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Go Ahead: Be A Beginner!

I walked away from an argument today — no, really, I did — and not for the first time. Okay, so it’s an argument I’ve had plenty of times before and it’s a losing battle, and that’s why I walk away from it more often than I don’t.

I love a good debate. I love it when someone challenges my assumptions and makes me think. I love the interchange of ideas, even when there’s a disagreement. My best friends are all people who can hold their own in an argument, without just being jerks. But I’m completely aware this is a relatively fringe position these days, and folks with that outlook can be few and far between. And one of the reasons I started this blog was to have my own soapbox. So here’s a soapbox moment, and when I’m done, please, take the soapbox and have your own in the comments.

Here’s the thing. I hate some of the stuff people say to brand new spinners. Actually, to folks who are brand new to many things, but particularly spinners. Some of this advice is peevesome or downright offensive; some of it is insulting to people who’ve made huge commitments to skill and excellence, and much of it is actually condescending and belittling to the beginning spinner it’s intended to support. Let’s go through a few of these, shall we?

If I wanted perfect yarn, I’d buy it at Wal-Mart!

Really? Because a skein of acrylic selling for 50 cents an ounce is the pinnacle of yarn perfection? Because there’s no point in producing a skein of merino-silk-cashmere blend yarn spun exactly to your specifications when you could just buy a cone of cheap mill cotton? Because this…


or this…

Pagoda, spun from Pippi fiber

or this

Shocking Merino 3-Ply

is all stuff it’s not worth bothering to do, because you can totally just buy yarn at Wal-Mart. Yarn just like that.

Another problem with this whole line is that millspun yarn isn’t perfect. It has tons of flaws. But until people are fairly experienced in judging yarn (which comes quickly from spinning, and more slowly from other pursuits) most folks can’t detect these flaws. The textile mill wasn’t developed because people wanted a more perfect yarn than could be produced by hand; it was developed because people wanted more yarn, faster, for less investment in training. What mills produce is an approximation of the work of an experienced handspinner — an approximation that is good enough to do the job considering it’s cheaper and easier to get more of, and can be made with a lower-end workforce.

In the less-than-300 years we’ve had millspun yarn, and textile mills making cloth, and a move to mass production for clothing, people’s exposure to really good textiles has gone down; people’s ability to judge a good-quality fabric or garment has diminished; people can’t even tell, and they just assume that whatever machines are doing must be better than what people can do — at least, for textiles. I find this perspective incredibly tragic. I don’t even know where to start talking about how tragic it is.

Your first yarn is art yarn!

No it isn’t. It’s beginner yarn. Beginner yarn is great, and very powerful, and a wonderful thing, and something to be tremendously proud of. But it’s not art yarn. You can’t do it on purpose, you can’t reproduce it, you don’t understand the technical structures involved, and there are no guarantees it will stand up to being used. Real art yarn is produced by people with skill and training — people who have invested time and effort into acquiring those things. They have techniques that produce specific results, which they can execute reliably and describe and define and teach. Their yarn is not an accident. Their yarn is structurally sound.

These same things can’t universally be said of that first beginner yarn — but that doesn’t mean the beginner yarn is bad. It just means it’s beginner yarn. Think about it this way: if you were to pick up a guitar, would you expect the first thing you played on it to sound like Andres Segovia playing Bach fugues? I hope not — because if you really think that, you’re going to be disappointed. Nobody should be giving you the expectation of instant excellence with the guitar, because it’s a lie. Playing the guitar takes skill, and that skill takes practice to acquire. Spinning is no different.

I think it sells a beginner short to tell them their novice efforts are master-quality (and let’s not even get into what it sounds like it says about master work). It sells beginners short, because it’s a lie. People do it in an attempt to be supportive, I know, but I think it’s better to praise beginner work for what it is, rather than to liken it to the work of people who’ve spent time and energy studying and practicing. Why? Because as a beginner, I think you have a right to know there IS more; that you can do better, and you will, and that all it takes is wanting to and practicing. I mean, how much of a bummer is it to think that you just learned everything there is to know in 15 minutes? Does it even ring true, or do you know deep down it’s a lie and a platitude?

I think a big part of the problem is that people sometimes don’t want to be beginners — and I think that expectation comes in part from this notion that it’s supportive and good to tell beginners their work is somehow “advanced” or “expert” or “art.” But as I see it, being a beginner is a sacred, special time. In fact, in Zen, there is a saying:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

This concept of the Beginner’s Mind is an important one to study in a Zen context… or, really, any context. Being a beginner is the most liberated time you’ll ever encounter. You are totally free to not know what you don’t know; you shouldn’t have to be working to overcome baggage; you should be under no pressure to demonstrate or defend a subject or position. Nobody can judge you for saying “I don’t know.”

But in American culture, we have devalued being a beginner. We urge people to hurry into mastery, even if only by proclaiming themselves to have achieved it. We suggest that not having mastered something is bad, when all it really means is that you haven’t mastered it yet, and what could possibly be wrong with that? I’m gonna say this again: There is nothing wrong with being a beginner.

In Zen pursuits, mastery surpasses being an expert, in large part because a master can reclaim the Beginner’s Mind, and is again free in ways that weren’t possible when being an expert. In other words, the greatest mastery there is comes when you can incorporate everything that you know, without being so bound by that knowledge that other things seem impossible.

Where this often falls apart in American culture (and likely others) is when people are looking to move (often as quickly as possible) from being beginners to being experts. It’s not uncommon for people at that stage of the game to want answers that are absolutes: do this, and then that, and you will get a predictable result. This is an understandable desire, but it’s my opinion that focusing too hard that way actually slows down the learning process in the long run. Being able to instead wonder, and question, and say “What if?” — being able to imagine a possibility and strive for it, knowing it will take work and time, knowing there is a vast world of potential that is not yet revealed, that’s what makes learning happen and happen fast. And there are as many avenues to mastery as there are people who’d pursue it.

For myself personally, I strive to be a beginner wherever I can. I want to always have those pathways open; I don’t want to miss out on taking an interesting detour because it wasn’t marked on a roadmap. I would urge everyone, no matter how long they’ve been spinning, to try being a beginner. Come to things assuming you know nothing, and don’t quickly be forced out of that mode of thinking. You might be amazed what this opens up for you.

95 thoughts on “Go Ahead: Be A Beginner!

  1. I’ve always told my kids that the day they stop learning should be the day they die. But somehow, I’ve never really thought about how the word “beginner” had become such a put-down or even an insult to some people.

    Very good post. You’ve realigned a few things in my mind and I thank you for that!

