Sheep are my time machines. The sight of them transports me back to my childhood when I learned the traditions of generations past through one activity: spinning wool.
My first harp teacher taught me how to spin wool on a small device called a drop spindle. It’s not as big or as complicated as the spinning wheel, something which I tried to use but could never get the hang of. By spinning the drop spindle, I learned how to twist sheep’s wool into lumpy yarn. Ideally the yarn is supposed to be smooth, but the lumps added character as it displayed the lack of skill of the little child’s hands who made it.
(image from seedpodcraft.com)
I can remember feeling the rough, greasy fibers gliding through my fingers and interlocking with each other as they formed one coherent string. I was so proud when I had spun an entire ball of yarn, although what became of that ball I’m not sure. I think I gave it as a gift to one of my parents.
I don’t know why I loved spinning so much. Maybe it was the smell of earth that appealed to me when I buried my nose in the white fluff, or the rough warmth I felt when it touched my skin. Maybe it was the novelty of creating something useful all by myself. Thinking now about spinning brings to mind memories of visiting sheep festivals, seeing a lamb being born at a friend’s farm, watching my harp teacher create a strand of yarn so effortlessly with her expert fingers.
I still have the drop spindle somewhere, sitting in a forgotten corner of the house, probably some wool with it. Someday I am going to get out that drop spindle and begin spinning again. Maybe I’ll use the lumpy yarn I spin to knit a scarf. Maybe I won’t make anything. But it was something I used to enjoy.