Clever Kates cavorting with crapper cylinders

“Why am I doing this?” I asked the Man I Married as we fastened the backseat seatbelt around my new bundle of joy.

“Isn’t knitting enough?” I continued. “Why take this on, too? What am I thinking? Clearly I’m not thinking.”

MIM knew better than to answer. He squeezed my hand and let me wind myself down.

The orifice hook rattled against the strapped-in spinning wheel as we pulled out of the cul-de-sac far from home. The bobbins clattered on their Lazy Kate—which should be called a Clever Kate—a wooden stand on which the bobbins perch and spin while yarn is plied (when two or more individual strands are wound together to make a stronger, thicker yarn). This one was a step-up from my improvised and borrowed Lazy Kate: a shoebox punctured with shish kabob skewers, on which hung cardboard toilet paper rolls.

First yarn attempt by Not So Ingenious Jennifer

If I thought spinning my own yarn would be a cost-saving exercise, it would depend on whether I factored in the labor cost. In my first spinning wheel class, I spun seven feet of bad yarn in two hours, or not even three-quarters of an inch per minute. Practicing at home, I got even worse; the yarn kept snapping off and I’d spun no yarn at all after an hour of practicing my sailor’s vocabulary.

Now I needed to factor in the cost of my very own spinning wheel. My rented wheel was due back soon to my teacher, but I wasn’t done with experimenting with S&M (spinning and masochism). I found a secondhand, modern spinning wheel to purchase from a woman who had the good sense to get rid of it and spend her time more productively, like, say, binge-watching the entire 98-episode run of Gilligan’s Island, plus the three movie sequels.

When I tell people I’m spinning, they picture me mad-pedaling on a stationary bike. Not a pretty picture and highly unlikely, though it would be the wiser choice. Though hand-spinning is supposed to be relaxing and meditative, my heartrate spikes sky high because I’m so anxious, and I concentrate so hard I forget to breathe, so they’re not far off. But hand-spinning yarn well into the 21st century seems just as farfetched.

How did I get here? If there is a mold, I don’t seem to fit it. I don’t read fantasy novels and don’t attend Renaissance fairs; I have no desire to glorify the times before Cheetos and Swiffers.

Now a member of AARP, I’m starting this unhandicraft late in the game. Most knitters and spinners are lifelong practicers of literal kink and flushing time. Think of all they could have accomplished over the years if they’d simply trotted down to Woolworth’s to grab a cheap, already-wound ball of synthetic yarn—which will remain fresh as a daisy adorning zombies after the apocalypse—in colors that don’t exist in nature, like my own grandmother did.

On the other hand, I love castles and drink gallons of tea. Though I learned most of my knitting skills from YouTube, the modern classroom, I don’t have cell phone apps or video streaming or GPS or use Uber, and I don’t have Alexa to yell at (I have a juvenile delinquent for that), so perhaps it’s not that unlikely that I’m moving backward as far as technology goes.

And as I discovered at the fiber festival, turns out I look an awful lot like other yarn fanatics: women who clearly don’t have a subscription to Vogue and might guess that Bieber is a breed of sheep. They are likelier to pluck rabbits rather than their own eyebrows and dye yarn rather than their own hair. My tribe, at last. It was inevitable that I would come full circle to spinning my own yarn as well as knitting it.

Far better to spin my wheels over insignificant strands rather than holding my breath over the next dimwitted misdeed of the juvenile delinquent.

Plain Jane borrowed wheel

Despite the modern, utilitarian wheel itself, with no beautifully lathed spokes, my spinning wheel in the backseat was all sharp elbows and knees. I turned around frequently to check on it on the drive home. It rocked and clanked and did not seem to take kindly to the move.

Despite my lack of success at this craft thus far, surely it would be easier than the gyrations of mothering a boy who’d gone through a revolving door of multiple families before ours. We’d taken a similar ride home over a decade ago with him on his booster seat, strapped into the backseat as we drove him out of a faraway cul-de-sac and to his new home with us.

My mother-of-all fur-brained ideas

The previous owner of my wheel had neglected it for a long while and left the drive band stretched to capacity; this plastic cord that makes the wheel spin would have to be replaced. But the maker is out of business, so I can’t swap it out for a new one. I’ll be working with a droopy cord until MIM can figure out one of his miraculous duct-tape fixes.

I know what it’s like to be wound tight to the point of breaking for too long, never to snap back to original shape (like the waistband of my gym shorts).

And sometimes you just can’t go back and fix what came before your good intentions swirled in. You make do.

Our attempts with our son seem to be as fruitless and stressful as my attempts to spin yarn. But I’ll keep trying. You never know if the yarn will break, or if, with persistence, it will become a unique, three-ply yarn much stronger wound together than the individual strands on their own.


2 thoughts on “Circles

  1. Jen, you’re on a roll (is that an unintentional spinning pun?!): please keep on weaving (uh-oh, not again!) your adventures in spinning and other fabric arts with your current mom-steeplechase through what sounds like a pretty arduous version of the teen years. With you. and MIM. and JT. xo Ann

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