  2. Not a shock, but Agree (1)

    And something I had to remind myself of during the TDF mile challenge. It’s ok to be a beginner, it’s ok to have results not be what you want them to be. I was trying two new things (speed spinning and longdraw) and as such, I was making beginner yarn. Which *is not a bad thing* but I still had to remind myself of that, with help from my friends.

    I think it’s the fear of being a beginner that prevents a lot of people from doing things. “How do you DO that?” is such a common question, not in the “How do the mechanics of that work” way but, rather, with an utter wonderment that you could pick up something you’re not already good at, and learn it. Whether it’s something outside your field in science, or a new craft, people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone, to be beginners again.

    And as such, they forget that when a kid’s learning to ride a bike you don’t say “Oh, it’s totally riding a bike if you fall off every three feet.” they say, “Wow, you made it FOUR WHOLE FEET this time, that’s like twice what you did before! Try to hold the handlebars steady and I bet you can make it like TEN feet next time!”

    And that’s not just ok, that’s how you learn to actually ride a bike, without falling down.

  3. I think I use “if I wanted perfect yarn, I’d go to Wal-Mart,” in a different capacity. I say that because I DON’T want perfect yarn – I want MY yarn. And that’s the reason I spin.

    I think spinning was one of the hardest things I learned, but I’m so glad I taught myself and didn’t know anyone else who spun at the time. I think I would have been really discouraged if I had seen people just whip along, ounce after ounce. I have a hard time teaching people now because I don’t want to be all, “It’s beautiful!” when, really, you need a lot more practice. That’s not fair to the new spinner. The best advice I was ever given was to spin for 10 minutes every day. So when someone’s having problems, that’s the only thing I say.

  4. Right on, Abby. Right on!

  5. I love you.
    There’s a definite pressure in this culture (which is the only one I know, so maybe elsewhere too) that you only show your perfect efforts. You don’t show the practice, you don’t show the imperfect, and if you can’t achieve perfect, you don’t do it in public. And for god’s sake don’t brag. I like the idea that it’s okay to work hard, to do things that aren’t perfect in the quest to learn, to look less than a master, and when you’ve achieved something wonderful, to be able to say with pride, “*I* did this, and it rocks.”

  6. Amen, and preach it sister Abby. I find myself (‘guilty’? is that even the right word?) of overpraising new spinners because I don’t want to turn them off, but you’re right in that there’s a difference between telling them things are a-OK and that that’s good effort, but there’s more learning to be done…

  7. I love what you have written. I has caused me to reassess what I have said to many beginners. Thank you for that. Let’s all revel in the new stages of growth.

  8. There was a recent post on Making Light that touches on some of these very concepts: Permission to Suck. Lots of great insight in the comments, too.

    I know that perfectionism is a huge part of my current roadblock with spinning–occasionally I can let it go and actually churn out yarn at a pretty good clip (for me), but most of the time? I feel paralyzed that I’m not able to achieve what’s in my head with my hands. But the only way for me to get there is to suck until I don’t suck anymore. And that’s hard as hell for me to wrap my head around. Gah.

  9. One of my biggest peeves is the “hold onto that yarn because once you learn to spin you’ll never be able to spin that yarn again”
    Seriously? You want to repeat that yarn that is over twisted in some spots and drifts apart in others?
    I know what they mean. They’ve gotten so good at their comfort zone yarn that the thick and thin yarn that takes a lot of control to make feels like it is out of their grasp. But that is a lie too.
    I’ve been taking spinning classes for over 8 years now and I always learn something new. There’s nothing in spinning that I think is out of my grasp but if I would have listened to those ladies at the guild at the very first I would have thought that all I could ever do was a two ply sock weight yarn because that is my comfort zone (even though I hate knitting socks)
    So when I have a new student who repeats this “can’t ever do it again” to me, I climb onto my soap box and explain how, if they practice a wide variety of yarns, and avoid getting into that rut, they can spin anything they want forever!
    Then i climb down and we continue with the lesson where I abuse them until they get it. (Kidding)

  10. Yes and yes!
    I would add that it is entirely possible to praise and encourage new spinners without lying to them, and that can and should be done!

  11. Thank you for this post!

    (People do that with children’s artwork too… what an interesting and not very honest culture we have)

    I feel strange teaching people how to spindle as I have so much to learn. And yet… I do it because if I don’t, most likely no one else will.

    There’s a lot out there to learn about spinning. Like so many things, the more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. And I love it that way.

  12. My first yarn prompted a few extra lessons on drafting from my teacher, I’d spun super-bulky on a 1oz spindle, but it was yarn and I felt like Dr Frankenstein after the monster sat up. “It’s yarn! It’s alive!” I love seeing that look on someone’s face, “I MADE that.”

    I was teaching a friend to spindle spin in a coffee shop and two engineering students next to us just stopped and stared, they said “There’s something amazing going on next to us” and wanted to keep watching. I think it never occurred to them you could MAKE yarn, especially from a silk hankie. Someone else stopped and assumed we were taking stuff from the spindle and turning it into the hankie, she couldn’t fathom why we would want to make either. People seem shocked that there are people who can actually spin fibre into yarn.

  13. Wow. Nicely said, Abby. I confess freely that I’m guilty of having said similar things to a beginning spinner, but I’m going to compensate by emailing her this blog post and telling her to defer to your superior knowledge of the subject.

    Your points about master vs. beginner are well-taken, and remind me of something I heard recently: that a masterpiece has to be a success; if you mess it up, it’s ruined. But a master WORK can be an utter failure and still be a learning process that, in turn, promotes more masterful work.

    We in this culture are used to standing on he shoulders of genius and calling ourselves educated. Life is not like RISK – one cannot simply declare victory and have it be so. We are taught that failure is not an option, and so we don’t learn to really learn. Thanks for reminding me that failure and process are inextricably linked.

  14. Being able to learn is one of the best parts about being human.

  15. This is not only true of spinning, but true of just about every pursuit. One of the joys of the process is witnessing the development of your craft and spirit as things move towards mastery. Well said.

  16. I’ll jump in here, too. I’ve found in many cases that people who are just starting out, don’t really WANT to learn. I had a conversation on Rav once with a woman who was teaching other beginners that the best thing to do is to predraft your fibre to the thickness you want it to be in the end, and then just use the wheel to add twist.

    I disagreed with that because while I agree that some fibre needs to be predrafted to a point, to loosen it up and enable it to be spinnable fibre, sure. Most hand-dyed top gets compacted and could use this predrafting. Or, you might want to split up your fibre according to colour and predraft that way. However, I’m against simply predrafting your fibre to its final thickness and then simply adding twist at the wheel. I think it’s important to learn to draft AT THE WHEEL or AT THE SPINDLE and once a spinner understands the art of drafting itself, whole worlds open up to the spinner.

