Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hey, remember these guys?
My Fibre Week Master Spinner class from this year, whom I mentioned in my last post. Yeah, them. Amazing women, all, each in her own way. It is because of people like these that I teach.
I have been knitting for 25 years, spinning for just shy of 15 years. Over those years, I have taught individuals what I knew at the time, passing along the skills and concepts that I had acquired. In time, my skill base expanded, my knowledge and understanding of techniques increased, and teaching individuals led to teaching classes. And that has led me on my greatest learning adventure of all!
I am continually astonished by the people who take spinning workshops and classes. They come from everywhere--all levels of education, all economic levels, all geographic regions, all races, religions, and creeds. There are women, men, and children. There are people who have overcome enormous physical and personal challenges. Phds, high school drop-outs, shepherds, urbanites, artists, accountants, young, old. Spinning appeals to a remarkable range of individuals, and for as many unique reasons as there are those individuals.
I have taught students whose only previous exposure to a spinning wheel was in illustrations from Sleeping Beauty. I have taught students who have been spinning for longer than I have been alive. What I have learned has far outweighed what I have taught.
Firstly, I feel a responsibility to have as much information to impart as possible. I read, I take workshops to upgrade my own skills, I practice new techniques. I am on my own continual journey to learn new things, so that I may share with those I teach. As long as I teach, I have to continue learning.
Everyone who comes into a spinning class has a different personality, a different learning style, and a different physical structure. In order to be able to teach all of these different people, I have had to look at spinning techniques from different angles. Sometimes this leads to me changing how I myself approach a technique. Other times, this means I gain new insight into a theory, breaking it down into tiny pieces to examine every aspect. I have dissected the minute movements of my hands, and I know where I make my mistakes and can correct them. I know so much more about myself and my spinning, because I have to be able to describe it to my students.
And then there are the tips and techniques that I have learned from them. There are a lot of people out there who have figured out how to make things work for themselves, or have spent a lot of time reading obscure books, or have taken a workshop that I have not. There are an awful lot of ways to make string, and I have learned any number of nifty tricks from people who were ostensibly there to learn from me.
I have also been blessed with students who are patient enough with me to work through new material in books and modules that I am not as familiar with as I could be. I, personally, suffer from a bit of mathophobia, which means that I have to slow down and work carefully through anything that involves a formula. I have had students who speak math a lot more fluently than I do help me break things down, turn them over, and understand them better. We have worked together to make the formulas work, and I have learned.
But what I love best, what keeps me going back to teach, is the sheer joy that my students take in spinning. Whether it is the thrill of creating a new yarn, outside of their comfort zone... Kristi and her novelty yarn, or overcoming a preconceived notion or an outright fear of a technique, it is the thrill of their discoveries that make what I do worthwhile. I get to share in their "aha" moments, and that is...a rush. There is no other way to describe it.
So here I am. Somehow, without really noticing it was happening, I have gained a reputation for knowing a bit about technical spinning. (Which is vastly amusing to me, who was never going to count treadles!) I make string, I keep alive ancient traditions, I make cloth, I learn, and I teach. Spinning has brought me a great deal of joy, but the greatest joy has come from the people I have met, the friends that I have made, and the students who have taught me so much about the craft and about myself.
So I'll make you guys a deal--I'll never stop teaching if you never stop teaching me.

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