Sunday, October 04, 2015

Spinning as a cultural heritage

The European craft of hand spinning is a cultural heritage just like art, literature, music, and architecture.  It was passed down to us and it is our responsibility to pass it on as good or better than we got it.

A group of modern spinners have taken a small part of  the craft of hand spinning, pronounced themselves "experts on the craft of spinning" and then gone on to say that their small part of hand spinning is all there is. 

They deny that that there is a larger craft of spinning.  They deny that within the larger craft of hand spinning, it is possible to spin finer than they do.  They deny that within the larger craft of hand spinning, it is impossible to spin faster than they do.

Are they really experts?  In 1600, school for spinning ran 2 years of full time instruction -- a total of more than 4,000 class room hours.  That would get an entry level spinner into an apprentice program.    How many of the exert spinners have 4,000 hours of classroom instruction and an apprenticeship program?

I do not claim to be an expert spinner.  I claim that I came to spinning and was told spinning faster and finer was not feasible. 

Ultimately, I found the Big Book of Handspinning, and the math that allowed me to design a spinning wheel that would spin finer and faster.  Now, I spin much finer and faster than the author of Big Book of Handspinning considered possible.  He never told me I could not spin finer and faster, he merely told me that he did not know how to do it with a manual spinning wheel.  However,  many other "expert" spinners told me it was impossible.   One of them told me so yesterday, after I had spent 6 hours sitting in the sun and wind, spinning more and  finer than she had ever spun in any 6 continuous hours in her life.   (I had switched from fine stuff to ordinary weft, and she told me it was a fine as what she could spin.  Except that it was 15,000 ypp coarser that what I had been spinning.  And she thought that in 6 hours she could spin as much as I had spun in 15 minutes.)  She was abusive, inarticulate, and got her dates wrong. Such is typical of a small class of spinners.  However, at one time I worked for a fellow who had been the US Marine Corp's Color Sargent; and, let us say that his articulate abuse puts any spinner I know to shame.  Nevertheless, my wife did take offense at her language.

However, in proclaiming themselves "experts" and denying the glories of European hand spinning, the experts are destroying an important body of world cultural heritage.  Over and over, they say it cannot be done. This lie has come to dominate the internet, and any search brings up the lie over and over, until the truth is buried deep.  By hiding the knowledge that there is such spinning and how it can be done, they are destroying the craft of spinning.  They want everyone to forget that such spinning can be done, and how it is done.

In destroying a world cultural heritage, these spinners are no better than the narrow minded fanatics that blow up statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. In destroying a world cultural heritage, these spinners are no better than the imperialists that looted Greek Classical sculptures.  In destroying a world cultural heritage, these spinners are no better than the Nazi's that looted the are of Europe.

I do not care what little part of spinning, any particular spinner uses or does not use.  However, no spinner should call themselves expert, unless they are expert.  I consider myself  a "competent" spinner using a narrow definition from the British Wool Board. 

I am still very angry over the lies that many "expert" spinners have told - right up to and including yesterday.


Holin Kennen said...

Aaaaand..... We have a Godwin!

kingstonman said...

could you please cite some sources about the historic spinning abilities please - the length of training for example, thank you

Ruth B said...

I find it interesting that you had been spinning "fines" and had switched to spinning a heavier weft (woolen???) yarn just as the woman (it's always a woman, isn't it?) showed up and was less than enthusiastic about your yarn. I find the timing to be most interesting. It would seem to me that it would be simple enough to show her the "fines" you had been spinning, but from your narrative, you apparently didn't do that. Why didn't you just show her those?

So you had been spinning in the sun and wind. Is this supposed to add gravitas to your narrative? Many of us do the same, oftentimes in several layers of skirts and velvets and full corsets in 100+ degrees at Renaissance festivals; it's no big deal. If you were wearing street clothes, consider yourself lucky.

I don't know of a single spinner who considers herself an expert, even the ones who have published several books. You are the one who has declared them to be experts; they have not declared themselves to be so. The best spinners I know, who spin far better than you do, would consider themselves "competent" spinners as well, but they would never call themselves experts. None of the commentators on your blog - and I know many of them personally - call themselves experts. In fact, they would be the first to tell you that there is no such thing. Nobody except you is putting themselves forward as the authority on all things fiber.

By the way, you are responsible for your anger. Nobody else is obligated to do anything to alleviate that for you.

And before you issue YET ANOTHER challenge to a spinning duel at the OK Corral, I'm not interested.

Sheri said...

Keep on blogging. At least one person is hearing you. I've been spinning for 40 years. I spin to knit, and like my yarn 3 ply, so spinning fine hasn't been my goal. Now, I've fallen in love with the fine lace shawls from the past and am working on producing my yarn so I can knit these. Can I buy some nice cobweb yarn? Yes. Do I want to? No. I want it to come from my hands. I've begun the journey and will continue to look to what you are saying for confirmation and inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just... wow.
Me after reading that = mind blown.
What awful things to say, making out spinners who have different ideas to you are like Nazis. If you started listening to other people you might understand they have different ideas to you, but that doesn't make them or you wrong.
I wouldn't call myself an expert spinner by any stretch, but I do it for fun, and the craft lives on when I teach others how to spin. Why don't you stop trying to prove you are a better spinner than everyone else (or provide photos for proof...) and just spin for your own enjoyment?