March 2021

Drawn to Spinning in Spite of a Mind Made Up

During the Month of July, while bicyclists tackle the Tour de France, spinners round the world participate in the Tour de Fleece.
The Tour de Fleece has 3 objectives:

Challenge Yourself.
Have fun.

While there are no hard and fast rules, there are a few basic guidelines:

  1. Spin every day that the Tour rides and rest on the rest days.
  2. Spin something challenging on days when the Tour is tackling the challenging mountain stages.
  3. Wear yellow on the final day to announce victory!

I’ve always thought this would be fun to do. So this year, I’ve joined a team and am trying to spin every day of the tour. My local yarn store (LYS), The Yarn Store at Nob Hill, is helping our team, Team Spinsters of Nob Hill, by providing incentive gifts (cycling caps and water bottles) and spinning fiber, as well as hosting our weekly Sunday gatherings.

I haven’t been spinning much in the past few months, but spinning is something I really do love. And yet, many years ago, I was dragged into this hobby quite reluctantly.

The story, first published in 2013 on the Goshen Commons website, tells that story.


, Goshen Commons

To turn, turn

will be our delight,

‘Till by turning, turning

we come ’round right.

“Simple Gifts”


On Saturday, as this post is being published, I will be at Lindenwood Retreat Center with about 20 other people. Something will be turning — much to my delight. I will be spinning. Not spinning as in a form of exercise on a stationary bicycle at a gym, but spinning as in making yarn from fiber. Some day, the yarn I am spinning will become something warm and wooly.

Spinning seems an appropriate interest for a modern homesteader. After growing my own produce, making my own clothes is a natural extension. (By that reasoning, I should really be sewing as well, but that only happens rarely.) Taking this even further, I would be raising the sheep from which I get my fiber, but I can’t really do that on a city lot. So, I do the next best thing and buy fiber from some of my spinning sisters at this retreat who do raise sheep.

I got into spinning quite reluctantly. As a teenager, I had decided never to do anything remotely resembling traditional household work. So I didn’t cook. While in graduate school, I subsisted solely on cheese sandwiches and ice cream. I did manage to keep the apartment somewhat clean and I did do my laundry. But I certainly didn’t do any crafts: be it sewing, or knitting or crocheting.

One day, a friend told me about a spinning class she had taken at a local yarn store. She was eager to show me what she had learned. She assured me that I would love learning to spin. She was insistent and she was a good friend, so I decided to humor her and let her show me. But I had already decided that I would definitely not like it.

We got together one evening and she showed me what to do. It’s a complicated process in which you have to coordinate hands and feet. You draw out of the fibers (drafting), letting them feed onto the bobbin, all the while treadling to keep the drive wheel moving. But, maybe because I am an organist, I picked up on the rhythm of the movements quite easily. And, in spite of all my internal efforts to reject the entire endeavor, I fell in love with it.

A month later, we moved from Chicago to Seattle. In my first week in Seattle, I found a yarn and fiber store. Before the week was up, I was carrying home a box with a disassembled spinning wheel. That evening, I put it together. And I have been using that spinning wheel ever since – for 23 years.

Spinning is an activity in which I relax. It is the perfect remedy for a hectic day. When I start a spinning project, I usually have no finished product in mind, so I don’t feel driven to get something done. I can easily just sit down and spin for a few minutes or for an entire evening. It is meditative. I concentrate on the rhythm of my hands and my feet. I feel the wool sliding through my hands, the lanolin acting as a natural hand lotion. I hear the whir of the wheel, often the only background noise. It is a time to just be.

So, I guess the moral of this story is to keep an open mind and never say “never.” You don’t know what you will like until you try it.


The 2017 Garden

For a number of years, my gardening endeavors got more and more ambitious.

I started on Vashon Island, WA, with a small strawberry patch and a couple of tomato plants. The strawberry patch got larger. The vegetable garden grew to flank the entire side of the house.

I got carried away my first year in Goshen, IN, bringing home 18 tomato starts from my first trip to a nursery. That afternoon was spent frantically double digging an area in the backyard so that I had some place to plant 18 tomato plants.

In the ensuing years, my garden grew bigger and bigger until I was not only using my own backyard for strawberries, cherries, asparagus, herbs, but also the entire empty lot next door.

In 2015, that empty lot was no longer empty, but filled with all manner of edible plants: perennial and annual vegetables, grains, fruit trees and berry bushes, an amazing hops trellis, and a small greenhouse. The front half of the lot was filled with small fruit and nut trees and a variety of berry bushes some of which I had just purchased from Raintree Nursery. I was at capacity and well underway to becoming a true urban homesteader.

The garden layouts that I had created in prior years no longer sufficed. I purchased an app to keep track of where everything was. With the app, I managed to catalogue the back half of the empty lot.

Layout of the Beriewede Garden 2015

I never did get around to drawing the layout of the front.

That was the year that everything changed. By the middle of the summer, we had purchased a condo in Albuquerque, NM. By the start of 2016, I had moved to the southwest. Living in an apartment, I no longer had a yard of my own to convert into a tiny farm.

But there was a community garden.

In 2016, I had one row.

In 2017, I have two rows.

I’m seeing a pattern here.

In 2018, … ?