Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Becoming a Master(ful) Hand Spinner - OHS Year 1

Meet Darlene. She's a spinning wheel. A Double-Tredle Lendrum to be exact. Made in Odessa, Ontario by a fellow named Gord Lendrum. She and I crossed paths this past August on the first day of Year 1 (of 6!) in my journey to become a Master Spinner (as in wool and not as in bicycles bolted to the floor in a humid gym with a trainer yelling at you to really “feel the pain”) with the OHS– Ontario Hand Weavers and Spinners (1). 

Didn’t know Ontario had hand-spinners? Prepare to be amazed. The growth in popularity of fibre arts is astounding. Just look around and you'll see people knitting all over the place. I love bumping into a fellow knitter on the subway. We quickly fall into a discussion of patterns and projects and favourite yarns. Eventually the topic of hand spinning emerges: do you spin your own yarns? We lock eyes. I trip over the words, "yes, I do". My fellow knitter answers back with a touch of breathlessness, "I've been spinning for years".  There's a sudden glint in the eye. Likely I have it too. We've just realized that we're both in the club. We're both SPINNERS. We have bags of fleece under our beds and small balls of fluff follow us through the world. Believe me when I say OHS is a breath away from becoming mainstream. 

You know I love local fibres and fibre producers. Meeting Darlene and pursuing my OHS Spinning Certificate Program is one part of desire to be involved in the cultivation of local fibresheds supporting a robust local textile economy. After 8 days in Haliburton I realized that I needed to share this process of scaling the heights of Spinning Mastery. I'm also hoping that if I keep writing about the process all y'all will keep me focused and moving forward, not to mention on time with my homework submissions. So consider this Season 1, Episode 1 of "Sarah Jean Goes to Spinning School".

Displaying SAM_1171.JPGTo give some context:  I learned to spin at Black Creek Pioneer Village back in 2007 and fell instantly in love with the whole process. I drop spindled all the way through my Masters in Environmental Studies at York University. Noting my infatuation with fibre arts, Pascal organized his family and mine and bought me an old beauty known as a Quebec Production Wheel, easily 150 years old, for my 31st birthday. Best partner ever? Yup.

Fast forward to 2014. A friend at my local Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild convinced me to sign up for Year 1 of the OHS Certificate. Looking at my old beauty I realized that she wasn't really up to the drive to and from the Haliburton School of the Arts

This is where Darlene comes in. She was a rental from Wendy Bateman, Spinning Certificate coordinator and Grand Empress of All Things Textile. Wendy is one helluva gal – she's been spinning longer than I've been alive. 3 days into my relationship with Darlene, Wendy quietly paused at my chair and mentioned that Darlene was for sale, less the rental fee. What a clever saleswomyn. By day 8 I couldn’t imagine my life without Darlene. She came home with me.

Darlene lives at the foot of my bed, in front of the low bench, perfectly positioned for a daily round of spinning whenever the mood strikes. Did I mention that Pascal is an awesome partner? He is. 

Now it's time for some confessions. After getting home from Year 1 in Haliburton, I have put off the scads of homework that I must complete this year. I am utterly overwhelmed by the level of expertise that will be grading my work and sadly underwhelmed by my own skill level. I have pumped out yards and yards of 2-ply in an attempt to improve my twist (I consistently underspin), regulate my grist (I still get some thick/thin), and successfully produce a balanced, 2-ply yarn (reaching for that perfect loop skein). 

Facebook is becoming the bane of my existence as I watch my sister spinners (the other gals at Year 1) produce beautiful, balanced products expertly displayed on black card stock. Sigh.

Deep down I want perfect grades on my perfect yarns, but reality says that is highly unlikely to occur. Accepting this reality is truly hampering my progress. I can’t get started because I want perfection but know I can’t achieve it, thus don’t want to start until I can get it perfect. What an exhausting loop of inaction. 

This is likely an excellent example perfection paralysis. I’m not moving forward simply because I can’t accept my imperfections. That’s a life lesson, eh? 

My new strategy is to talk to Darlene and remind her that she’s part of the team and thus part of the process. This takes the pressure of me as a solo creator and distributes the glory, and the blame. I know a craftsperson isn’t supposed to blame their tools, but it sure feels good to feel like Darlene and I are in this process of imperfect beginner-ness together. Regardless of the conventional wisdom that inanimate objects don't have a personality, talking to Darlene is helping me get over this perfection paralysis because she and I are in this together.

Alright. I'm off to spin.

1. Full disclosure: the program is technically the Spinning Certificate Program and not the Master Spinners Program. However, the program is 6 years in length, the same as a doctoral degree, so I'm going to give myself the prize of claiming Masters status if I make it through. I might even privately refer to myself as Dr. HandSpinner. We'll see how much ego boosting I need by the end.

1 comment :

  1. "Perfection paralysis..." I had never heard that term before, but it's a perfect description of my experience too. It's pretty humbling, isn't it? I've had to learn to let go of the idea of perfection and just dive in. Mom always said "All you can do is do your best." That's my mantra. I'm so excited to be on this journey with you! We'll get through it and come out on top.. With chocolate! ;-)