This entry will be full of bad photographs and excited gushing, so if you are allergic to either I recommend you go back to whatever you were doing.
My family went to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this year and there my parents gave to me the gift of a spinning wheel. I don't know if it makes much of a difference to most of you, but to me spinning is a way to relax even more so than knitting. It is a particular favorite amongst my ridiculous collection of hobbies because it provides me with gifts to give to my friends and various other geometrically implausible textiles with which I burden my family, all in the name of love! I can work with my hands rather than paper-shuffling or maintenance (read: cleaning), and the whole knitting/spinning combination makes an excellent post-apocalyptic skill set. A relaxing post-apocalyptic skill set, and you can bet we'll need some kind of stress-relief after the zombies find the bunkers and velociraptors start showing signs of intelligence.
Spinning and knitting are both crafts that are mostly done by machine in our days, but there are some places where traditions are still being shared and passed along; I've met a few crafters who are very proud to be second- or third-generation knitters, crocheters, weavers, or spinners. I learned to knit ages ago by my mother's younger sister (unfortunately my hands were too small to hold the needles comfortably) and more recently (with complete fine motor skills!) by my own younger sister. I learned to spin by mentioning my desire to learn in front of my knitting pals. Immediately, I was given opportunity, information, and an endless stream of enthusiasm and advice. Sometimes that sort of thing is overwhelming, but it was the right time and with the right attitude, as well as a dash of obsessively purist medievalism (I tried different spinning techniques while my instructor raided my library). And really, knitting is a lot cheaper when you spin your own yarn because rovings/batts/fleece/etc. are generally cheaper than yarn.
I've been learning to spin since January this year and because I said I might like to spin for myself one day, my instructor has trained me up to go shopping for a good wheel. I learned about the disposable parts of the wheel, the history of their use and what they look like on other wheels, how to manage if you break one of them and aren't in the vicinity of help and the Christmas panic is upon you. It was because of this that I was able to find a used wheel of good make and model despite the aging and yellowed pieces, the drive band that made the wheel clunk unevenly, the undone spring and the wood that looked only patchily treated with a protective coat. For +$200 less than the price of a new wheel of the same type, this wheel spins just as well. It just needed a little care. Honestly, it took me about 45 minutes and a few bucks to get her back to working order--a new drive band (twine), brake band (nylon--something like fishing line), spring, conrod joint, and some polish & oil! The pieces in the above picture are pieces I took off of the wheel. They are a lot nastier if you see them with your own eyes; and the drive band smells like it has been dipped in something icky.
I first spun on it at the spin-in (akin to a knitters' group, quilting circle, etc.) after the MS&WF was officially disbanded for the night and all the vendors had left. I realized that, having sent my beautiful new fiber packages home with my family, that I had no fiber to spin for myself at the spin-in! So I stopped at a small booth of alpacas and their ambassadors and bought a good bit of unwashed fleece for a very low price--I am sure that the heat of the day was very helpful here. While smelly and a bit dirty to spin, the yarn from this fleece was so soft and fine after it was spun and washed! The fiber I'm spinning in this picture is some creamy merino wool, which will grow up to be Christmas presents. Probably arm-warmers. Anyway, I've spent most of my spinning time outside recently, in my little garden with the herbs there that are going quite wild with all the bright sun in the day and the light rains at night. The cats, too, are loving the company outside, and particularly approve of my presence when there is yarn involved.
Anyway, I thought I ought to introduce you, since you will both be seeing more of each other on this blog. If you visit and you want to talk to me your best chance of finding me in a lucid state (not one of hysteria over the approaching velociraptors) is if I'm spinning. Further goodwill can be purchased with Hunt Valley cashmere fleece.
I have named her Katheryn.