Spinning in Place: Overcoming Wool Block

words and photo by: Bethany Fethkenher 

In different seasons of our life, we may feel the wheels are just spinning. We can’t get out of the ruts. Same problems at work. Same issues with kids. Same health (mental and physical) struggles. Same relationship issues. Our wheels keep spinning to find a way out. 

The same can be true about our creative side. It’s the same old, same old. I call this Wool Block as a nod to Writer’s Block and the physical ailment of wool block that angora rabbits can get. At the beginning stages of wool block with rabbits, you change their feed. You change the routine. No more pellets. Just hay. And supplements of papaya and/or pineapple juice if possible. You change the routine. Left unchecked, wool block can cause death in rabbits. Likewise, remaining in an unhealthy brain place with your craft can cause a decline in skills, lost interest, and even craft abandonment.  

Overcoming Wool Block requires being intentional about your surrounding and routines. By changing up how and where we spin, we can spark the flame of creativity once again.  


Spin badly 

Often, we get caught up in everything turning out exactly how we planned it. Let go of the reigns of control and spin badly. Switch positions while drafting. Change the rhythm of your feet or the length of your draw. Mix colors that shouldn’t go together. Use that fiber you bought five years ago that you can’t stand anymore. Can you spin with your eyes closed? For a perfection-seeking artist like myself, the very thought of spinning badly hurts. But if the goal is to spin badly, then you have achieved your goal. You’ve won.  

Learn something new 

Classic 2-ply spinner? Have you ever tried a cable ply or a chain ply? Worsted drafting your go-to? Try a woolen long draw. Do a breed study on an animal simply because you like the name of the animal or it starts with the same letter as your middle initial. When we learn something new, we are walking a new path, a new adventure! If a big adventure is too much for you, take a side quest. Read an article about the French linen industry or visit a local museum and evaluate artifacts from a spinners point of view. Go visit a farm! Meet and learn about the animals who produce the fiber you’re spinning. Learning can be a tinder box of tools that restarts your passions.  


Plan on it 

Wool Block can cause craft avoidance. Once we get out of the rhythm of making, it can be hard to get back in. Make an achievable plan. Achievable is key. What will reality allow you to do? My reality now versus two years ago is much different. Therefore, I can’t allow previous reality to dictate current expectations and circumstances. It can be simple. I’m going to physically feel five different types of roving or fiber this week. I’m going to touch my spinning wheel every time I walk into the room that holds it. I’m going to spin for 15 minutes twice this week. Or I’m finally going to start spinning for that sweater I’ve wanted to make for the past five years! The simple acknowledgment of your craft can be the first step to recovering your passion 


Change your physical space 

I am ashamed to admit that recently I couldn’t even see my spinning wheel past the Lego creations, piles of books, and cardboard box spaceships scattered around my living room. My spinning wheel needed a new place, a not-so-crazy-kid place. Does the physical space with your spinning wheel feel inviting to you? Or maybe you can’t even spin at home, it’s just too hectic. Take your wheel, spindle, combs, or carders and head to the coffee shop, your own backyard, park, or bring it while you’re waiting for an appointment. Spinning in public often inspires others which in turn can encourage you and builds confidence in your craft. 


Get inspired 

Thirty minutes of watching reels on cute kittens doesn’t inspire me to spin. It inspires me to eat more chocolate and snuggle deeper under the covers with my cat. Try a new way to get inspired. Use a picture to recreate a specific element. Can you create the spikey texture of a cactus? How could you emulate “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer? Can you put the essence of one of your favorite vacation pictures into your yarn? Can you capture the glory of a sunset in your next project?  


Spend time with a fiber friend 

You can spend time with a fiber friend virtually or in person and ask them to show you their most recent project or current favorite yarn. Ask them what they are thinking of doing next. Others love an eager listener. And most spinners love a chance to talk to someone likeminded who won’t look at them sideways. The energy another person gives off when they share their creations often brings a jolt of synergy. 


We all experience ups and downs in life. Your craft will look different in different season of your life. That is okay. Wool Block can be overcome if it’s not ignored. 


Bethany Fethkenher is the fiber artist behind Fennel and Feth. Her passion is the process that happens from animal to finished product. You can catch her in the show rings at regional and national alpaca shows as a fleece judge apprentice with the Alpaca Owners Association. 

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