Twist Collective

Spinning: A Knitting Origin Story

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 January 2018 20:55
Published on Wednesday, 20 September 2017 10:57

by Kim Werker

Shortly after I got the job as editor of Interweave Crochet magazine back in 2006, I marched into my LYS and bought myself a spinning wheel.

 

I’d only ever spun on a wheel once or twice, but I was in desperate need of a dramatic way to celebrate, and I decided that this was it. I would learn how to spin on my very own wheel, and delight in the extravagance of whatever that entailed.

 

Of course, I did not factor in how much time and energy my new job would occupy; I barely touched the wheel during the two years I worked on the magazine. (I suppose that’s a particular kind of extravagance, though?)

 

I’ve been thinking about spinning a lot, in part because I’ve finally learned how to do it (ish), and in part because my relatively newfound ability to spin has made me appreciate my knitting in ways I never had before.

 

Yarn spun by the author during Spinzilla 2017.

 

I learned how to knit in an overenrolled class at a local yarn store that’s since moved to another town. It was 2003, and I’d been living in Vancouver for less than a year. A friend mentioned that she was going to take a knitting class, and I nearly leaped out of my seat and begged to join her. I don’t know what made me react so strongly; it’s not like I’d been dreaming of learning to knit. To my memory, I’d not ever given it a thought before that moment. But I was eager, even desperate, to find a hobby. And to meet people in my new city.

 

So I went to the class with my friend who, as it turned out, had been knitting since she was a kid. Her interest in the class was solely to learn a particular cast-on technique mentioned in the course description. So it didn’t really matter that there were too many people crammed into the tiny store; my friend sat me next to her and taught me how to knit, as the teacher bounced from student to student in a frenzy.

 

My first project was the felted tote bag that involved the fancy figure-eight cast-on that drew my friend to the class. My second project was, true to 2003, a poncho.

 

Knitting did, indeed, become the hobby I’d felt so desperate to discover. In addition to finally finding a creative outlet, I also make friends in my new town.

 

And even as knitting led me to crochet, which led me to a career in crafts that I never could have begun to imagine when I enrolled in that class in 2003, it’s always remained at the center of my creative life.

 

Knitting is what I do when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m stressed out, when people I love get married or have a baby or experience a loss.

 

So much is knitting at the center of my life that for many years I didn’t even notice it was there. As I dove, shallow or deep, into any number of other crafts, I never paid attention to the fact that I also always had a knitting project on the go.

 

This yarn was spun specifically for crochet.

 

It was spinning yarn that brought it all to the fore for me. A couple of years ago, I was invited to participate in and write about Spinzilla, The National Needlearts Association’s annual weeklong spinning event, from my perspective as a newbie who, professionally, embraces the mess of trying new things. (You can read that piece here.) I joined a team, cleared my schedule for the week, binge watched several seasons of a western on Netflix, and spun almost 2,800 yards of yarn.

 

Most of the yarn was terrible. It was mangled or underspun or uneven or poorly planned or executed. Which was great! It’s how I learned.

 

By the end of the week, I was making passable yarn. And I was feeling amazed by how much progress I’d made just by giving myself permission to do nothing but spin for a week.

 

After that intense project, though, I put my wheel away and hardly touched it for ages. Then last spring I pulled it out again, and spun up some yarn that kind of blew my mind.

 

It’s not that the yarn was stunning, or artful, or amazing in any particular way. It’s just that I wanted to knit something with it. Immediately.

 

I’d made yarn I wanted to make something with, and I was floored.

 

I immediately cast on a simple ribbed-brim stockinette-stitch hat. So deep was my love for this hat that I cast on another as soon as I’d finished. Soon I had a slightly smaller and a slightly larger hat— one for my kid and one for me.

 

Never had I felt like such a capital-K Knitter. And how remarkable that the thing that made me feel that way wasn’t knitting so much as it was spinning the yarn I wanted to knit with.

 

The larger of the two hats made from the author’s handspun.
It’s already become a cold-weather mainstay.

 

This is the theme I’ll be exploring in the next few issues of Twist—how the experience of other crafts informs our relationship with knitting. Do you experience this kind of thing, too? Do the other things you make influence what you knit or how you feel about your knitting? I’d love to know; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kim Werker writes about creativity and crafts, teaches crochet online, and shares her compulsive experiments while encouraging people to embrace the mess of trying new things.