Spinning was difficult for me during my pregnancy. At the very start, the odour of fleece (whether raw or scoured) turned my stomach. We had to keep all my wool tidied away in the spare bedroom until well into the second trimester. By the time the nausea had subsided, I had a wonderfully round belly in it’s place. And so sitting for long periods of time bent over the wheel were rather uncomfortable. Besides, I had plenty of baby knitting to keep my fingers (and mind) busy.
Unsurprisingly, that first summer of motherhood also kept me very well occupied. Not only was there a whole new person in the world to get to know and to look after, but I also had to get to know myself in my new role. And be sure to take extra good care of my own health; pacing myself through the days and nights, resting and sleeping whenever I could, and trying to get plenty of fresh air in between. All of which meant there was no spare time or energy for knitting, let alone spinning.
I remember this time last year, just how keenly I was missing the comforting feel of fibre running through my fingers. Although we were starting to feel a little more settled, somehow the thought of making things seemed incredibly frivolous, even selfish. But a phone conversation with my own ma one chilly autumn morning nudged me back to the possibility of making. She recounted how when she was in the throes of early motherhood with my big brother (forty years before…), she had still somehow managed to find some time for dressmaking. In those quiet hours spent with her sewing machine once he was tucked up in bed, she had found both a renewed passion for sewing but also a deeper satisfaction in everything she made, because she had been forced to slow down and savour every moment spent working through the construction of a garment.
I felt inspired by our conversation and so when some raw fleece came my way, I tentatively set about getting back to the wheel. Encouraged by this wonderful initiative, I set about spinning up a little sample skein of yarn from a raw fleece we went and collected directly from the farm on shearing day. It took me the best part of a month to spin up that little 50g skein of yarn and the experience left me feeling a little bit ambivalent. It had been so much fun to get my hand cards out again and follow the fibre through from greasy fleece to finished yarn.
But having to spin in the evenings when the baby was in bed was hard for me as I was often very tired by that time of day. And I also quickly realised that having greasy fingers was not the most practical thing for me when I could be called in to settle the baby back to sleep at any time. This project really brought it home to me how this way of working with wool is physically challenging, time-consuming and above all messy.
I found myself feeling really discouraged, almost the point of being put off spinning for good. That is, until I saw this photo. Seeing this mama spinning at her wheel with her baby cozily wrapped on her chest changed my perception of what was possible. Perhaps it would be possible to spin again, I just needed to be a little more creative in how I did it. Rather than waiting for the baby to be tucked up in bed for the night, perhaps I could spin a little at those times of day when I had a little bit more energy. That would mean spinning with baby by my side, or even on my chest like that mama. Back then, we were carrying him around most of the day in the sling (we didn’t and still don’t have a pushchair, mainly because it’s not the most practical of things when you live in the mountains). So why could I not spin with him beside me?
I was not only inspired by how she was spinning, but also what she was spinning with. I will always be the kind of spinner who deep down loves to work from raw fleece to finished yarn. But I realised in that moment if I am to ever get any spinning done, perhaps I could also used pre-prepared fibre rather than sourcing, scouring & carding my own. That was one of the first lessons of making & mothering, being willing to tweak the way I work with wool. And being willing to cut myself a little slack too.
Since then, I’ve completed three quite substantial spinning projects (as well as a number of little mini-projects here and there) which I’m really excited to share here, all filed under the category of follow the fibre.