Thursday, July 17, 2008

Twister Sisters

How does the hair off a sheep’s back end up cozily hugging your back in that beautiful shade of green?

Maybe we have taken things for granted a bit, but there is quite a fascinating story here involving families, ecosystems, an old spinning mill that has reinvented itself, dye houses, and our own wonderful group of skeiners here at o-wool. You know your story from yarn as newly discovered and gleefully stashed, to wip, to ufo or to beautiful, admired, finished piece of art. Ravelry and the other blogs document your stories. We all love to share these stories. Its fun, and inspiring.

I’m going to travel the other direction, from the skein at your LYS to the hair on the sheep back. We’ll take it in steps, meeting people and places along the way.

At o-wool I am the assistant to the head of the hand knitting program, Cathy Campbell. My responsibilities lie with receiving shipments of yarn and escorting them through the whole process; ending on the yarn shelf at your store. For instance, on Monday we received over 200 lbs of yarn in 12 boxes, in three different weights. I knew I had a workout coming: weighing, stacking, sorting and general inventory. The very next day skeining began.

The yarn arrives to us in large hanks, measured by yardage, and loosely held together by a tie. We separate the hanks into the individual skeins. Then we twist them so that they look nice, and are easy to handle for shipping, and for retail display and sale. Its one of those jobs that could be described as boring, but then so could knitting! That is definitely not my style. I prefer to describe it as repetitious, heart opening movement. The way you hold your arms out and twist really does get your blood flowing across your chest, and feels, well.... healthy!

Of course too much of a good thing is a bad thing after all, so the next idea was how to get more people involved with this skeining. I decided to try a volunteer program modeled after food coops. We invite fiber lovers (better yet; yarn addicts) to come skein for an hour in exchange for a skein of the hand knitting yarn. To date over a dozen people have participated. We have had a really enjoyable group. We skein and chat, have “show and tells,” and generally share our time together. In exchange people have gotten enough (sometimes second quality due to spots, tangles, color variation etc.) yarn to make hats, sweaters, crochet square blankets, wash cloths etc. There is nothing like a volunteer “job” for college students, moms with newborns, homeschoolers, pregnant moms, older grandmothers etc. These folks appreciate being part of the working world, but can’t commit the time for a full time position because of other responsibilities. Its a win-win situation, and we all appreciate each other.

Well, gotta get back to skeining, we’ll travel back further next time.