other titles.)

Then we plunged right in. If I try to define for you here the terms I heard-- prepared, roving, carded, top-- I will only wind up confusing you. From my beginner's stance, here is roughly what it looked and sounded like:

Take this fluffy stuff. Prepare it by pulling gently. Get it connected to your starter cord (which is attached to your spindle), then simultaneously spin and draft continuously until you have...

Well, in my case let's just say I wound up with some "artisan yarn," replete with lots and lots of spots that continued to have that "right off the sheep" look to it. Which is to say I didn't manage to spin continuously. On the other hand, I had enough fun and picked up enough knowledge to want to keep trying. In fact, I was so excited, I took out my spindle at dinner that night, and attempted to demonstrate my new fledgling skills for my bf, Warren, and our friend, Dave. Warren and Dave both have engineer type brains and were eager to give the spindle a shot. None of us had much luck with the process though, as you'll see, we did have more fun finding new uses for the fluffy stuff.

Deb is promising a spinning wheel class soon, and I am already planning to put that at the top of my Big To Do List for 2010. I am bound and determined to figure out this spinning stuff. In the meanwhile, I was glad for the bigger lesson learned during class, which is how much I love, love, love learning new things. I know we are about to move into the crazy-busy holiday season in about five seconds here, but even if you can't fit any more classes into your schedule this year, may I gently remind you what a blast it is to sign-up for a class-- there are ongoing classes, one-shot classes, and series classes, like the sweater workshop I did manage to fit in back in January with Fran, which inspired me enough to get me working on what is, for me, a crazy tricky sweater, one I hope to finish and unveil soon.

So thank you, beloved knit shop, for all the opportunities to take it to the next level.

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