Idle Hands

Dear Reader,

Before there were looms, or spinning wheels, or cotton gins, folks made yarn by hand. They took a bit of fiber and twisted it. Somewhere along the way, they started using rocks and sticks to make the process faster and more efficient—and thus, hand spindles came into use. Back in the day, all yarn was made with hand spindles, so if you wanted to make enough yarn to clothe yourself and your family, you used any bit of time you had available to spin. I always picture shepherds out in the fields, watching their flocks, and spinning some of their wool.

I don’t like to have idle hands. It’s not a virtue for me. I’m not sure what it is, but I like to knit or spin or sew any time I can. So, this morning I ran a little experiment. I took a walk, carried a hand spindle and some fiber, and spun some yarn along the way. I mostly wanted to see if I could walk and spin at the same time. It’s a step up from walking and chewing bubble gum.

And I did it. Not efficiently, not elegantly, but I did it. I noticed that I had to slow down and look at my spindle when I was winding on the yarn that I’d just spun. (As it happens, there’s a particular way you have to wind on the yarn with this type of spindle.) Next time, I’ll probably carry a different spindle that doesn’t require the same kind of attention.

What difference does it make, this walking and spinning at the same time? In some ways, it makes no difference at all. I’m not likely to spin enough yarn to clothe myself or my family. Then again, surely I’d make more yarn than if I never took it along on a walk. More importantly, it was fun to experiment. To appreciate what it might have been like for shepherds (and still is for some.) To play with multi-tasking. And, of course, when I don’t have to concentrate quite so hard, it might be fun to see what kind of looks I get from others on the path.

I hope you’re having fun experimenting, playing with things you like to do, and perhaps walking while chewing gum—or spinning.

Turkish spindle above stone path
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