Wednesday, September 2, 2015

lessons in spinning

While home over the summer my family had the amazing opportunity to visit my Aunt up on Haida Gwaii. If you've never heard of Haida Gwaii before, it's a group of islands off the coast of Northern BC (formerly known as the Queen Charlottes) with long wild beaches, moss covered forests and a view to Alaska. 

My Aunt has lived up North in various places for many many years. During the 70's and early 80's she lived in a remote Lighthouse, growing and gathering her own food and pursuing her art. She was a weaver and a potter, and also a spinner. 

While visiting her, we had the opportunity to pull out some of her own spinning tools. Originally she learned to spin using an apple and a chopstick (!) but she taught me on her bottom whorl drop spindle. She also taught me to card with fiber that she obtained by trading for canned salmon. 

So, she would trade for fiber, wash it, card it and spin it on her treadle spinning machine. She would then dye it using natural dyes that she grew or foraged and wind it into skeins. Then she would weave it on her loom. She made blankets, scarves, hangings, carpets and even garments. 

Honestly, I feel so blessed to have such a woman in my family. I've mentioned several times before that I learned to knit and embroider from the women in my family- my maternal grandmother & great-grandmother, and of course my mom. It's so special to have been able to learn a small part of this craft from an aunt on my dad's side of the family. I feel so honored to have had this knowledge and skill passed down to me and will cherish this memory, and the tools & fiber she gifted me for years to come.

I am in no way a spinner yet, but this is something I've wanted to learn for ages and I feel a fresh motivation, another reason to learn. Hopefully I can ride that wave long enough to gain a little confidence in it. 


  1. What am amazing life! Her stories must be so wonderful.
    I've recently dived into spinning too, and find it very comforting somehow.

  2. Your aunt sounds like an amazing woman! You are lucky to have so many women in your family to teach and inspire you. It's also lovely to have relatives (or friends) who share the same passion. My mom used to sew and knit but gave it all up when she had us which is so sad.