The Finished Product
Two weeks ago, was Christ the Good Shepherd; last week was “I am the Vine ,you are the branches;” and today is Rogation Sunday. It’s all so agricultural lately. This is compounded by the fact that New York City is having some fine spring weather and The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing. My friend Laura Dapkus is a shepherdess. We’ve not spoken in a while, but I’m sure she’s out there sheering along with Olivia Newton John:
Now, I’m no shepherd; nor am I a Weaver, neither am I a Knitter, although I thoroughly enjoy The Weavers and The Knitters, and I think I’d like to be a shepherd. I am, however, a spinner. I can be seen sitting on the A train, going out to the print shop where I work in Brooklyn, with my drop spindle spinning away. I get quite a few looks, and even some surreptitiously taken pictures. There are, of course, the people who ask to take my picture as well. Then there are the questions…
What are you doing?
How do you do that?
Is that hair?
What do you do with it when you’re done?
Is that a form of Meditation for you?
It looks so relaxing.
Now some of these are rather reasonable questions, and I’m usually happy to explain that I’m spinning yarn, and how spinning works, that I like to spin with raw fleece, the difference between raw fleece and roving. I’m happy to give a mini history-of-textiles lesson, or talk about spinning in art, song and folklore, especially when it’s a child asking the questions. It’s fun to talk about Rumpelstiltskin, or Sleeping Beauty. (Note that the Virgin had been spinning in this painting of The Annunciation by Waterhouse.) However, the one set of questions I hate are the “what do you do with it when you’re done,” or “that must be so relaxing” variety.
It seems that people who ask the former question want me to be a Knitter, Weaver (Yes, I do love those two groups) or have the skills to crochet an afghan, a potholder, or some other useful and handsome item. These things do not interest me. They are not my craft, not my hobby. I do enjoy seeing or wearing things made of my yarn. I had a hat, scarf, mittens set made for my partner for Christmas out of my yarn, but I made nothing more than the yarn. This set was made by the pastry chef at the cafe around the corner from my home in Inwood. She did it in exchange for me spinning some more wool for her to knit something for herself. In colder weather, I wear a scarf knit by my friend Tanying.
People have difficulty understanding that, for me, yarn is a finished product. If there were not people who simply enjoyed spinning, those who enjoy knitting would have nothing to knit.
It’s the other question, though, the one about spinning be so relaxing or meditative that I find most annoying. Perhaps I’m just a cranky old man who doesn’t want to be bothered on the subway, but when I think of a useful meditation I think of Julian of Norwich, not Gretchen at the spinning wheel. The pure biology of repetitive motion as relaxation, as meditation has been misinterpreted as something meaningful, something spiritual. However, it’s spirituality without religion. It’s empty. Repetitive motion equaling meditation, equaling relaxation, is as fruitless as spinning wheels that put you into some sort of painted pony psychedelic trance.