I spent yesterday in Williamston at the Homesteading Festival organized by the South Carolina Organization for Organic Living. The event had all those things going on that get a gal like me to wake up at dawn on a Saturday morning to drive for an hour and a half: chicks, goats, mushrooms, plants, permaculturists, a lively farmer’s market, basket-making, broom-making, a cob building demo, classes on chicken-keeping and companion planting, a seed exchange, free solar cooker powered tea…
But I also had another reason to be there: I was one of the vendors. I had my own little nook where I demonstrated spinning different kinds of fibers — both with a spinning wheel and drop spindle — and dyeing fibers with plant materials. I was overwhelmed by the interest, curiosity, and positive responses of those who came. I spent the entire day just spinning in lovely weather and having the kinds of conversations I most enjoy, on all kinds of topics. If anyone looked like they were itching to try spinning, I encouraged them to give it a go, and many of them did.It was particularly fun to invite the youngest participants of the festival into this world of fiber crafts for a bit. They came to feel the wool and the silk (“It’s SO soft!!”) and wanted to know how the spinning wheel works and how the color of the plants gets into the yarns. Some of them wanted to even try their hand at spinning.
What motivates me to do this is, yes, my love for the craft itself, but not just that. What I really hoped to achieve by being there and spinning my fingers purple was to inspire more people to think about where the textiles come from that we wear daily. That before they got to the rack of the store, somebody made them somewhere, and it matters how they did it and where. And how much is possible for us to do ourselves. As I told many of the visitors, I learned natural dyeing from a book (Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess, which I’ve praised before), through a lot of trial and error, and that I’m actually not a particularly “crafty” person — what I make is the result of persistence rather than talent. So there’s no reason why any of us wouldn’t be able to learn to make his or her own fantasy scarf or hat from a soft pile of wool.
The kids, they all totally got it.