Posted on

Workin’ Hard, or Hardly Workin’?

The truth of the matter is that Denny was suffering. There’s this whole strike situation in her home city of Toronto, which means all the parks are closed and nobody’s coming to pick up trash or compost. They’re also putting new water mains in her street, so the water’s turned off all the time. There was even a threat of the booze folks going on strike, but at least complete disaster was avoided and that didn’t happen. But so then, there she was, suffering terribly, when the reupholstery people came and took away all her furniture. So she didn’t have anywhere to sit but the floor.

“Do you wanna come over?” I asked her. “We have seating. And garbage pickup.” She declined, at first — but then the next day, she reported that she was going to lose even the floor upon which she’d been sitting, so new floors could go into her house. And that, she said, was really that, and she and her younger son would be over in a few days.

We sent the manchildren off to YMCA day camp, and set about putting together class kits for Sock Summit 2009.


This was brutal hard work, you realize. The spindles were all made, the fibers were all here, but everything needs dividing up. On paper, there are 35 students per class times 4 classes, which would be 140 students. But — and I’ve talked aout this before — you always need to have extra class packs ready in case someone spills his tea in his stuff, or there just happen to be a couple of extra people who materialize unexpectedly, or because of other unforeseen issues. What’s more, the way it works for Sock Summit — which is brilliantly organized in my opinion — is that a vendor will be selling the class kits, instead of me and Denny handling them, and there is a chance that folks who didn’t take the class may be interested in picking one up as well. So we had to make a few extras.


Denny may hate my boss for demanding this, but we both know she’s right. But lucky for all of us, the Smith family arrived from Michigan and, since many hands make work light, we managed to get all the kits put together.

Packing Kits for SS09

Here’s a little bit of a kit teaser:

Spindle Spinning Basics Kit

The spindles, which people always ask about, are toy wheel spindles which have been lovingly made by my family, and ceremonially ornamented for good luck. They often feature secret messages — and these are no exception. Each one is unique and they spin quite nicely. For this run, we’ve upgraded from birch and poplar shafts to maple, oak, cherry, and walnut, and there’s a mix of waxed finish and unfinished. Here’s what they look like with a wax finish:

Limited Edition Toy Wheel Spindles

Denny is addicted to these spindles… and she may not be alone.

After getting kits all packed up and hauled back up to the yarn room where they await shipping, the Smiths forced us out on the deck for some hooping. Beth can do it.


Maggie can do it.


Ryan is a master. He says you do it like this: Hand…

Hand, Neck, Body!


Hand, Neck, Body!


Hand, Neck, Body!

I, on the other hand, can’t make it go. But this is a perfect example of how learning physical skills works: the youngest person in the group picks it up the quickest, and makes it look easy. The medium-aged kid can point out small things you should do differently and can teach you how if you’re willing to listen (Maggie helped me out a lot). And the grownups all sit around saying things like “I don’t think I can do this. Maybe it’s just not for me.”

Since all the grownup chicks in this crowd are spinning teachers, we found this observation to be a real knee-slapper. No, really, we did. Soooo…

Denny hopped up and decided to bring the empty cup and the beginner’s mind, and just learn; and so, she did.


Later, we all went to the fireworks in town, which were very nice and we had a great time sitting on blankets on the grass at the fairground… except for my son, who pronounced that his blanket was itchy. And then came the bombshell.

“I think I may be allergic to wool,” he said. While the rest of us sat speechless at the concept, and I started formulating an explanation of micron and prickle factor and comparing the grade of wool between the two blankets, Chad spoke up. “If you were allergic to wool,” he said, “you couldn’t live in our house; you would have keeled over dead by now.”

We all had to laugh. And laugh. And laugh some more. Because, yeah, there kinda is a lot of wool in our house.

For the 4th, Chad fired up the smoker. There were ribs, and pulled pork, and chicken, and we also made tamales. Denny made pie. Maggie was well-behaved and kept following grownups learning to do what they were doing, and the rest of the kids got constantly yelled at for running in and out of the house. You would think that if you’re constantly getting yelled at, then you would avoid the yellers; but yet that’s not how it works. This is just one more way in which I apparently do not understand the boy child psyche — like how they love to build things, but then the immediate desire upon completion is to smash it; seriously, I don’t get that. Not at all. And you could not have convinced me this was a boy-girl thing once upon a time, but yet, time and again, it appears to be. And I can assure you it’s not a parental expectation thing, and that these stereotypical boy behaviours were there in my son before he had a peer group to get them from. I don’t get it.

After we ate, we sat down to do more Tour de Fleece spinning, on my new cherry Matchless. But we were so full of food we fell asleep.

Tour de Fleece 2009 kicks off hard core.

But wait, what’s that I’m spinning on? Is that… could it be… wait! It says something on the treadle!

Schacht 40th Anniversary Cherry Matchless

In case you can’t read that, it says something about 40 years of Schacht Spindle Company. Which must make this… let’s see…

Schacht 40th Anniversary Cherry Matchless

Schacht 40th Anniversary Cherry Matchless

a limited edition Cherry Matchless! And so it is; mine is the second one off the production line, right behind Beth’s. And no, the treadles aren’t really grey; it’s the lighting. Beth delivered the wheel to me with the start of a collaborative project on it, which you’ll be seeing more of soon.

Right now, the Matchless is a good match for the red oak floors in our house; but in a few years, it’ll be a much deeper colour, because that’s just how cherry is.

