Back in October or November of last year –-possibly while driving home from Rhinebeck-– I started to think about all the knitters and spinners I know. Maybe it was because I’d watched Mona learn to spin at the end of September. Perhaps it was because I’d spent time at Rhinebeck with Mar and Joe and Carol and Lars and everyone else. Or perhaps it was because I’d done my best to teach Dave to spin. I dunno what else it might have been. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Anyway, as I thought about it I realized that my friends and I are on this interesting continuum. On the one end of the scale I saw the very good (to superb) spinners who are good knitters, and on the other end are the novice spinners who are very good to superb knitters. I don’t know anyone who is a superb-all-around knitter and a superb–all-around spinner. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. We’ve all come to our crafts at various times in our lives; we’ve all been working at them with differing amounts of intensity and depth; we all have differing levels of skill at the different crafts.
Now I’m not trying to say anything negative about anyone, and I hope no-one is offended by what I’ve written. That’s the not the intention. It’s just to acknowledge that I know a great group of people –-I consider myself quite blessed, in fact-- and each of them does some things well, and other things really well, and some things superbly.
One of the things I’ve noticed with beginning spinners is that they feel awkward about their first skeins of yarn. They compare them to skeins of commercially-spun yarn --which may or may not be a good thing-- and judge their work as bad or good, or crap, or as “novelty yarn”. The yarn doesn’t get used for anything. It doesn’t even sit in a basket in the middle of the table where it’s handy to be pulled out and bragged about. It gets hidden in a box somewhere: maybe in the attic. Forgotten about.
I think that’s too bad, because some of that yarn –-perhaps it’s underplied or overplied or thick’n’thin-– could be used in a simple project. Maybe it could be used as an accent yarn with commercial yarns comprising the majority of the project. Or maybe it really could stand alone by itself. I mean, even with the lumps and bumps and splooches and slubs and wonky bits it really is good enough that it could stand alone, in a project, by itself.
I remembered an article in the Winter 1991 issue of Spinoff magazine ("Secret Sibling Scarf Exchange" page 17-18), about a guild that organized a mystery project exchange between members. I wondered if I could organize some kind of similar exchange between the spinners I know…something where the novice spinners could be encouraged to use their yarns, and more experienced spinners could be enticed into the game by …what? And the people I expected might participate live in Canada and the USA…how would I bridge the wide geography. Hm…
The other thing I considered was that if people knew who they were spinning and knitting for, they might kack out of the exchange. They might get performance anxiety and that could lock them up. They might freak out and need large amounts of chocolate or ice cream to carry on. Let’s face it: I’d be pretty intimidated knowing I was spinning and knitting for some SuperDuper Incredible Spinner. “My work just isn’t good enough for her,” I might start thinking. “Here I am spinning this stuff that I’m calling yarn for this World Authority on Spinning, and oh my gawd, why bother. I might as well just put it in the garbage and hope that nobody noticed. I mean, she’s just going to look at this and roll her eyes and wonder why I even bother trying.” So it became important to me that people not know who they were spinning/knitting for, to keep it anonymous. Novice spinners wouldn’t feel intimidated by knowing who they were spinning for, and all spinners had the challenge of receiving some fiber and having to make something from it, within their skill levels.
The whole thing, based on the plan profiled in the SpinOff article with only a few changes, turned out to be quite simple. I emailed a whole buncha potential participants and explained the basic "rules" for the exchange. You can read them here.
Thirteen people (including me) signed on. Six people have finished their scarves and sent them to the recipients. Only 1 person had a total nervous breakdown when she found out who she was spinning and knitting for, requiring large amounts of chocolate for her to recover her composure.
As I get photos and comments about the scarves I’ll post them on this page. Plus there'll be a heading for this in the blog's sidebar.
Over and out for now.
Edit, May 23, 2009: Heading in the side bar removed.