Guild members card, spin and weave
Not too far from the antique farm equipment and the draft horses, Peggy Lyons is in the Twist O’ Wool Guild’s big, white tent, spinning thread.
“For me, the fair is the animals and the people,” she says. “We love this new location because it’s down by the horses and the machinery and the sheep. I organize the tent for the guild, and we get members volunteering. The fair is the best excuse in the world to sit and spin all day.”
All around the tent, a chatty but focused coterie are variously engaged, carding wool, weaving on different types of looms, selling raffle tickets for the group’s annual Field Days afghan (one of the guild’s big fundraisers for the year), answering questions, dyeing and spinning.
The 64-year-old Weybridge resident uses a drop spindle to twist and spin thread out of some silvery gray cashmere-and-silk roving. Roving, which looks a bit like cotton candy or like a very soft but very fake Santa’s beard, is wool that’s been washed and carded and is ready to spin or to be used in felting or other crafts.
The drop spindle, which looks a bit like a cross between a top and a yo-yo, dates back to the Neolithic era. Indeed, in many ways this task defined women’s work for thousands of years. Think Greek mythology. Think the three Fates. Spinning’s not just old, it’s ancient.
Lyons drops the spindle and sets it spinning. The weight of the spindle pulls the roving into yarn as Lyons feeds and twists and smoothes it with her fingers. It looks easy, the way bouncing a yo-yo looks easy. But it’s not.
“I learned to spin from a Bristol woman named Bobbi Kennedy, who was well known for her quilting and spinning abilities,” Lyons says. “I started out on the wheel and every once in a while, I would try the drop spindle, but I had no patience for it. Then a few years ago, I decided that I had to be smarter than a drop spindle, and I stuck with it until I got it. Once you connect with the timing, it all comes together. It’s a matter of setting your spindle at the right speed, drafting enough, and letting it pass through.”
“There’s a sense of meditation when you spin,” Lyons adds. “You just relax and focus on what you’re doing, and you end up with a beautiful product. It makes you feel good at the end of the day.”
Several of the spinners near her look up and beam.
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