Spinning My Wheels

I stepped into an elevator. I was the only one in it and as the door closed I looked for a button to push. One single silver button was barely visible in the oddly painted interior of this elevator. I pushed it and immediately I began going up. But not for long. The elevator stopped. I pressed the button again and it began to go down. Or at least it felt like “we” were going down. The elevator stopped again and while searching for the button to push, I realized you couldn’t really tell where the door was due to the all over sponged paint job inside the elevator. Finding the button, I pushed it and once again I could feel the elevator going up, the familiar whirring sound of gears and machinery, letting me know I was indeed moving. Or was I?

This time the elevator didn’t stop. It just kept right on going…up…I felt sure. I began to hear voices outside the elevator. Two men. One was perhaps an elevator mechanic, the other the owner of the building. They seemed to be discussing what was wrong with the elevator. Theories and possible solutions were being bantered about as I continued to go up and I began to worry that the elevator might not stop, like the one in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

I looked up and saw that there was no ceiling to the elevator. There was however, a roof belonging to the building but I was in no danger of busting through the roof because the elevator was not moving after all! There was the sensation of movement, the sounds of an elevator working, but in fact “we” weren’t going anywhere…stalled at the ceiling while others tried to figure out how to fix it.

This morning’s dream seems all too true as I have found myself saying to a friend or two that I feel like I’m “spinning my wheels”. Each time these words have inadvertently flown out of my mouth, a little grin begins at the corners, for I realize that indeed I HAVE been spinning my wheels, and my drop spindles and support spindles. I typically think of this expression – spinning my wheels – as a description of being stuck in a muddy hole and the vehicle’s tires being unable to get any traction. Going nowhere fast. All the work and daily grind, but no forward movement for all our efforts. My elevator dream was in fact a fairly accurate depiction of how life feels for many of us during this pandemic.

Sitting on my desk is a lovely pile of freshly plied yarn. I have left it sitting there, instead of putting it away in a ziplock bag (on account of the cat), to remind me of a simple truth…

Spinning my wheels will, someday, in the end,

yield something beautiful and useful.

I’m holding onto this Golden Thread because most days feel a lot like sitting with wool twisting in my hands over and over and over again. And though I dearly love that repetitive work, it helps me to remember that bobbins are being filled and beautiful yarn is, despite everything, being made for use later. I do look forward to a day when we will be able to see some positive outcomes of our daily “going nowhere” in the elevator of COVID 19.

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Dear Reader…I’d love to know how you are holding onto a Golden Thread? What is helping you through the uncertain days? ❤️

The Land of Yarn Drobe

I am the happy recipient of a magical gift! My son has been working on repurposing an old gun cabinet into a yarn display case for my studio. It was to be my birthday gift this summer, but has just recently been finished. Knowing that I would not house guns in it, he and our neighbors, who are in the business of upcycling furniture, added shelves and painted it the perfect color for holding yarns in my studio. I could not be more delighted with it!!

The wonderful thing about a gift like this is that it sparks the imagination. As soon as the small cabinet was situated in between two picture windows in my studio sunroom, I saw it as a magical wardrobe, much like that of C.S. Lewis’ in the Chronicles of Narnia. The blue cabinet sat empty for a couple of days as my busy life prevented me from filling it. As always, the busy-ness of life allows for ideas to percolate and simmer. While on my morning walk yesterday, the whole story of this Land of Yarn Drobe unfolded with each step and I worked all day, in between laundry and the daily to-do list, to complete it.

Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat, had been eagerly waiting for me to finish filling the beautiful blue cabinet so that they could enter and have a look around. Here is a brief account of their first venture into the Land of Yarn Drobe.

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All you need to enter the enchanted world of Yarn Drobe is this magical key. As the door creaks open you will shrink in size so that you, dear human, may romp on the hills of woolly color, climb spindle trees, and meet the big, tall, but NOT terrible giants of the land. Yarn Drobe is a place where sheep roam the hills and birds spin the wool into swirly nests of yarn. There is even a twinkling spindle tree to light your path.

Those who enter this magical world have a difficult time leaving, as the cheery colors and soft fields of wool soothe their hearts and inspire their imaginations. Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat ventured into Yarn Drobe warily, not knowing what they might find. But when the giants, Mortimer and Millicent, greeted them warmly and the spinning birds pulled up woolly nests for them to sit upon, they soon felt they could stay here for many seasons. They passed the day with their new friends touring the colorful landscape and spinning to their hearts’ content.

