Friday, July 13, 2012

Five life lessons from my spinning wheel

This week I learned some new things about resilience, just from spinning yarn (and also, baking bread.)  In no particular order:

Stretch too thin, and you'll break

I'm using this time to learn to spin finer singles than before, and I'm having breakages every ten or twenty minutes, compared with the Never that comes with spinning wider singles.  When there is only a little fiber the strand is weak; when a lot is gathered together, it can take a lot of strain.

Store energy and you can stretch thin and stay strong

Even if I have only a little fiber in my thread, as long as I turn the wheel a little more before I release it, banking a lot of twist (I never forget my first spinning teacher telling us that twist is energy), the thread will hold.  I take this as a reminder that even when you're alone in what you are trying to achieve, you can make it if you support yourself well through things that energize you.

It's also worth noting that twist energy is elastic energy.  It allows the yarn to stretch out and spring back.  I think that's what stored energy does for people, too.

Rest can be more powerful than rushing

A couple of weeks ago I read an ad for a training video for spinning.  I don't remember much from that ad but a reference to some singles that had sat for years without being wound off into a skein, or plied, followed by a tip from the teacher that while energy can remain in singles like that without loss, you can ruin singles forever by aggressively plying them too soon after spinning them in the first place. 

I took this to heart when I was spinning my last set of singles, and resisted plying right away.  I want to let them rest, just to be sure.

This week I didn't just spin, I prepped a lot of bread dough and baked it.  Watching the dough rise just from the air it produced while resting was a strong reinforcement of how important rest is to going the distance.  It's not easy for me to remember to take breaks, and when I do I usually feel guilty about it, so I'm taking note of this in a big way.

It's okay to let go of what doesn't work for you

Sometimes when you're spinning you come upon a little clump of fiber... maybe it got gnarled up in the dyeing process, maybe it didn't get combed out early on, who knows.  It's there, and if you spin it into your thread it's going to stay a clump.  Sometimes if you take a moment you can tease it out straighter, but for the most part, it's never going to become a functioning part of your yarn.  And the overall quality of your yarn will improve if you just yank it out and set it aside.

I think the application to life is pretty clear here, whether the clump is in your feelings or in the clutter around you, or anything in between.  It's okay to let go!  Maybe it will have another use for somebody or something else.  (those little fiber clumps are probably great for birds' nests, don't you think?)

You can bank more energy if you take your time

Sometimes I look at the clock and think I should be doing something other than spinning right now, and I start feeding more fiber onto the spindle faster than I had been.  Before that, I will have been taking it slow, holding on to that section of fiber and letting a little more twist go into it before I send it on its way.  You can really tell the difference later; some of the twist in the slow-spun section will seep over into the fast-spun part, but not enough to even if out.  The stuff that got rushed through just isn't as strong.

Moving slowly always strikes me as a way to preserve what energy I have, and making that choice feels a bit like weakness.  Maybe that's not the way to look at it though. Maybe moving slowly allows you to take more in - more ideas, more beauty, more inspiration, more value.  Maybe it just makes you stronger.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and thanks for spending this week with me!

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