Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spinning old tales

The old folk tales do not do well by spinners. I mean, there’s Sleeping Beauty, who first time she encounters a spinning wheel manages to prick her finger on the spindle (which has a point about the size of a Magic Marker tip) and falls asleep for one hundred years. I know, I know, it was a magic spindle or a poisoned spindle, but the story still doesn’t leave one with a good feeling about spinning wheels.
And then there is Rumpelstiltskin, a spinner who was a disgrace to the profession. So what if he could spin straw into gold, silk makes a much more beautiful yarn, and it’s hard to spin. Spinning straw into silk would be a much more useful skill. But then he turns out to be a real creepy person. Of course the miller’s daughter makes some really bad life choices, and her father lies, but you come away from that story remembering spinning as a really bad deal.
And finally there is the tale of the three ugly spinsters, one with an elongated lip from licking the yarn ends, one with an elongated thumb from spreading the fibers and one with an elongated foot from treadling. Now even if their respective deformities were genetic rather than workplace related, you are once again left with the idea that spinning is a bad deal.
The only half way decent image of spinners comes from Greek or Cretan mythology, the story of the Fates, women who walked the country lanes at night, spinning the moon out of the sky on their drop spindles, making the night safe for the little nocturnal animals, and then gradually washing the moon back up into the sky as they washed their wool in a pond (story courtesy of The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart.)
I think it is time for some new spinning tales. I want a spinner saves the day story. Homespun wool yarn can be incredibly strong and unbelievably fine – spinners compete to spin a thread fine enough to knit or crochet into a 5 to 6 foot diameter shawl that is so fine it can be passed through a wedding ring. Now that is something to tell stories about.

1 comment:

  1. About the time I think I know a little about yarn, some character comes along and lets me know I should go back to the sewing machine!

    Jo in Mn