As evening fell, Macy began to wish for her own cozy bed back at the Spinning House. Purl and Clarissa decided to go with her, albeit reluctantly. Marisol, however, knew in her heart upon entering this magical land, that this would be her home. She bade her friends farewell for now, with many hugs and kisses, inviting them to return as often as they wished. She made sure to point out to them where the key was located and that they were always welcome to come walk and play on the woolen hills, spin yarn, and sit under the light of a spindle tree.

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And so begins the adventures of Marisol the Mouse

in the Land of Yarn Drobe.

Spinning Wheel Basket

My new-to-me Ashford Traditional spinning wheel requires the use of an orifice hook, which is not a necessity with my vintage Louet hand-painted wheel. I also have learned that I need to oil my wheels far more often than I had been doing and this has made such a difference in the way both wheels spin! But to have these tiny tools handy for their frequent use was getting complicated. Our dear cat Milo thinks anything long and skinny on the floor is a snake or something to bat around with his paws. Setting them on a chair or table meant that I had to go looking for them whenever I needed them.

A couple of spinning friends of mine have these cute little baskets that hang from the maiden upright at the front of their wheels. Perfect spot to grab the orifice hook, wheel oil and even a Wraps Per Inch measuring tool. I set about trying to find a way to make my own basket.

I could certainly have bought a small wicker basket. But I really wanted to make my own thing. I did see a Free pattern on Ravelry for a beautiful knitted-then-felted basket specifically for a spinning wheel . But I wanted the bottom and sides of the basket to be sturdy and for the orifice hook not to get caught on the felted fabric. Hmmm…

After a bit of pantry-raiding and idea-casting, here’s what I made! I hope you like it, whether you are a spinner or a knitter or you just want something cute to hang and be useful in so many ways. I’m sharing the pattern and directions with you here so that you can make one too!

Happy Spinning & Knitting!

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Spinning Wheel Basket

By Jennifer Edwards

Materials

Size 3 dpns 

Fingering/sport weight handspun yarn 

Yarn needle

Drink mix plastic box cut at 4” tall or desired height

one or two 1/8” Satin ribbons, cut approx. 18” long

Directions

Cast on 12 sts.

Starting with a knit row, Work in Stockinette stitch for 24 rows.

On next knit row, k12, and do not turn, pick up and knit 16 sts evenly across side (Pick up 2 for every 3 rows) , pick up and knit 12 across cast on edge and then pick up and knit 16 sts along final edge. ( 56 sts total)

Place all sts on 4 dpns. Place marker at beg of round.

Begin with Garter stitch rounds (knit a round, Purl a round) 2x .

On next Knit round, decrease one stitch at each corner with K2tog. (4 sts decreased…total of 52 sts. 

Continue knitting in stockinette for four rounds and then garter stitch for four rounds, changing colors as desired and alternating between stockinette and garter until piece is 1/2” from top. (The cover works best if you stretch it up a bit so that it fits more snugly around the plastic container.)

Work in garter for 6 rounds. Then work in Stockinette for 5 rounds . Bind off.  (Note: I did not weave in the ends from changing colors due to the plastic liner covering all of that. But you can weave in any ends you like.)

Using a sharp pointy knife or awl, Poke holes into the plastic box you have cut to desired height , 1/2” from top of plastic box . Fold the top of your knitted cover over the box top with the final stockinette portion turned down over the edge. Starting at one of the corners and Using yarn needle and 1/8” ribbon, secure the top of the knitted cover by sewing through the plastic and the knitting. Make sure to secure the bind off edge inside of the box also as you sew. When you’ve made it back around to the corner, tie ribbons in a bow.

Using same needles, Work a four stitch I-cord for desired length of basket handle. Mine was 5” and has stretched out a little bit already. Bind off.

Using yarn needle, stitch ends of I-cord to corners on opposite sides of box. 

Hang basket onto your spinning wheel. If needed, stitch the last end of I-cord after hanging the basket where you want it to be. Fill basket with spinning wheel oil, wpi tool, orifice hook, etc.

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For Now

I say this quite frequently — For now, this will be fine. For now, this is good. I’m ok with it this way, for now. Two little words that carry a ton of meaning.