    My comment was poorly received because it was taken to mean that my advice meant that I was telling the spinner she was doing something “wrong” and there is no “right or wrong way” to spin.

    I don’t mean to tell anyone they are right or wrong. I just wanted to share that the art of spinning is a very vast one and for every door you open for yourself, you create many more doorways that your newly-learned skill make possible.

  17. The “Art Yarn Defense” is a sort of tongue-in-cheek encouragement to a beginner who is grossed out by her first efforts, as I was. It was many years and a tiny free spindle tucked into a handful of alpaca I bought for experimental Barbie customization before I took up spinning again, this time for the long haul! (Lots of bald dollies still waiting for rehab…)

    I wouldn’t say that kind of thing to a kid, though; they take things too literally, and to heart.

  18. Yes, oh yes— Honor must be given to the process and the fact that even good teaching can’t give experience to someone without the student spending time over a prolonged period to learn what something like spinning feels like (and I don’t think this holds only for things with a tactile component, but is true intellectually too—you have to play with ideas, experiment and make them one’s own.) People too often feel if something takes time then they have failed or don’t have an aptitude for it—which i think is a current cultural fallacy.

    Secondly, while eventually (and having spun for a year I am surprised that eventually is coming sooner than i would have thought) good handspun can certainly be better than machine made—and joyously can mean creating something from one’s mind’s eye that hasn’t existed elsewhere before—-I also think that spinning allows pleasure in creating without having to be or pretend to be at the expert level I am not sure I am being clear—I am often a perfectionist and once only pursued areas in which I could excel. Of course, that meant there were whole areas I wouldn’t try. At one wonderful moment I realized that I could learn to ski as an adult and enjoy skiing, knowing that there is NO chance I will get expert at it—I can enjoy it, I can continue to learn, but it is ok to be so-so. I am not sure where my spinning will go in the future but I know that given the time I have for it, I will be content to enjoy it and to imperfectly create the yarn i envision and want to pet in the skein, knit or weave. And I love that the serious spinning community has room for beginners, intermediates, experts and the transcendental spinners among us.

  19. Sorry…no debate here. You’ve beautifully articulated 3 of my pet peeves in the perceptions of others about spinning.

    Now here’s two more for you to tackle:

    1. People wanting to spin dryer lint and pill bottle cotton.

    2. The role of fiber preparation in the yarn product.

  20. That WalMart-style comment makes me shake my head every time.

    My response is, “Yes, and you can buy a burger at McDonalds for a dollar. So why do you waste your time and money making Thanksgiving Dinner for your family? You can get food at McDonalds for cheaper.”

  21. First, I taught myself to spin. I made cool yarn.
    Ten years later, I took lessons, I learned good fiber prep. It improved my yarn. I made good yarn.
    Now I spin because I’m in a relationship.
    It’s not about the yarn any more. It’s about me and the twist. Thats my other half now. Yarn is the by product. It’s fun to have around, but it’s more about the act of putting twist in fiber. It’s all zen like now.

    It is so…. is so. Yes it is. Yup. shut up, is so.

  22. Anything worth doing is worth working hard for.

    I totally agree with everything you’ve said, both as a teacher and a student.

  23. I have been spinning for almost a year now and I absolutely REVEL in being a beginner. Every time I sit down at a wheel I learn something new and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I expect to be a beginner for the rest of my life. I am enjoying the process and the product and the infinite variations in both.

    And now I am going to do a post on Ravelry that I have been putting off as being “too beginnery”

  24. I have loved each of your posts on learning and teaching. Thanks for keeping on thinking about it and articulating it. I also see thesee processes and the comments that come from them at work and see them as damaging to learners.

  25. Agreed. I just realised that a big part of why I like to learn new things is the feeling when you are a beginner and get it for the first time!

    Also, as a beginner I have a permission to suck, so if something goes wrong that’s ok and you can try again, which is relaxing. After becoming better at something I tend to become more self-critical – learning to see what’s wrong is a part of the learning process, but it’s a frustrating part.

    On another note, after all that buzz on Ravelry about Andean weaving and courses on the other side of the world where I can’t go and weaving in general being Teh Awsum, I rigged up a string heddle/shed stick band loom last night and could not go to sleep before getting the first (traditional Finnish) pick-up pattern repeat done. Warped with handspun, too, it was thin, crummily plied and available, great for experimentation. Thank you for the inspiration – the whole thing took ages, the result sucks so far, and I love it!

    p.s. The term “precious handspun” is making me twitch nowadays, so it was very satisfying to look at my stuff as just yarn and cut it up.

  26. I have said this many times when I’m teaching – in western society only children are allowed to be beginners. Adults should be ‘good’ at what they are doing, and if not, they shouldn’t be doing it. This seems to apply to almost everything, but especially arts and crafts – painting, drawing, textile skills. Unless it’s ‘marketable’ (whether you’re going to or not) or of a high standard, most people can’t understand why you would waste time learning.

    It’s appallingly sad.

  27. Well, something must be wrong with me (but then, I’m German and live in France): I LOVE learning new things – it’s much easier (and more fun) to go from absolute beginner to reasonably competent than from competent to master. Unfortunately sometimes competent is just not good enough…

    But I generally dislike the term “art yarn”. Apart from the fact that I still don’t know what art is (Peter Collingwood may have gotten it right when he said: “Artist is a title conferred by posterity.”), for me yarn is a raw material. Like paint. Or a block of stone. An artist may make art using yarn (with the above reservation), but I won’t call the yarn itself “art”. What happened to “novelty yarns”, “designer yarns”, “effect yarns”?

    Happy spinning! Klara

  28. The best thing about your posts is that they get me thinking. So, I’m thinking that the Western countries are in such an odd situation with spinning. It was a survival craft for our ancestors. It is no longer so. It is something that would have been learned as a child. The beginners were children, as you were. So now we are beginners as adults, and those who aren’t beginners are speaking to beginners who are adults. While many of you have been doing this spinning thing for a long time, there is currently a huge influx of adults who are total beginners at it. So we have to learn to be beginners not only at the craft, but at teaching and encouraging beginners at the craft. Just as our spinning is beginner spinning, so our encouragement is beginner encouragement. And sometimes we suck at both.

