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Archive for the ‘Looms’ Category

“We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  George Bernard Shaw

What a profound truth!  I know people who think and act “old”, simply because they stopped playing long ago.  And, conversely, I know individuals in their 90s who are still “young”, because of an interest in life and a passion for hobbies and creative play.  My own father lived to be 102, and enjoyed life nearly until the end when his eyes gave out and he could no longer read!  

Creative play is one of our greatest gifts, as we were made in the image of a creative God.  People who have never learned to play are bored, and they are apt to be boring!

I’m thankful to have had parents who realized the intrinsic value of play!  I’m thankful for years of gluing, cutting, coloring, digging in mud (nearly to China!), and grubbing for tadpoles in the river which bordered my childhood home. 

I’m thankful for a mom who let me keep the tadpoles in a fish bowl in our kitchen (until the critters lost their tails and sprouted legs; then they went back to the river). 

I’m grateful for the live Easter bunny I received one year, and for always having a dog to cherish.  I’m thankful for litters of kittens who entertained our family with their antics, back in the halcyon days when cats were allowed to roam at large and actually act like cats! 

I’m thankful for my mother’s huge box of elegant velvet and taffeta evening gowns from the early 20th century, for her plumey hats and beaded reticules—and for countless rainy afternoons of spreading these garments all over the room and dressing up in them.  (My friends and I were allowed to play “Dress-ups” in my parents’ bedroom, because my mother had a full length mirror before which we could parade, primp, and be absolutely silly!)

I pray that—whatever happens in the future—I’ll never grow too old to create at least some little thing with my hands.  I pray I’ll always have a spirit of pizzazz and panache for living, no matter what!  And I pray that, to the best of my ability, I’ll never stop playing!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

Note:  I recently posted the above entry on my Northernview blog, and am putting it here as well.  As I face a major surgery next week, play seems more important than ever to me!  My plans for knitting, collaging, and painting projects will carry me a long way to recovery!

When we have things we love to do—creative activities that stretch the mind, imagination, and hands—we can always manage to focus outward rather than inward!  🙂

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August invariably brings a cool, rainy spell among the dry and windy days.  August rain jogs my memory and I relive an annual childhood event:  a trip to the Appleton Woolen Mill which was situated on the Fox River, about a 45 minute drive from our summer cottage on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

Since my mother and sister were knitters, it was a happy given that I would be a knitter as well.  I learned to knit on khaki yarn, supplied to patriotic knitters during World War II by the U. S. Government.  From this yarn, we made afghan squares for the U. S. Army.  My first squares contained numerous gaps created by dropped stitches, and holes where I had put the work down and picked it up again to knit in the wrong direction.

Gaps and holes notwithstanding, I learned to knit and cannot imagine life without yarn—especially wool yarn.  My love for wool is anchored in our annual trip to the historic Appleton Woolen Mill where we stocked up on a year’s supply of yarn for sweaters, scarves, socks, and mittens—plus yardage of beautiful plaid wool for skirts.  (My mother was an accomplished seamstress as well as a knitter!)

I will never forget the scent and sounds of the mill.  What is more wonderful than the fragrance of wool—be it in a skein of yarn, a bolt of fabric, fresh fleece in one’s hand, or in its most original state:  on the body of a sheep?  And the music of the mill echoes in my mind:  the blonking and jerking of spinning machinery, the clunking and banging of huge industrial looms.  To use a metaphor appropriate to the textile industry, I loved “the whole nine yards”!

I can still see those big cones of yarn.  I can still visualize the magnificent bolts of fabric lined up on a high shelf.  And I recall those rainy days on our cottage porch—following the trip to the woolen mill—when my mother, sister, and I sat contentedly clicking our needles and savoring the colors and textures of our newly purchased yarns.

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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As you can see from the above photo, taken a couple of years ago in our up north guest house, our grandsons Joel and Nathaniel are fascinated by my beloved craft of spinning. 