FOR. There is purpose wrapped up in these three letters. Intention, will, focus and offering. This is FOR you. I do this FOR others, FOR myself, FOR my children. What is all this FOR? It is FOR our community, our family, our health, our bank account, our future well-being. Hopes, wishes, goals and purposefulness are all there in this small word.

NOW. Equally small, yet holding a universe, this word brings me in sharp focus into a moment I can actually touch and rest in. NOW is a time for us to really live our lives. NOW is the present which holds all our past and future. NOW we get to fully live, but we often squander it with worry about the future or regret over the past. NOW sweeps it all clean and says, “Here…come sit a spell in this chair, with this life, just as it is.“

I got a new spinning wheel! I can’t believe I now have a beautiful Ashford Traditional Wheel! I had been wanting one for a while…the shape of it, really, is what I loved, and the idea of painting another wheel seemed to suit the lovely shape so well.

As I spin on this new-to-me wheel and get to know its excellent properties (so different from my Louet which I promptly painted when I got it four years ago:), I find myself hesitant to paint it just yet. I say to myself and to my family who asks if I’m going to paint it…Yes, probably, someday…but for now I’ll leave it as it is.

I have pulled out a ton of scrap fabrics with the idea to make a quilt. I have laundered and ironed all the oddly shaped fabrics and have begun to cut squares wondering why in the world I think I need a quilt?! To what end is all this time making a simple scrap quilt going to lead me? What will it accomplish? Catching myself getting all spun up in future-tripping concerns, I happily concede that for now, it will be good to make a quilt.

I am learning more and more the goodness of living in the present moment. An overused phrase, it is under-used in our day-to-day practice. To be content for now, with things as they are is a wonder and joy to sink into. Even if NOW is difficult or painful…living for now strips the extra baggage and burden of what if? And why did? To live for now brings a sense of resting in what has been provided, releasing the grasping of attainment and achievement, turning from past hurts and regrets to accepting where the day has landed and living full into it, feet on the ground (or the treadles) and working with the fabric of the day for its own sake.

Letting life be for now doesn’t mean I won’t paint the wheel in future. Taking a detour into fabrics for now won’t mean that I have to make this my new main artistic medium. Who knows what might come of it? That isn’t my concern today. My job is to make a space for joy, grace, and presence in all that I am given just as it is in this moment.

For Now…I am alive.

For Now…I am content.

For Now…there is grace and mercy in abundance whether the spinning wheel gets painted or a quilt gets made…or not.

**As always, I enjoy your thoughts and comments here. Feel free to dialogue about this and how it strikes you, for now. 🙂

The Magic of Morning

Out here on the deck, still feeling the traces of a weary fog, I am enveloped and enlivened by what I can only call pure magic. Perhaps you have felt this too? The titter and chirp of birds and crickets singing a song of hope for the new-made day. Their chatter is a lively conversation of what we might do today, what we could make, how we could repair and revive, what needs to be done, and what loveliness can be spun all around the daily-ness. We long to keep the crickets chirping and the birds singing their hope song.

At some point they will go quiet, giving way to the sounds of cars on a nearby highway, a train in the distance, neighborhood lawn mowers, and the voices of those with whom I live. I will spin today. I already have and I plan to spin more for it is bringing me so much joy lately. As the loose fibers are strengthened by a dance of twirl and twist, so too I am strengthened. Solace, hope, joy, color, excitement, purpose, and a useful work, are all granted as I spin. How this is, I cannot say, for I do not know.

I imagine myself sometimes as others must see me…a middle-aged woman standing with a spindle twirling suspended from her hand. Or an outdated snap-shot of a woman at her spinning wheel, albeit a brightly painted one. It must be odd to see an artist who once twirled paint on paper to be twirling colorful fibers in a similar manner. It doesn’t really make sense.

Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for any of us to do the creative things we do when we look at it from the outside. Yet from the inside we know who we are. We enjoy life a bit more when we are making things. We see things differently. We carry that making-magic into all that a day brings us. We consider how we might spin softness and color into every mundane chore and challenging situation.

This is why we create. Whether it is spinning fibers into yarn or words into story; swirling paint on a page or clay on a wheel; stitching wool into socks or thread into quilts…we are bringing the magic of morning into the rest of our day, spinning hope and a new song as we go.