  29. I feel I’ve been dealing with this forever. As a child and young adult, I was a good student and a good singer. Because I didn’t go out and slay the world, many adults in my life treated me as if I’d somehow failed since I never specialized in one thing. I have many interests and love to learn. I admit I wander from thing to thing with a sense of abandon at times. When I reached my mid thirties, I finally responded with, “What I excel at is doing many things well.” I am now in my late 50’s. I started spinning in ’03, after having told a friend, “You will never find me doing that” Now, I have a small y

  30. Oops… yarn and fiber dyeing business. I keep on learning. I grow. I encourage others to do the same.
    I don’t anticipate ever being done with this learning process. I am adept at some things. I grapple with others. Most of the time, I laugh either way. It’s all good.

  31. I must say I love being a beginner. The beginner stage is much like a honeymoon.. you get the joy of discovery, the time to just sit back and experiment and enjoy playing around. All with out the pressure to know, to perform, to be responsible for what you are doing and what it will bring in the future.

    I love being a beginner so much that whenever I start to enter that state of feeling I must be responsible for my results I often shake things up by learning something new. I first learned to crochet. When I started to feel competent enough with it that I was getting critical of my work I decided to learn to knit. Then I started learning different knitting methods.. long tail vs knit cast on, continental vs throwing, socks, felting, lace, fair aisle. Then I decided to learn to spindle, and make my own spindles, and plying methods, and spining various weights of yarn, and so on.

    I hand sew also. And embroider.

    I’m thinking I should be a beginner for quite some time. And if I ever find myself getting to good a something I can always get a wheel, or take up bobbin lace or tatting……..

    Nope, no beginner phobia here. I’m just the opposite, I have a fear of getting to good and settling into that “expert” slot that would restrict my creativity. Someday I may have to work through that and try to get really good at something. But for now being a beginner is just to much fun!

  32. Thank you Abby. I am proud to be a beginning spinner.

  33. I’m just learning to spin and one of the reasons I’m taking it up is to have the fun of being a beginner again.

    When I learned to knit 10 years ago I was so excited. About the yarn and the books and the tools and I couldn’t get enough of classes and Stitches and get togethers.

    All of which I still enjoy, but I’ve reached a level of expertise with knitting (intermediate/advanced) that’s enough for me and I want to regain some of the excitement in challenging myself with new skills and new reasons to ask “Why” and “Why not?”.

    I’ve decided I’ll learn a new craft in-depth every 5 years; the next one will be weaving.

  34. This is really liberating to read; thank you. I’m quite a new spinner (working on, oh, my 3rd or 4th skein now?) but I’m already finding myself settling into a comfort zone, despite still knowing very little about the process and results of working within that “space.” It takes a leap of faith to realise that the monetary investment I’ve made in spinning (already too much for a student to really afford!) should/will ultimately translate into an investment in these new skills I’m learning, even at the “expense” of not beefing up my handspun yarn stash as quickly or proficiently as I dream about.

  35. thanks for the post–now i can stop feeling bad about being a (self-taught) beginner for the past three years!

  36. I have to laugh. I was in a Sheep to Shawl contest when I had only be spinning for a few months. They needed another spinner(we have a very small guild) so I said I would do it. I got there and one of the ladies was having a fit about this isn’t for beginners and I shouldn’t be there. I said down and did my spinning and pretty much kept out with the other spinner in my group. I had the last laugh because in the end our shawl won. The complainer lady was made and said that was wrong because they had a beginner. Oh well.

  37. A good soap box Abby and I like a good soap box. It helps to clear things up including our attitudes. I believe that learning is a life-long pursuit. Each fleece has its own personality just as the sheep it came from has its own personality too. That’s one of the wonderful things about spinning, we’re constantly working with something different and having new beginnings. It keeps me humble, happy challenged and energized as I produce something useful, imperfect and beautiful. I’ll be fulfilled with that regardless of the comments I may get.
    Keep on spinning!

  38. I have only recently found your site and been spinning for about a month. I appreciate your views and thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and watching your videos as I am teaching myself spindle spinning.
    I have been a beginner at many things over the years and getting comfortable with the process and the results is one of most rewarding things I do. I have learned to train horses and some dressage, x-country ski, knit, crochet, tai chi, milk a cow and make butter and cheese, growing perennials and running my own nursery, learning to invest retirement money, bake bread etc. If you aren’t willing to feel discouraged and like a total failure many times in the process I don’t think you can ever progress to competency. I think too many people get discouraged early on because they think short term failure means you’ll never get it. My first yarns are being cut up and used to wrap my improving skeins. I have no clue when I’ll make a whole skein of yarn I approve of but don’t care as I can always wear what I knit around the farm.

  39. I won’t call myself a master or expert at any of this, but some things I know how to do well enough to suit myself. Sock yarn. Worsted weight low-twist singles. I’m not a beginner there.

    But the exciting part of all of these fiber skills I’m trying to acquire, in knitting and spinning, is I’m a beginner at SOMETHING forever. I’ll never have done everything or mastered even most things. So it’s a constantly challenging and mentally stimulating process, thank goodness! Never boring!

  40. Thank you so much for this post. Before I learned to spin I read everything I could and was very annoyed by the “if you want perfect yarn…” thing. I never liked to find excuses for things I was doing wrong or not putting my best effort into. What’s the use of learning something and being satisfied with less than good results. I want perfection and even though I know this is almost impossible it’s what drives me to keep on learning and pushing my skills.

    As for not being able to reproduce my first yarn. Well, I could, if I wanted to, but that is not my goal.

  41. Fabulous soapbox, Abby. I too have been guilty of the art yarn comments to beginners. Your article helped me to realise what I’m really saying.

    Love the Zen references, that really strikes home. Thanks for your inspiration.

  42. Ole! =)

  43. BRAVA! Agree, agree, agree! (I’ve been spinning for about 20 years, and I STILL get the “why don’t you buy it.” :P)

  44. You are my hero! 😉

  45. Oh yes! The looks I got as a total novice (first day actually managing to spin on a drop spindle), walking round a sampling session spinning down fibres on a standard spindle, suspended, were priceless. However, I managed several samples that, while they weren’t perfect or particularly thin, I would have been quite happy to have a scarf made out of. But everyone knows that cashmere or camel-down must be spun carefully, fine and supported, not long-drawn into a two-ply heavy aran-weight. There are sound reasons for learning to spin supported-and-fine for down-fibres (cost springs to mind!, also it’ll be much easier for finer threads), but they’re not because other ways aren’t possible. Of course, I had to try it with my chunky beginner spindle supported on my thigh – I managed a respectable high-twist cotton single thus.

  46. Great statement – has made me think hard about comments I make to new spinners. You are right – all being said in a supportive way, but on the other hand misleading.

    As far as always being a beginner – that’s me. After all these years of spinning, I am still learning – thank goodness.

