Thursday, December 12, 2013

Spindle revolution

No one knows exactly how or when the art of spinning was first invented.  It is likely that spinning was developed long before agriculture, long before pottery, long before the wheel.  And as far back as the historical record goes, spinning was mainly the work of women.

Perhaps that's why it's considered insignificant, easily passed off to machines invented by men.  Certainly most of us raised on cheap, machine-made clothing can't imagine the amount of artistry or the number of hours that went into every thread people wore back when it was all handspun.

When I first took up a spindle, it was to connect with my foremothers, stretching back for millennia with spindles in their hands.  I wanted to know what their lives were like.  But as I grew addicted to the peaceful movements of drafting and the hypnotic motion of the whorl, I began thinking there was nothing remotely dated about it.  There is no reason why a person of today wouldn't want that transformative power, turning wool, flax, or cotton into something altogether different, something useful.

After all, when you make a machine to do the work of a person, you take something from the person.  You take the skill, take away the need to pass on that skill and hone it.  And you also take power.  We have grown up our entire lives thinking, "If only there were a shirt like that one, only in blue.  If there were only a yarn like that one, but softer.  If only I could afford to buy what I want to wear."

When you spin, you rely on no one but yourself.  All the decisions are yours, and all the power.  It's then your choice what you want to do: grow your own flax, or buy it; knit a cowl or weave a shawl; collaborate with someone else to produce a finished product, or do it all yourself.

This might still seem like something small.  But little things like spindles can be the weapons of a revolution -- a revolution where people take back their power from machines in little ways that make a difference to them.  The swords of a few can't prevail over the spindles, shuttles, shovels, saws, and hands of the many.

And what will that revolution win?  It depends on what you want.  Independence, a sense of accomplishment, inner peace, control, a way to bond with other people over art.  The spindle is my key to all those things.  What is yours?