Words and Photos by Joanne Seiff
There’s really something exquisite about a habit. That morning dog walk, cup of coffee, or the cookie we eat after lunch – life is full of delicious, everyday activities. For many spinners, spinning the same vanilla kind of yarn becomes so automatic that one day you may long to break out and try something new. Or you can’t see the point, because this is the only kind of yarn you’ll ever use. Worse, now that you’ve spun the same kind of yarn for so long, you fear this is it – you can’t make anything different. So why mix it up?
- It’s good for you intellectually. Research shows that learning new things, including hands-on, flow activities like spinning, can help develop new neural pathways in our brains. There’s some indication this can prevent dementia, depression, and all sorts of other health concerns. So if you’re a long-time laceweight Merino spinner, spinning that bulky crunchy longwool might be like eating more fibre or a daily constitutional. It’s worth pushing yourself. Keep those neurons firing and stay healthy and active.
- It might get your body moving! If you’ve long been a single treadle, Saxony spinning wheel spinner, you’re likely not using one foot as much as the other. A double treadle wheel might be worth exploring. If you’re always spinning sitting down, a hand spindle might help you move your shoulders and arms in ways they need to stretch. A walking wheel can help you put extra steps into every day without going outdoors in bad weather. There are lots of ways to stretch and move while also continuing to spin. Spinning may not be a high-intensity workout, but keeping moving, in all directions, can be good for us at any age.
- It improves your mental health in small ways. Really! No kidding. A change is as good as a rest, and all those other clichés. Sometimes, grabbing a hand-dyed braid in bright colours can be just the stimulating pick me up you need to feel more joy in the dead of winter. Colour has that power, when used carefully. Other times, a seemingly endless run of cream-colored crisp Texel hand-carded rolags might provide just the soothing texture you need to calm down during trying times.
- It meets specific goals. There can be little more satisfying than creating something, by hand, from start to finish. Sometimes I meet spinners in a rut who successfully spin small batches of yarn but cannot graduate to sweater-sized quantities. Or they churn out factory-sized quantities of uniform yarn but at the wrong weight or using the wrong fibre for the job at hand. Figuring out what you really need and then changing your spinning to meet that goal can be a game changer. For instance, what if you really need a warm, brown, hardwearing pill-free sweater for hiking and working outdoors, but you only spin 4-ounce braids of Merino pink hand-dyes? It’s time to help yourself meet those goals! Change your usual activities and start to spin a naturally brown medium or long wool instead.
- It gifts us with novelty. If you’re struggling with the same-old, same-old in other parts of your life (hello, pandemic blues), it’s okay to change it up for no reason at all. Not to learn something new or for a specific project or even because you’re actually feeling unwell in body or mind. What if you just want to play? Enjoying a new exploration – in processing fibre, dyeing, colour blending, technique, spinning tool, whatever – can help address that need for “new new new” that our society often thrusts upon us. Your values may not align with that of fast fashion, but sometimes we still yearn for a treat. Surely a little packet of exotic fibre – yak or qiviut, anyone? – or a stint of spinning cotton, flax, or hemp might change up a habitual wool spinner’s routine.
- It meets others’ needs. Often, we break out of habits not because it’s good for us but because it’s good for others. In other words, they need us. For instance, your local school needs woollies to hand out for children who come to school without warm clothes. This calls for some warm mitts and hats in a hurry – perhaps in superwash wools or down breeds that won’t felt on the playground. Since you’re a spinner, you can work to meet that need, whether it’s a laceweight christening shawl, a chemo cap, or those mittens spun and knit in a hurry for those cold elementary school kids.
There are lots of reasons to mix it up as a spinner! There’s no need to pick just one reason. In fact, you don’t have to try something different because it’s healthy for your mind, body, or mood or to meet personal goals or to try something new or meet anyone else’s needs. Instead, why not try it because it’s fun?
Joanne Seiff has written three fiber-related books: Three Ply, Fiber Gathering, and Knit Green. She writes, edits, spins, knits, designs, and teaches in Winnipeg. See her designs on Payhip, Ravelry, and Lovecrafts.com—her designs might sing in your handspun. Read joanneseiff.blogspot.com or @yrnspinner on Instagram to learn more!
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