  47. Hello Abby
    I really appreciate everything you said about how people despise beginners and how everyone is supposed to master everything they do.
    I wanted to thank you because with you video on spindle spinning, I managed to spin 25g of merino tops this afternoon. Thank you very much ! (I’ll spin another 25 g and then have a deep look at your video on plying)

  48. In my opinion, you can never learn too much. I taught myself to spin over 30 years ago. Saw a wheel in a yarn shop window and bought it. Then went on to buy sheep and started a small farm so I would have access to fiber. I now have 7 wheels and they are all beautiful and quirky at the same time. I only started spinning on spindles the last 5 years or so. My spindle collection numbers about 25/30. Each and every one is unique and useful for a specific purpose. Every time I see a new book or video that I think might teach me something new or how to do something better, I buy it. With all the exotic fibers now being readily available, I purchase what I think I would enjoy learning how to spin. Point being, I am still very much a beginner. My resulting handspun is mine and mine alone, never to be compared with machine made yarn and up to the task of scrutiny of both wanted and unwanted opinions of other spinners. (The most hurtful comment I received was from a spinner who commented that she wished she could spin thick yarn like mine. The yarn on the bobbin was quite thin, strong, and well structured and I took offense.) I love learning and will continue to learn.

  49. I love the idea of always being a beginner. There is always something new for us to learn in life! I almost didn’t learn to spin because of the vendor I bought my first spindle kit from. I asked how much yarn I would be able to make from the kit. The vendor and his friend laughed at me and said “You’ll be lucky to make any at all!! You’ll just make some lumpy rope!” I felt like I should return the kit I just bought and give up before I tried! Thankfully the vendor and friend are the exception in the spinning world. I have since found people who thought my “rope” was beautiful!

  50. Awesome post!

    I’m a person who likes to do things well, so I can identify with the mindset of people who want to get out of the rank beginner stage as quickly as possible 🙂

    I don’t feel that being a beginner is devalued in American culture; I feel that being American means striving to better yourself, no matter what you do. In my experience this does not mean that beginners are worthless worms, but that they are *beginners* – people closer to the beginning of a journey than the end. That’s all.

    What you’re describing as beginner spirit is what I think of as adventurous spirit. Beginners can be as hidebound as people who have been doing something for years; it takes adventurousness to try to go down a scary path, no matter how long you’ve been doing something.

    As for the “beginner yarn is art yarn”, I figured that was just a way of seeing the good parts in a poor product. Like if you made a misshapen pot but the glaze turned out beautifully. The pot may not be used the way you planned, but you will have learned something from it.

  51. I confess that I did not walk away from the bait of a similar comment about spinning, though I managed to stop short of engaging in a long, drawn-out, pointless argument.

    I appreciate this post, as well as much of the discussion it has inspired. The learning and beginner aspects are part of what I love so much about spinning. I enjoy the process, and derive considerable amounts of joy from the fact that there is so much more for me to learn.

    I also wanted to thank you for the helpful insight you provided over on Ravelry comparing Spin Control and Intentional Spinner. While I think it is likely I will one day own both books, (as well as others, too) it was very helpful in deciding which book I will get next.

  52. Thanks for the comments about beginners. I am a high school English teacher, and I try to share some of those ideas with my beginning writers. They want to be Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Faulkner all rolled into one with their very first piece. It’s not gonna happen.

    As always, your writing is inspirational, informative, and interesting. Thanks for your great ideas.

  53. I did it all “wrong” when I bought my wheel a little over a year ago. First, I bought an old wheel that is more than a little quirky; then I had no one around me to teach me. I used the internet and some good books and I just sat down and played with my wheel until we became friends. Now she and I still enjoy spending time together (and she is still cranky but then so am I sometimes) and we even make some really beautiful yarn together. It’s not been easy but I didn’t expect it to be. The learning curve is steep and boy if learning new skills keeps you young, then I am a baby!

    I so enjoy your comments and thoughts on the beginner spinners rav group. It’s been inspiring to this 50+ year old woman who came to the fiber arts late in life but is having a really good time.

  54. It was interesting to read your position on a beginner’s yarn not being art yarn. There’s always the inevitable question of “What do I do with this? I don’t want to waste it!”, and the response is either “Wind it up in a ball and put it away as a souvenir” or “It’s art yarn. Put it in a project.” I think it boils down to giving ourselves permission to throw the crap yarn away–that the world is not going to go to pot because you made crap yarn and won’t keep it.

  55. sing it, sister!

    really, you said it so well i don’t have anything to add.

  56. Beautiful post, full of wisdom.

    I love the word “peevesome.”

    I do sort of agree with Sarah about American culture in terms of beginners, but I see what you’re getting at. Americans rarely cherish process, they value results. I appreciate so much the open-mind idea and the comparisons to Zen. For some reason, while I was reading I found myself thinking about the Japanese potters who are among those in Japan designated National Treasures.

    And I am determined to cherish my beginnerhood, no matter how frustrating it seems right now, and perhaps even remain a beginning spinner forever.

  57. i used to spin novelty yarn exclusively because i liked the way it looked and how “easy” it was, then i realized that i would never be able to consider myself a master (or even advanced) spinner unless i learned how to spin different things. it’s been hard. it has required a lot of time and trial and error. but now i know that if someone asked me to spin a 15 wpi sock yarn from fibers x and y, i can comfortably do so, and well.

    i have a friend, though, who has been a year less than i have. she spins only “novelty art yarns,” and sells them. she watched me struggling to learn new things, perfect my techniques, and expand my horizons. when i have suggested that she learn how to spin other things, she has refused, citing the “people can just get that at wal-mart” excuse. that’s depressing on so many levels.

  58. Abby, I love you.
    (just don’t tell my husband.)

  59. ps. the people who make the comment about the walmart yarn vs handspun are the same people who are amazed that i make cakes, cookies, waffles, muffins, donuts, bread, and pancakes from scratch. “you know how to do that? i thought we could only make things with a mix.” ummmmmmmm

  60. I consider myself a beginner, although I started 4 or 5 years ago. I spin and I am tickled with my results…but I am still a beginner. And I am not ashamed to call myself that because there is always something to learn! And since I am self taught (mostly) the learning curve is extended and harder..but it is good and I am happy. That is the major reason to spin, isn’t it?
    Perfection. That is a laugh! No such thing, especially if the human hand gets anywhere near it. I do aspire to improve and to reach a high level, but I will never aspire to perfection because that would ruin the enjoyment and add to the frustration, which would kill the entire process for me. Nor am I in competition with those who can pick it up and spin 2-ply lace weight almost immediately. I am in competition with myself, and that is enough.
    This is not an ego trip for me, it is a very very special time and product and I don’t want to spoil it with negativity or thoughts that would change it into “work.” (I reallly hope that doesn’t sound sappy)
    Beginners yarn it beautiful! It is not art yarn, it is beautiful and a treasure. As an old fart..I do not really like “art yarn” but I love beginners yarn!
    Now then, If I could spin and dye like my hero Abby, I would be the first human to develop a real purr.

