Jean Truscott has been spinning wool since the 80’s. Once a month, she joins a group of spinners at the Eagle River Library for two hours of spinning and conversation as part of the library community programs.
Truscott had been coming to the group the longest. She sits in a stuffed chair with a double-treadle spinning wheel tilted towards her. Truscott says the tilt gives a more natural feel as she guides the wool through the eye and onto the bobbin.
She used to spin a few hours every day while listening to the news – television news. Radio wasn’t available in her Eagle River Valley home years ago. She says now she “spins to spin.”
Carolyn Venhaus works on a double-treadle wheel as well. She sports a pair of flat-bottomed tennis shoes. Some spinners in the room are wearing socks. Truscott’s feet are cozy in a multicolored pair of socks she knitted.
Everyone in the room works on a different brand of wheel. Some wheels are parallel to the spinner, others perpendicular. In all cases, the spinning wheels used in the group are portable.
Sandra Quimby works on a wide, single-treadle wheel. She can give one foot a rest or use both feet at the same time.
Traci George and her two children, Noble and London, drop by to learn about spinning. George brings her children to the library often. The brother and sister walk from spinner to spinner. Each woman shared a bit about the craft.
Jane Wheeler shows the visitors how a drop spindle works. Drop spindles were a common form of spinning in the past. They were compact and inexpensive, a weighted upside down top-shaped device. The spin is created by the spinner, while the weight of the spindle keeps the wool wrapping around the base.
Rosemarie Rotunno showed the visitors how to brush the wool and helped London roll wool on her leg, spreading in down and pulling it out.
Wheeler and Truscott are weavers. They’ll use the wool they spin later on in weaving projects.
Spinning is easy to do while visiting. Weaving requires concentration. Trescott says she’ll listen to books on tape while weaving.
“How do you listen and weave at the same time?” asked a spinner.
“I listen to them over and over again,” Truscott laughs.
On the table in the middle are two bags filled with raw wool. One bag has light colored wool while the other is filled with dark brown wool. Both bags were donated to the group. Truscott offers to take it home to wash and comb. In the summer she dries the washed wool on racks outside. In the winter it will need to dry inside. Wet wool smells like…wet sheep.
Jennifer Holden spins wool taken from her own sheep. She shears them once a year. Holden brings out a smooth, combed and died roll of wool to spin. It’s a process. Shear, wash, dry, comb and maybe dye.
“Although the natural look is really beautiful without dying,” says Holden.
Spinner, Brenda Couterier finds spinning “very meditative and calming.”
The other spinners agree with a burst of comments.
“It’s like therapy”
“It’s cheaper than therapy”
“I don’t know about that…”
“It’s a social setting, relaxing”
They all agree to that.
One by one the spinners pack up their folding wheels and head out with promises to see each other next month.
The spinners will be back in the library at 10 a.m. Feb. 4. After that, they will be spinning on the third Saturday of the month.
Editor’s Note: Gretchen Wehmhoff is a member of the ECHO News team and is a former journalism instructor at Chugiak High School before the program was eliminated.