Why Do I Spin Wool

Päivi at Loom

“Because we are always only a week away from the tent.”

I came across this article today as I was looking through one of my handspinning books. It was written by my dear friend, Judith MacKenzie – where she wrote about something I had said a long time ago to her, when she asked me why I spin.

I’ve heard many answers to the why-spin question over the years. My friend and business partner for many years came from Sami ancestors. Päivi’s father’s family were nomadic reindeer herders who travelled on their yearly migration across Finland and into Russia on foot. During the terrible influenza epidemic in the early 1900’s, his entire tribe, except himself and his older brother, perished in the middle of the wilderness. The two young boys, not even teenagers, walked alone for months into Russia, where they were rescued and adopted by a Russian family. Raised to never forget what it was to be self-reliant Päivi is a brilliant spinner and weaver; she designs software equally well. When I asked her why she wanted to spin, she answered, “Because we are always only a week away from the tent.”

The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Cotton, Flax, Hemp
Forward by Judith MacKenzie

Judith and Päivi
Judith and Päivi

I remember that afternoon very well, as we sat outside her studio in the Spring sunshine, enjoying a bit of lunch.
I went on to explain my thoughts on this. I felt that as a society we were losing many of our basic skills that our parents and ancestors knew how to do. We were becoming reliant on having everything made for us, mass produced and de-humanized. How to forage and gather, farm, how to cook, bake, how to spin wool, weave clothing, knit, build houses, etc. I had a feeling that perhaps some day there could be some natural disaster where the world stopped. And where would we be? how could we cope when we were conditioned to have everything done for us. When we relied on technology to do it all for us. Someday, if there were to be a world catastrophe, we would need those skills. When suddenly we might not be able to buy ready meals, to buy eggs, bread, yeast, go to the cinema or pub. How will we eat or go shopping for basic necessities.

In the UK, we are now into week 3 of self-isolation. It doesn’t look like this situation will change in the near future.
Because I had cancer about a year ago, I am also considered to be one of the ‘vulnerable persons’ so am restricted to not leaving my home for the next +12 weeks. At least I have my crafts to do and access to the internet so I can keep in touch with family and friends. I will continue to write this ‘Covid19 blog’ over the coming weeks in order to keep in touch with the rest of the world. I didn’t realize at the time, that what I’d said could someday be true and how quickly life could change.

I had forgotten that my Saami father had also lived through a major influenza epidemic, as well as 2 world wars. His brothers and sisters died, yet somehow he and his brother survived. Here we are in another pandemic. Life goes full circle it seems.

A Story about the Spanish Flu – The Devastation of the Spanish Flu in Inari in 1920

Spanish Influenza Mortality of Ethnic Minorities in Norway 1918-1919

How to Sew a Face Mask
Anti-microbial Effects of Natural Dyes
Plant Dyes and Your Health

Handspinning Books
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn
The Whole Craft of Spinning: From the Raw Material to the Finished Yarn
The Practical Spinner’s Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Practical Spinner’s Guides)
Spin Flax & Cotton: Traditional Techniques with Norman Kennedy
The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning: Being A Compendium of Information, Advice, and Opinions On the Noble Art & Craft
The Knitter’s Book of Wool: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Using, and Loving this Most Fabulous Fiber
The Intentional Spinner

Hand Weaving Books
Weaving on a Little Loom (Everything you need to know to get started with weaving, includes 5 simple projects

The Key to Weaving: A Textbook of Hand Weaving for the Beginning Weaver
The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
Learning to Weave
The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials
The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory

Author: Paivi Suomi

I've had an interest in weaving, looms, yarns and textiles since I was a small child. I learned to knit, crochet, sew, do needlepoint at my mother's knee. My grandmother was a Saami from northern Norway. I am very interested in studying more about traditional Saami and Finnish style weaving and handicrafts. Paivi Suomi