The irony, that fateful family Sunday, was that I trying not to attract attention as I sat off by myself with one of my brother’s touch-them-under-threat-of-death National Geographics. To my seven-year-old mind, I was surely invisible, and yet unaware that I was actually a blur of activity, as my right thumb and index finger (as if with wee minds of their own) were madly selecting and twisting tiny hanks of my curly hair.
It was my beloved Aunt Rita who busted me.
“Stop that!” she barked like a clap of thunder.
“You’re going to make yourself bald!”
Little did I know that this moment would mark my entry into the magical world of handcraft and fiber.
As Aunt Rita was an important player in my childhood, and as her few admonishments remain firmly caught in my memory cobweb, one might assume that my mild mania was effectively snuffed that day.
One would be wrong.
I mean, really – bald? Come. On.
Still, I might well have gone strictly covert had it not been for my grandmother (magical mistress of all needles) – my Baba – who had a life-changing answer to my Aunt’s outburst.
“Her little hands want work,” she quipped with a shrug.
“I’ll teach her to crochet.”
My mother, who protested to very little, surprised me by protesting to this venture, declaring that I was much too young, and that Baba would succeed only in frustrating us both.
Baba shrugged again – great answer.
The lessons began that day.
Just one year later, my parents took me on my first cross-country flight from Connecticut to California. This was 1959, when flying was still a glamorous, fantasy adventure, and flight attendants, having more time and many fewer passengers, were better able to dote on their guests.
One such attendant stopped at our seats, and, squinting, leaned in for a better look at what I was doing, which was, of course, crocheting.
“Wow! Look at you go!”
And then, inevitably, “How old are you?”
Two things I’ve neglected to mention – one, I was a very small kid (a fact which made everything I did early on seem a bit more impressive than it actually was), and two, instead of opting for the big-yarn-big-hook approach, i.e., the easy way, Baba had taught me to crochet cotton lace. Yup.
By the end of our flight I was feeling quite self-important, and also very, um, magnanimous. When our attendant came down the aisle to make sure we were prepared for landing, I presented her with the completed lace doily as a gift. I had quite the girl crush by then. Her reaction was more than I could have hoped for.
To sum up, I now had an occupation, a purpose. In one year’s time, I’d learned what some consider a complicated type of needlework (it’s not), learned to love it’s practice beyond measure, and, undoubtedly the most important lesson, I’d learned that giving a handmade gift is one of life’s grandest feelings. Eight-year-olds are mighty impressionable, and I was mightily impressed.
Lately, my reflections on this part of my history have turned equal parts scientific and philosophical.
Here’s my take – imagine the cave dweller digging into his/her fur poncho for a good scratch and coming away with this downy stuff clinging to his/her fingers. He/She gives this little poof a pinch, a roll, a twist, and voila! Of course we already know this indeed occurred in some manner, and was either followed, or preceded, by the same light-bulb (rock-drop?) moment employing plant fibers. Bottom line, think of the time we humans have spent over the millennia twisting fibrous stuff up into useful beauty. How could we not wind up with little hands wanting work?
The whole thing’s downright Darwinian.
Alright then! Feeling stressed? Feeling like you need, or want something you just can’t put your finger on? Well, you can! Put your finger on it! All your fingers, for that matter – crocheting, knitting, spinning, felting, weaving – these practices, I truly believe, live in our blood and bones, and, on the bone deep level, we need them.
Simple Twist Studio is a very nice place to fill that need, and I think you’ll find our approach refreshing. The use of the adjective Simple is meant to help bust the myth of these arts as being exclusive, difficult, and expensive. No! Learning fiber craft should be simply accessible, simply affordable, and a simply seamless part of life.
Build your own course of study, with a focus on felting, Turkish spindle spinning, and frame loom (a.k.a., continuous strand) weaving, or combine all three in a way that's nothing short of magical. After an hour or two, you'll head home with a sense of stress-free accomplishment, a new skill, and a pretty piece of handwork. What could be better?
I become more convinced each day that we cannot drop this ball and allow knowledge of these arts to become extinct. Come into the studio, and we’ll boil them back down to their lovely essence, to keep with us always, and to pass on to those we love.