On the 5th, the Canadians went home and the Smiths headed back to Michigan and everybody took naps. And today it’s back to the grind again, finishing up warps for my Andean backstrap weaving class at The Spinning Loft. See how it constantly comes back to workshop prep?

20 thoughts on “Workin’ Hard, or Hardly Workin’?

  1. Oh, hell, I’m jealous. I’m jealous of all of it. Prepping, cooking, spinning, wild laughter, all of it. Jealous.

    Next time you plan on teaching a backstrap weaving class, tell me, please. In the meantime, do you need a slave?

  2. Yeah Lynn she does need a slave, cause I totally quit.
    Back home, I am now looking for a new bed frame.
    Cause you can’t have brand new floors with an an ugly old bed on an asstard metal frame.
    Next comes wall painting and new ceiling fan. Then sleeping, oh wait, no then Sock Summit.

    Thanks for the get away girlfriend, you and your peeps rock hard.

  3. re: your son’s comments on the blanket itchiness …

    I started knitting my first handspun at a 4th of July picnic at a park in Chattanooga. I noticed the yarn felt very itchy but chalked it up to beginner’s Romney.

    This morning (in our home with AC and humidity control) I noticed that the yarn and knitting was very, very soft.

    Inside – outside – is this a factor? It was hot and humid outside at the picnic. Just a thought ..

  4. Sounds like fun! I spent the weekend doing fibery things too, but without the company (or assistance).

  5. Glad to see I am not the only one who falls asleep behind the spinning wheel…..hee!

  6. One of those spindle spinning kits has my name on it. I’ll see you in Portland!

  7. EE! Labels!! I love the packages.

    The toy wheel spindle I use most is the one you actually gave me to give Bunny. It says “Hi!” on the whorl, and it makes me giggle when I see it.

    Look at all that fiber all over the floor. Dear gods.

  8. so jealous…so, what would it take to get you to teach a spindle class out here in the bay area? 🙂

  9. The boy child/girl child thing – when I was an Education student in the late 70’s, we hashed over the nature/nurture thing to death. The prevalent thinking then was that nurture was dominant. Then I had a boy child in the mid-80’s and learned otherwise. I found an interested study where they gave boy babies and girl babies different toys and observed their behaviors (the babies were old enough to sit up but not old enough to have learned the ways of the world). The girl babies carefully inspected the toy car, turning it all around, gently turning the wheels with their hands. The boy babies grabbed the toy car, made car noises, and “drove” the car on the floor. ‘Nuff said.

  10. Add me to the chorus of jealous bitches.

    Also, Beth looks skinny, and I can’t hoop to save my life, and I wanna hold the Kaylee.

  11. Yep, I’m jealous too–especially of that cherry wheel. I am such a cherry whore! But I’m not even going to peek at the Schacht page, because I don’t need one, can’t afford one, and won’t be getting one. So I’ll just live vicariously through your blog!

  12. “If you were allergic to wool,” he said, “you couldn’t live in our house; you would have keeled over dead by now.”

    Best retort ever. If and when I ever have kids and they try and pull the “but dad I’m allerrgicccc!!!” line I’ll remember to respond with that.

    I’ll see you in Portland (though not in your class – I’ll be in yours at SOAR though) with beer in hand (though I might opt for wine).

  13. Merry Matchless to you! Are you going to start selling your souped up spindles with secret messages?

  14. I love how nonchalant Ryan looks. ‘oh yeah, I’m hoopin’. Nuthin’ to it. Do it all the time.’

    Pretty damn funny that your kid could think he’s allergic to wool.

  15. I agree, the empty your mind don’t say “I can’t do this” is the key to success in new things….

    Also, a penchant for change helps too!

    Up next for me in my TdF journey… AbbyBatts….

    Oh, and just so Denny and Beth know… I am not nearly such a slave driver! Seriously!

    Just sayin’

  16. Abby!

    Do you still have your Country Craftsman spinning wheel? I am looking for a good used wheel to begin spinning with. I have two drop spindles but am now ready to go beyond the void…as it were.

    If you no longer have the CC where can I find a good used wheel? They are not easy to find and most folks just don’t give up their wheels once acquired. I can understand that, but for one on a strict budget and soon to be unemployed, I want to find a used wheel soon. Do you know of anyone who is selling a CC or a Kromski (my second choice)?


    Desperate wheel woman!
    Barb R>

  17. Sounds like such fun! I’m not sure Lynn would be a good slave. I think she would be good as long as she wanted to be good, and after that, you are taking your chances.

    There is SO MUCH that is hardwired in the different sexes. I can’t believe we used to think it was all nurture rather than nature. My niece learned to knit happily on the couch with me while her brother built a rocket ship out of leggo type parts, and then took it apart and rebuilt it. I just had to shake my girl head at it all.

  18. Abby!

    A recent but avid fan here. We had a spindle spinning program at a recent knitting guild meeting, and the presenters made spindles with toy wheels too. They were not personalized or unique, but they spin like, well, like a spindle.

    I’d also like to say that I really learned a lot from your videos. If you go on a book tour, consider Austin — we have a lot of fiber fanatics here.

  19. How incredibly cool!!!I’m so looking forward to my class at Sock Summit. 🙂

    I see now that I do indeed need one of those kits. Where should we get them? Oh, and are they bottom whorl, top whorl, or both?

    Safe Journeys & See You the Land of Port.

Comments are closed.