Spinning Class with Norman Kennedy


I think this is the best photo I have of Mr. Kennedy from the weekend. He is putting a batt of wool on a distaff. You know, that part of a spinning wheel that our ancestors put raw flax on? Yeah, he’s using a batt or a big piece of carded wool and he’s just tying it on there for spinning convenience. And here I thought there were rules!

It was a good weekend but a humbling weekend. I am such an amateur. I need to take more classes, as Margaret says. I don’t really love fiber prep so when hand cards were on the optional list of tools to bring, I didn’t freak out. I JUST sold my schacht cards to a woman across the country. Of course one hour in Norman tells us to bring out our hand cards. Crap. There were pairs for borrowing but they weren’t worn in at all. I assume this is kind of like ice skates where you have to wear them for at least a year before they start to feel better. I carded and carded and carded. He taught me how to card the right way. There are rules in carding, not distaffs, but carding. I think I’m a pretty good carder now but I don’t have cards anymore. The only thing I felt comfortable with by the end of Sunday was carding and making rolls of wool from the cards.

The coolest part of the class was watching him just do what he’s best at. He can spin anything in his sleep and he wasn’t afraid to tell us. We also saw a really cool “slideshow” on a 15″ laptop and thank God I am young and can sit on the floor or else I would have seen little to nothing. He has been all over the world and studied spinning technique in several cultures. Spinning was a poor person’s work so the supplies that we have are kind of ridiculous compared to what past generations made do with. Norman says he has seen people in Mexico spinning with a bike tire and a stick. My Irish relatives would have laughed at how much I need in order to make a mediocre yarn. 2 antique wheels and a new wheel with about 8 different speeds. Norman said the old spinners would have known how to make whatever yarn they wanted on one wheel with one or two speeds or twist level.

Even though I didn’t exactly leave class with a new level of spinning confidence, I left class thinking I was very glad to have seen him in teaching action. This is his last teaching tour so I consider myself lucky to have gotten some knitting advice from him.

Here’s the cool thing: I knit fast, but I need to knit faster. The Scottish folks knitted on “wires” or “pins.” Basically, 7 double pointed needles made up the body of a sweater and it was way faster than the way we knit now on circular needles. I am on a mission to find some knitting wires. I even thought I would make my own until I went to Lowe’s today to only find out that the size wire I need would either be way too heavy or way to flexible. So, the search continues. I’ve won a few ebay auctions and we will see what those needles look like when they arrive from Japan. (Yes, Japan.)

Norman Kennedy photos are here and I have a few videos taken with the iphone (mind you, a 3g) that I will post tomorrow. He is also a folk singer so he sang us a song while spinning on a great wheel. Really, a lifetime of spinning wool to make fabric to pay the landlord sounds horrific. We are lucky that we can dabble in these interesting hobbies but not rely on them in order to live. Then, it wouldn’t be a hobby at all.



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