Encounter

It was so brief! Hardly long enough for it to register in my brain. A blink, and he was gone. Yet for those few seconds of the buzzing, hovering dance, I held my breath and didn’t want it to end.

It was evening a few days ago and I was in my studio spinning to unwind the day. The thought to go out on the back deck to spin Wool flitted through my mind. There was much to keep me indoors…heat, mosquitoes, end-of-day weariness, just plain laziness. But something drew me outside and the moment I breathed in the fresh air and began to twirl my pink spindle, I knew I needed to be there. Plein-aire spinning is the best!

Instinctively I pulled my hands away from the large, buzzing visitor. He hovered a second and I knew it wasn’t a bumblebee. The hummingbird must have thought my spindle was a flower and wanted a closer look or a place to land for some nectar. I could hardly move a muscle as we stood face-to-face for just a few seconds before he flew away.

I gathered up the yarn and wound it onto the shaft thinking how cool it was to have encountered a hummingbird whilst spinning. Thinking that had I not stepped out onto the deck, moving out of my comfort zone, I would never had had that encounter with such a lovely creature. Thinking that a spindle truly is a flower, the colorful wool is the nectar, and I drink deeply of its nourishment every time I spin.

I’m headed out on the deck! Won’t you join me? We just might have a visitor. 🙂

Coffee Spin

While the coffee brews, I pick up my spindle with the delightful pink wool and I spin to the music of gurgles and drips. I don’t know why I do this. I am enthralled by the swirl of color and fluff, sparkle and texture, flowing through my hands. I grin at twirling a yo-yo-like wooden toy and at the feel of twist growing up into the fibers, strengthening as it goes, until my left hand registers the “full” feeling.

As I wind the yarn onto the shaft, I marvel at the various colors and textures of fibers I had previously blended into rolags. It’s a symphony of individual parts coming together into a lovely whole, eventually useful, yet in and of itself it is a thing of beauty.

I receive this thought as encouragement for my life which is also filled with many varied and seemingly incongruous bits. As I spin, I take to heart that it is all twisting into a beautiful whole…strong and useful.

Marisol with recently plied yarns.💖

***I sincerely hope you, dear reader, are healthy and finding solace in your creative endeavors. If you are new to my blog and website…Welcome! 💖 You can sign up to receive these posts via email or follow on WordPress. Let us press on in keeping our hands full of beautiful things to put into the world.

Tomorrow

More than ever before, we need to be making things. This is not merely to while-away the time or to keep our minds off of all the sad news and the what-will-happens. There is an inherent belief in creating something that says, if only in a small way, “Tomorrow will come. A new day will rise.”

We cast on a knitting project and in so doing is the stalwart belief that I desire to and will finish this sweater or hat or pair of socks in the future!

We draw in our sketchbooks to capture a small bit of something that caught our eye today so that we can remember it tomorrow.

We spin wool into yarn which is in itself a ball of possibilities either for you or for someone else to make into a thing of beauty another day.

We begin a tapestry weaving or some cloth knowing that it will require us to keep weaving tomorrow and the next day and perhaps even the next.

(Ok, so this isn’t a loaf of bread. I DID bake bread yesterday but I didn’t take a photo of it. I think this looks like a most delicious loaf, don’t you? :D)

We bake bread with the knowledge that it will be enjoyed for at least a day, maybe two or three.

Just as planting vegetables and flowers casts our net into an unforesee-able future…so too does penning a poem, molding clay, writing a song. As Julia Cameron notes in her book The Artist’s Way, creative people are like equestrians in an obstacle course. The rider must throw his or her heart over the fence in order to land on the other side. This is precisely what we are doing as we daily set our hands to making something.

Whether it is actually planting a garden, or baking bread, or beginning a large oil painting, I hope that you will make time to create something. For this will pull our hearts forward as we endure our current worldwide situation. If anxiety prevents you from that large commissioned piece, then make something small and manageable. Try a new way of creating like origami or simple watercolor doodles. You will discover your heart is a bit lighter as we leap over this huge fence.

Grace and peace to you all this Easter weekend and beyond!❤️

Attention

In the middle of November I started to draw what was happening in my head. Well, it wasn’t only in my head. Some of the ideas that flutter around in my head come through my hands, or at least get started to see if they want to be fully birthed. Not all of the ideas mind you. My brain is a veritable factory of creative ideas which one person cannot possibly bring into being. I must be choosy.