The fact that I knit sweaters, hats, shawls, and scarves from my hand spun yarns (spun from sheep wool, llama hair, mohair from angora goats, dog hair, and/or silk) lends a practical purpose to this ancient but currently popular art.  The easy-to-comprehend mechanics of a spinning wheel add to the marvelous mystique of spinning:  engendered in those of us who were raised on the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm.

The wheel pictured above is one of my 5 spinning wheels.  It’s a replica of the Irish Castle Wheel, and it is the one I use most often as it’s easy to move from room to room—or out to the patio where I sit and spin on warm days.  The wheel’s main location is our living room next to the Saxony wheel which I also use frequently and love.  Both wheels (pictured below along with my yarns and some of the garments) have the same mechanism with exchangeable bobbins.  They are Jensen wheels—made in Lake Delton, Wisconsin—and they are “top of the line” in performance as well as exquisite beauty.

As I keyboard on my laptop, I can honestly say that I love old things best:  old appliances, old tools, old dishes, old artifacts of most any kind.  That may sound oxymoronic as I blog, gather information, and do most of my shopping online (with the exception of groceries).  Sometimes I even write letters on the laptop, although email is my least favorite computer function.  There is nothing, no nothing in the world like a real letter on pretty stationery.  The ever-escalating cost of postage will never dim my fondness for the U. S. Postal Service!

New things can be useful, even delightful—as in the case of favorite kitchen appliances like my BREADMAN, electric percolator, and blender for those refreshing smoothies.  I’m on friendly terms with a refrigerator, and an electric oven and range.  I have no desire to cook on wood, even though I’ve nostalgic recollections of my Grandma Rose doing exactly that.

We have a dishwasher, which we do not use—as dishes are too lovely to stash in a machine, and I get much pleasure out of washing them and seeing them lined up in the drying rack on a kitchen counter.  When we had little children and babies, I thought differently and did use a dishwasher.  Now the dishwasher is one of our resident “museums”.  It houses old kitchen gadgets, cookie cutters, etc. which were once used by departed family members—or culled from garage sales and antique shops.

Flush toilets and running water are luxuries I’ll never take for granted.  I love them and would not want to go back to using an outhouse, and pumping and hauling water.  It’s fun to recall the fact that we had only an outhouse (and slop pails for nighttime use) at our summer cottage in the 1940s—and that we hauled water for drinking, cooking, and washing.  But having “been there, done that”, I certainly don’t wish to return.

No!  Other than periodically eschewing a few things like email, I don’t want to go back.  But I do want to preserve, and whenever possible use and enjoy vestiges of the past through home arts such as spinning on my spinning wheels.

Why is preservation so important?  I believe that an appreciation of the past is a vital dimension of life in the present!  Quite basically, we have roots.  Just as a plant is nourished by its God-given roots, we are nourished by ours.  Roots are part of our down-to-earth quality of life, and they are instrumental in that profound pleasure which we derive from simple, everyday things.  Without an appreciation of our roots, we would be plastic people—sterile, robotic, generic, and boring! 

Family roots are vital but so are cultural, lifestyle roots.  I’m not alone in my passion for roots, as evidenced in the popularity of THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and the crowds that throng to living history museums.  Life is richer today when we know something about yesterday! 

Our home is blessed to be a mini living history museum, one in a constant state of production with spinning wheels, baskets of wool (still remaining from 20 years of raising my own sheep), a surplus of knitting needles, and a plethora of hand spun yarn and hand fashioned garments!

NOTE:  The 3 shawls on your left as you face this photo are some of many that I wove on my 24″ Baby Wolf Loom–one of 2 looms which are currently still up north due to lack of room for them in our condo.  Having only 2 hands, I manage to keep my fingers moving fast enough as it is with spinning and knitting. 

The “center stage” colorful striped scarf is one I knit over this past winter from yarns which I recently spun and dyed.  Embellished with funky beads and a crocheted border, the scarf is wide enough to double as a stole.

It always freaks me out, when people look at my spinning wheels and call them “looms”.  More education and advocacy are needed in the area of the fiber arts! 

Occasionally, I spin for public events.  People always cluster around the spinning demos, and ask wonderful questions.  How great to be able to promote an appreciation of this time-honored craft!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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