It’s only three years since I was a new spinner. I’ve reached the point where I find myself mentoring other new spinners as they start exploring this fascinating craft.
One of the most common complaints I hear (often offered as an apology for the perceived deficiencies of the new spinner’s own yarn) is about irregular yarn. It’s something I remember about my first efforts at the spinning wheel too. I thought my first yarn was quite ugly. But at the same time I was so proud of it because I made it all by myself!
There seems to be a common journey for spinners, with early efforts being thick and irregular, and subsequent yarn gradually becoming thinner and more consistent. Then you reach a stage where you want to spin thicker yarn again, and almost have to re-learn how to do it. And you may want to spin irregular, or thick and thin, or even more exotic yarn and so you go about learning those techniques, continually refining your knowledge, your practice and your control over the process.
What I’ve come to realise is that, as spinners, it’s not our job to replicate machine-spun yarn. When we judge our early efforts, that’s the yardstick most of us use for comparison.
But the thing is, if I wanted machine-spun yarn, I could just buy it! It has its place and I use plenty of commercially-spun yarn, but it is a different beast from handspun. There is a sense of satisfaction for the spinner to know that, if you choose to, you can replicate the fine consistency of machine-spun yarn. But my plea to spinners (new or otherwise!) is to see consistency as a design choice, rather than a value judgement.
I often think of handspun yarn as being full of life. And I think that relates to this question of what is my job as a handspinner. I see my job as creating something unique every time I go through the process, from inspiration to yarn design, to the final skein.
What commercially-spun yarn can never replicate is that sense of the unique creation of every millimetre of yarn: the possibility of a story in every stitch.