I do love to have the time to sit and ponder each of them, like rolling a river pebble over in my fingers gazing at all sides and wondering if I have what that particular idea requires, or whether it should wait a while or perhaps be tossed back into the vast idea pond. Spinning wool is a lovely place to ponder and mull and work through the idea backlog.

The difficulty is that I’m forever attaching a weighty criteria to the ideas. Is this meaningful enough? Does it have an artistic flair? Is it original? Or is it someone else’s idea that I think I can do my version of? Will I have to purchase other tools or items to make this? How much time will be involved? Is it do-able within the framework of my life? Will I have to leave hearth and home for a week in order to see this idea come to fruition?

The heaviest weight I put on creating something is that big word Art with a capital A. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with this word and for many years have preferred to remove the consideration of whether I’m producing Art, off the table. I really just want to be delighted, and if what I’m making delights me, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is deemed Art by me or by anyone else.

So I sit there at my wheel, or stand twirling a spindle, enrapt in delight as I do so, and I’m thinking of all these other things I “should” be devoting my time to.  I kept drawing the little illustrations off and on over the past few weeks in hopes of getting somewhere. It dawned on me recently, as it has done numerous times before, that what I’m holding in my hands is more often than not, THE THING I’m to be doing. Whew. Such freedom and Joy! Just look at the final drawing in my little story and that happy smile on the idea bulb’s face! “Finally! She’s got it!”

Here in the midst of our busy holiday making, I hope you can find some time to be delighted. It doesn’t matter if you are making world-changing Art, or just spinning some fluff into string. Stay in the de-Light as long as you can, eschewing those pesky thoughts that you should surely be doing something else more weighty and monumental. Pay attention to what you find yourself paying attention to (Jessica Abel’s thoughts here).

Deep dive into what’s right there in your hands to make and bring to life. It is likely the Big Idea 💡 you’ve been after all along.❤️

Revolution

It takes 365 days for the earth to make one full trip around the sun. That’s 8,760 hours. Or 525,600 minutes. Or 31,536,000 seconds. Small increments, tiny moments, so many ordinary events which create one revolution.

Birthdays remind me of this. One more turning of the years has been made up of many days and minutes lived. There have been more breathtaking, joy-filled days than I can count. There have also been days of heartbreak, fear, and concern. This is living. This is revolution.

I suppose for both the American and the French, their Revolutions were also preceded by numerous days and moments, small yet not insignificant actions suffered and endured, which turned the wheels of decision, adding strength to what would become historic events. A spinning wheel will likely not bring about such history-making. Nor will spindles of all kinds—Turkish, Russian, Tibetan—create monumental, earth-moving events. But they do remind me that it is in the tiny, inconsequential turning of our minutes that a Revolution is achieved.

There are now 54 such revolutions in my life to date. I am grateful for each and every one of them! I am also a bit wary of those to come…the unknown daily turning and spinning on this beautiful planet. What will this year’s spinning bring? My usual hope is that it would bring good and happy things. But a revolution is taking place in my heart where I am hoping more for strength and grace to meet the moments of the coming days.

As I spin, I watch the lovely light-filled fibers twist into a strong line, which will bear the weight of far more than its substance. The resulting yarn may or may not be called upon to carry heavy loads. But if it is…it’s ready and able. Once it is plied with another strand, it’s strength is even greater. And a chord of three strands is not easily broken.

Sitting here at the end of one year’s revolution and the beginning of another, I see sitting on my desk, an exquisite pile of gorgeous hand spun yarns. Rich colors, varied and textured, have been wrangled into skeins of yarn ready for making into something else. They are not the final result, even though I do think they could be set in a frame and hung on a wall, just to look at and admire in hank form. But they beg to be fashioned into something else…a weaving perhaps, or a knitted garment, or a crocheted piece.

I too am a skein of hand spun yarn. I’ve been and am being spun by Loving Hands which are adding strength even in the twist of my life and daily living. I need not worry about the coming revolutions or how many I and my loved ones have left. He will use what He is spinning for His glory and purposes…and all of it for my good.

Today, on my 54th birthday, I will spin on…creating with my hands in the trust and knowledge that strength and grace are being wrought.