  61. Thought provoking. Reminds me of something someone told me years ago about Karate black belts.

    Originally one became a black belt by practicing the art for so long and so intensively that the white belt became black from use (dirt, IOW).

    Or, as another friend from Israel said, “Can’t you Americans do *anything* without getting a t-shirt for it?”

  62. Wow.

    I love being a beginner, I love the wide open possibilities and the challenges of learning something new. I get bored right about the ‘expert’ stage, the limitations and the grind of plowing through the last bits get me down. I’ve NEVER thought of the mastery stage as being another opening! That’s so brilliant. I’ve often beat myself up about not being able to stick to any one thing for too long, wondering why I’m not just a chef or a sculptor or a fabric designer or anything, and I’ve been jealous of those who are. Now, well, I’m all sparked by the possibilities of mastery. No idea what I’ll work on, but I like the thought. Here’s a random ‘get out of crabby free’ from me, I hope it works. Mwah!

  63. I wonder if I’ll ever gain mastery of my spindle. It seems like every time I learn a new skill, I need to learn another one. It could be depressing, or it could be an adventure…depending upon my point of view or mood of the day. There is a multitude of skills and techniques to be learned using just my little spindle. I can’t imagine what kind of world my wheel will open up to me when I finally get back to it…next year :o)

  64. Hi Abby, what a good blog (I never thought I’d find myself using that word in such an ‘online community’ fashion!) ‘peevesome’ – I love it! yes I’m a beginner spinner and, so far, the people I’ve spoken to who are involved in it have been very supportive. How odd – I wouldn’t have thought that egos could find much mileage in wool.

    I started about 3 weeks ago after I saw a lady spinning in tudor costume (it was a tudor outdoor event nr. Weymouth, Dorset). She’d made a whole authentic costume – everything from flax skirts, underskirts, bonnet and a woollen bodice. She was very kind and showed me how to use a drop spindle and even gave me some batts(?) to get started on.

    My first job as a teenager was in a woollen mill in Yorkshire. The place did all the processes except dyeing, from blending thru’ weaving to finishing . At that time, in the 60’s, there were plenty of mills large and small in my area. Now there are only 2 left. I don’t live there now but it was a huge part of my local culture,in the blood so to speak because it used to be such an important industry.
    Later I worked in the same mill as a blender and spinner (ha ha). It was all mechanised of course but all the same, the processes of creating cloth from raw wool were basic and hands on. The smell of lanolin was everywhere and the noise in the weaving shed was deafening.

    So – I’m a beginner and as a spinner I make a pretty good demolition man! I’ve managed to spin about 30 feet of yarn but it’s been hard. I’m pretty cack-handed as we say and have struggled to get any rhythm or flow into it. My main problem seems to be that I can’t prevent twist getting into the fibre before I’ve properly drafted it. My control is poor and I’m all tensed up. I made myself a spindle but I don’t think it’s very good. Right now, I’m trying to just work at it and improve but I keep making the same mistakes. I’ve seen your fascinating tutorials on youchoob and really want to get into this but I’m a bit discouraged by my attempts so far. Help!


  65. You may remember that I was one of those who made the commet about “if I wanted perfect yarn …” I, for one, really didn’t mean “perfect” yarn is only machine made, or that you can’t hand spin very uniform and “perfect” yarn. I was in that heady area where I’d just managed to make any yarn at all. You are very right in everything you say. What I did find is that there were many people who were held up as “experts,” or who held themselves as such. I was terribly confused and, at the time, had no idea who the really good spinners and/or teachers were. If I had it to do over again, I’d have waited awhile and kept reading until I figured out who WAS the expert. While I am flattered that people might ask me HOW to spin, I am not very comfortable giving that help – yet. I try to direct them to people like you and Judy who are very good spinners, even though you don’t always agree on technique. That being said, it has been very helpful to ME on those times when I have tried to explain things. It slows me down. I’m also one of those who feels I should be able to do anything with a minimum of effort and practice. Most things come to me that way and, when it becomes more of a challenge, I get frustrated easily. I’ve stuck with the spinning and, recently, spun my first successful (if somewhat uneven) lace weight singles from one of your beautiful Peaches & Cream batts. It’s not “perfect,” but it’s as “perfect” as some of the commercial lace weight yarns I’ve bought. You have NO IDEA how much I wish you and I were in the somewhat near place. There’s nothing I would rather do than be able to spend just a little time watching you and listening to you. Retirement has made the $$$ tight, but I’m hoping that I will be able to do that one day. —Oh! And I rarely “predraft” anything thanks to you. Exception: the corriedale I nearly felted when I decided to try dying.

  66. Thank you for your philosophy about beginnerhood (?). It’s encouraging without being artificial–telling a newbie their work is as good as an expert. Don’t know where we got this notion that first time out should be expert, but drives me absolutely nutters. It happens in many areas of life. Not to mention the idea that every effort will be stellar. Oops. Sorry to climb on your own soapbox.

  67. Thank you for a great post.

    I have learned SOOOOO MUCH from you Ravelry posts, and your you-tube videos. I’m not sure I would be actually spinning now if I hadn’t had you as a teacher.

    I know the internet is different from “in person” classes, however, I feel that I know you and have taken classes from you. I hope I can someday take a “reallife” “in person” class from you.

    I hope it will be allright to quote parts of it (with a proper acknowledgment of course) in a personal letter to my grandson. He is just entering middle school and I would like to encourage him to try and learn new stuff.

  68. Here, here. I only know that a couple years ago when I purchased my first drop spindle and was having immense difficulty I made a comment on one of the spinning groups about feeling so inept after reading how 4th grader took right off with spinning and I major issues you commented to me about how we, as adults, want to immediately be the experts and bypass the learning process. You said many other things as well which I will not go into here….if it had not been for your encouragement and reminder that it is okay to be a beginner I may not have stuck with it. Thank you Abby!!!! 🙂

  69. hi, Abby,
    what do you think about electric spinners?
    I’m hit with knee issues and can’t treadle longer than a minute or two.
    Handspindling is nice but very slow, so I’m thinking about an e-spinner but mentioning this makes the most of my co-spinners look as I said I planned to murder my mother…
    So I would love to read your thoughts about e-spinners…
    Thanks in adavance and warm regards, Sabine

  70. This is really helpful to me, a completely new spinner. Permission to own my beginner-ness.

  71. I love being offered the opportunity and the encouragement to climb up on the soapbox! Thank you Abby!!

    Therefore, with that encouragement – I am climbing up to add in my two cents.

