Yoinked from a letter to an old friend with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook:
I meet weekly with a group of knitters at the Local Yarn Enabler’s lovely shop, Needles in the Hay. It’s a wonderful thing and we are of all different ages and backgrounds. One common thread we do share is that we were almost all taught by a mother or grandmother. The rise of feminism started a decline in the “womanly arts”, I think, and made us feel that they were perhaps not “arts” at all, and because they were primarily done by women, were of lesser value. We became embarrassed to admit that we liked to knit, or sew, or embroider. I think that we’ve come to a more comfortable, valued place where art is equally as valid regardless of by whom it is produced, and regardless of the medium. Taking a length of string and forming it into a beautiful and/or useful object is magic. There is also a growing number of men turning (or returning) to the fibre arts. It’s relaxing, meditative – the act of counting out, the repetition. Umm…think rosary? You can knit either “mindfully”, i.e. concentrating purely on the task at hand and engrossing your whole being, or for sheer production. I can knit and read, knit and watch TV, knit and drink…
I knit semi-commercially for a while, selling yarn and accessories at a local craft market, but I didn’t like it. I also don’t like knitting commission items. Part of the value for me is the positive energy in thinking about the person for whom you’re making the item. It’s truly a “warm fuzzy”.
Spinning is much the same, only with Added Magical Powers. It’s Making the Stuff that Stuff is Made Out Of! It’s mesmerizing! Gandhi advised the people of India to spin daily, both as a meditation and as a means of achieving economic independence from the British. Rather than growing cotton and exporting it to Great Britain for processing, and having it sold back to them at exorbitant prices, Gandhi “brought homespun back”. The medallion at the centre of Indian flag is the chakra, from the Sanskrit for “wheel”. Early versions of the flag included the charkha, the type of spinning wheel Gandhi used. At one point, the Indian flag was only to be made of homespun cotton, but I think that may have changed. I have a charkha at home, it’s very small and portable, about the size of a hardcover blockbuster novel (think Ken Follett). I find it difficult to set up and use, but one day I’d like to learn to use it properly.
I have a very nice Louet wheel, which has spun many many miles of beautiful yarn for me, but I keep returning to the drop spindle. So simple! So ancient! Slow, but infinitely satisfying on so many levels.