    I believe that society in general has somehow all taken a detour down the “I cannot give criticism because it will crush self esteem” pathway. And, they don’t seem to know how to get back to reality because they like living in a place where everything is “perfect”. They like the illusion this creates, because it feels good.

    In this delusional state, we have stopped giving encouragement and are only giving empty platitudes praising mediocrity.

    I much prefer to receive constructive criticism which encourages me to continue to grow and improve my skills in whatever task I am attempting.

    I applaud you Abby for this post! It is just the encouragement every beginner in any task needs!

  72. There’s nothing better than the moment where you go from “I know what I’m doing” to “what the heck just happened?” Unless it’s the moment when you figure out how you did it. If you’re not a beginner, then you’ve been in the same place too long. =)

  73. Abby:
    If you want debate, let’s start a new program called “No spinner left behind”!

    Sorry could not help myself. Too many of the comments were supportive 🙂 and you clearly wanted debate. so…

    I think a beginner spinner should have to do the equivilent of the piano scales I was forced to do. Like being able to do the correct WPI on demand. They should have to work with the cheapest wool. They can never touch “good” luxury fibers until they are certified accomplished. They must start on the oldest, poorest mechanical wheels and heaviest spindles. Because if we encourage new spinners, they might displace us by buying good fibers and tools, taking classes and might even teach us something!

  74. One of my biggest peeves is the “hold onto that yarn because once you learn to spin you’ll never be able to spin that yarn again”
    Seriously? You want to repeat that yarn that is over twisted in some spots and drifts apart in others?

    Actually, it’s easy to make bad n00b yarn (as opposed to a well-spun controlled thick-and-thin yarn) whenever you want to.

    The secret is gin.

  75. Machines are taking over. I read a very long article by Michael Pollan in Sunday’s NYT about how the mass production and marketing of food has resulted in decreased nutritional value and increased waistlines. Did you know that when cake mixes were first marketed, people wouldn’t buy them because they didn’t considered that “cooking,” so the industry added the requirement of cracking open an egg, which was enough to make people feel they were doing enough labor to call it “making a cake” and the mixes then sold.

    How I wish we could collectively get back to that mindset! The desire to learn something, to master a skill – whether it’s making the perfect pie crust or spinning an awesome yarn – is sorely lacking and I guess all we can do (besides becoming Quakers and they’re too religious for me) is dedicate ourselves to learning and teaching others.

    Man, I miss hanging out with you guys on Rav.

  76. I love you. A wonderful reminder for all of us.

    Personally, I love the process of learning new things, the process of spinning, knitting, weaving, etc.. because there is always something more to learn. And while the end result is lovely, life isn’t about end results so much as what you are doing in that moment.

  77. Nice post Abby.

  78. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    I was halfway through writing a comment about how I agree with what you’ve said, but thought that you came across as a little harsh to people who were just trying to encourage beginners, who are often all too ready to give up when their first attempts don’t meet their expectations.

    But then I realized I would be defending thoughtlessness, lazy comments that are ultimately untrue, and the kind of thinking that causes people to devalue textiles and handwork on a massive scale.

    It’s okay to be harsh in the face of all that — not cruel, but honest and intellectually rigorous. And some people may whine about how mean you are, but that’s better than giving up the fight.

    On the other hand, as Sgt. Majorette pointed out, sometimes these “art yarn” comments are a tongue-in-cheek kind of humor, which doesn’t necessarily come through online. And while I don’t have a problem with that, it does seem that a lot of people aren’t being very tongue-in-cheek about it.

    Anyway, lots to think about here!

  79. Abby, this is so sensible–thank you for articulating these ideas so clearly and satisfyingly. I had an additional thought: the problem with telling beginners that they’ve already learned everything needed (or that there is no such thing as, or no value in, expertise) is the same problem with telling little children that everything they do is perfect. It’s satisfying to tell them they’ve done something perfect because they get an emotional lift and we also get that warm fuzzy for being the deliverer of praise–it’s very tempting. BUT! when do children learn how to have the tenacity and emotional resilience to continue doing something that they aren’t yet good at? how do they learn how to care enough about learning to do something that they will be self-critical, and look for how their work can be improved? It seems to me that honest, kind criticism is really important in helping people (little kids and adults too) gain that strength of character. The fleeting emotional thrill of being told you’ve done a great job is nothing compared to the long-term life value of caring to do better–of valuing truth more than your own ego.
    Just my two cents! I really enjoy your philosophical posts.

  80. What an excellent post.
    I’m a knitter and also a potter. This pottery hobbie of mine, I enjoy it tremendously, but I have to constangly fight off people wanting me to do more, do bigger, do better, sell…

    Let me be a beginner, let me explore, let me be!

  81. Thank you. On about 17 different levels.

  82. Hi Abby. I found you blog when I found your YouTube video on Drop Spindle Basics. What an amazing blog you have and this post really rang true. I have only just started spinning – your video was the catalyst I’m pleased to say. Am I a beginner? – ohhh definately. Is my first lot of yarn art? Not a chance. Is it lumpy and bumpy and all different thicknesses – darn right it is. But best of all I’m having FUN and I can’t wait to see what I can knit up using this lot of yarn and best of all it will be all my own work. I admit I have bought the cheaper yarns – having picked up knitting again after many years – but now the desire to control not only the types of wool I use but also the colours etc is the driving force behind me trying to spin my own. Will it last – I sincerly hope so. I’m enjoying myself so much. My kids are super impressed (a hard thing to do when Mum does so many crafts)and I’m finding it so relaxing. I wish all the new crafts I try could be this relaxing at the beginnning. Thank you for your blog, your videos and the inspiration you provide for so many. Well done.

  83. Very interesting Abby. I was in your spinning class on Sunday at the Sock Summit. I loved the class. You are a great teacher and I just noticed your forthcoming book! Can’t wait to see that. I will be at SOAR since I live in Bend and hope to see you there.

  84. I am a knitter surrounded with a lot of spinners. I love knitting projects from their gorgeous yarns. Nothing is more satisfying then knitting from a yarn a friend lovingly spun.

  85. Amen, sister! And you’re dead-on right. Years of knitting didn’t bring me much closer to an understanding of quality, or what MADE the quality. It was spinning that did it for me…and I’m much more cautious in my purchases now.
    You go, girl!
    (and it was nice to see you again at SS09)

  86. I just bought a Turkish drop spindle at Sock Summit. I am a Beginner. I have just a smidgen of an idea how it works, but that’s it. On to the adventure!

    I wish I’d taken your class. But at the time I registered, I had no idea I’d want to spin!

  87. Well, I realize I am late responding to this, but I will, mostly because I started laughing and nodding my head at what you were sayin’. It’s true, and it occurs in ALL fiber areas for beginners, and it is RUDE and WRONG. My position has always been that you CANNOT break the rules (so to speak) unless you have first learned them. This allows you to ask the great “what if…” questions and go in all sorts of directions trying new things. If you don’t have the basics down of good yarn (and by that, I mean yarn that is purposefully spun, holds together well, and serves the purpose for which it was made by the spinner), you can’t really apply your mind to the possibilities as easily as someone who has done their “internship”, however long it takes.

    This applies to quilters who barely “baste” the sandwich together, don’t do a proper binding, then call it an “art quilt”, when a single washing of the so-called “quilt” would cause it to disintegrate from lack of sufficient effort applied to doing the job right. It isn’t the design of the quilt that is at fault, it’s the execution of the craft they didn’t bother to learn. But you will hear certain people say they are “artists”, and therefore the technical aspects of the craft don’t apply. Bosh!

    Great seeing you at Sock Summit, and finally getting to meet Denny. I was only sorry we had no real time to visit and spin. My spindle spinning is improving (and dammit, I already ordered my book from Amazon… should I have it shipped to you, and you could sign it for me? Are you doing a book tour to Seattle area?), and I will NOT be at SOAR, because I will be in Vancouver, BC with Charllotte Kwon doing traditional Indian dying with bugs and plants all week… and after that I have no money for SOAR, which makes me sad, but I am thrilled I was able to go to two special events this year. 🙂 I heart you, but I am jealous of the cherry Matchless. I’ve been wanting one, but I will have to settle for keeping my old faithful Matchless… and I am trying to save up for a 30″ production wheel from someone, now that I won’t be getting mine from Bill Wyatt…

  88. Thanks so much for this post. I think I’ll print it, store it with my wheel, and re-read it from time to time, as well as handing it to folks who seem to think I’m unnecessarily putting myself down when I refer to myself as a beginner! As a former teacher, I fought the good fight against the “let’s always tell the kids that they are totally special and skilled no matter what they’ve actually accomplished” mindset. “Beginner” shouldn’t be a dirty word; it should be a badge of honor. It means you had the guts to try something new!

  89. Abby,

    I am the lady who was looking for a Country Craftsman wheel a month ago. I finally did buy a wheel…a Kromski Polonaise, thanks to help from my husband…!:-)

    As a beginning spinner, I thought to take lessons but then, as a beginner I thought “I have been drop spindling for a while now and, I have read, and read, and read, my eyes out on how to use a wheel”. “Let’s see if………

    Of course folks told me…as a beginner that I should not learn to spin on a Kromski Polonaise because “it is to hard to learn on”, but, being the beginner I am I thought, “but it has up to 23:1 which is what I will need for the future” “What if I…….tried it anyway….”.

    That is how beginners think. We jump off cliffs, dive into the deep end, and fly without lessons. I have taught myself how to spin without biases from others, and without others saying stupid things to me like what you talk about in your article. I have been unpreturbed and I, by the way, have grown up with my Kromski and she and I love each other and a wheel and it’s owner should. I know her and she knows me. We are friends!

    I hope I never stop being a beginner. I am untainted by anyone’s biases, habits, preferences, or quirks. I adopt no one’s opinions or doctrines.

    I learn by feel, sight and instinct. I know what good yarn should be and work toward that. Maybe one day I shall have art yarn. But…I am enmoying being a beginner..and I hope I never recover.


  90. I’m not sure if my comment in this thread is ironic, considering the post’s subject, but…I’d love to see an in-depth technique post about longdraw, like the one you did on spinning from the fold. I’m an adventurous beginner wanting to learn more!

  91. Abby – what a beautiful mind you have. So impressive, concise and descriptive. I wish I had the facility to make the kind of distinctions your mind makes! Your essay on the beginner’s mind is as near perfection as I can imagine. Qudo’s all around!

  92. Well said, Abby!
    And I agree with Andrea as well… Go away all you pushy folks who demand that I ‘produce’ expert quality goods (yarn and knitting and art and whatever) and quickly! I am a beginner. I LOVE being a beginner! I have so much yet to explore! And practising to do… and playing… and planning… and reading… and… and…
    And I’m happy to take as much time as it takes… the longer the better.

    And to the barely acquainted ‘friend’ who, upon entering my private room some years back while I was exploring ‘painting’ for the very first time since childhood (exploring, experimenting and making a great big, wonderful mess), commented “I don’t know why you are bothering to paint. You are obviously terrible at it!” – You didn’t stop me :D)

  93. Ok, so I just popped in and read only this post for random reasons and man- you really need to be writing a book. I take it back… a series of books.

    Ok so I can’t begin to even spell yarn. Does that make me a pre-beginner? Un-beginner? I mean what about those other categories of folks who have never considered Yarn and stumble upon your website via accidental keystroke eror but yet they are captured and curious. I think “the beginning” of most things starts long before you even become labeled a beginner. Most things seem to start with a thought or feeling, maybe story from some drunk guy sitting at the bar next to you or other means of coming into your consideration. I mean, if the beginning started at the bar no one would ever ask “what’s a guy like you doing in a place like this” because nothing would’ve happened before then. My point is, I totally agree with the life lesson in your post and I don’t have to know how to spell the “y” word to get it. I just would like to ad that I think we’re all so busy “beginning” the task that we often disregard the importance of learning before doing. Learning the history, concepts, possibilities, theories and dam good stories that set the foundation for a solid creative learning experience. Although, I must admit…I don’t ever want to hear the history behind wal-mart, I can’t seem to get past the stuffed animal machine by the front door before wanting out.

  94. I just wanted to say i read your post and i am yet to meet a master or an expert even in spinning – many claim to be these but they are not – someone so trained and skilled in one area that could spin a masterful yarn of total perfection and quality, everytime they spun – id like to see that human being.

  95. abby, this post on your blog was very inspirational to me as a beginner. i went to the opening of a brand new yarn shop today in my town ( now there are 3!). I noticed ( and asked) if she sold any handspun. she said ( and i saw none). That made me start thinking i could produce yarn that was of better quality than what i was in the store purchasing today. By the way, she was selling patterns she had printed off of ravelry; is there some rule against this?

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