Spinning on Long Island

Hi everyone, I am new here. :waving: I mostly crochet but have dabbed into knitting recently. Great website!

I had come across this interesting article in my local newspaper and I thought the good folks here would be interested in it.

[size=6]The spinning zone[/size]
Long Islanders are captivated by the process of making yarn for the shear pleasure of it

Newsday Staff Writer
February 8, 2007

Spinning is much more likely to conjure up images of Colonial America and fairy tales than a modern-day hobby, but that may be part of its appeal to a growing number of women, and men, who have taken up the craft.

Judy Lutzer, who recently retired as a psychotherapist so she could devote time to fiber arts, says that from the moment she took a spindle in hand, “I found the process absolutely captivating. It was like a magical process where you take a handful of fleece and turn it into yarn. I felt like a magician.”

Even the language of spinning has that magical fairy-tale, olden day quality, she says, naming parts of the spinning wheel: “the maidens” and “footman” and (perhaps, for a psychotherapist, the especially evocative) term “the ‘mother-of-all.’ I mean, what a delicious name is that?”

Like many crafts, the ancient art of spinning has an inspired and committed subculture. Its adherents range from those who buy prepared fleece, called roving, to spin either on a drop spindle (a small hand instrument with a stick and weight that twists the fibers) or spinning wheels; to those who raise sheep, alpacas and llamas in their backyards (or goats, rabbits, even buffalo), shear the animals, wash and card or comb the fleece, dye it and spin it into skeins of yarn, which they transform into knit and woven clothing and home accessories.

There are Web sites and magazines, blogs and newsletters, festivals and fairs, as well as organized tours for spinning, knitting and weaving enthusiasts to places like New Zealand and Peru.

Locally, the Spinning Study Group of Long Island - Lutzer, 63, of Old Field,is its president - has grown from six members in the mid-1970s to 85 now. On average, at least 35 members travel to the monthly meetings in a historic barn in Smithtown, coming from as far as Queens and the Hamptons, and include youngsters to retirees, from all walks of life.

The group has a newsletter, and a Web site (lispinning.com) and organizes a bus trip every October to the annual New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in upstate Rhinebeck.

Teaching and learning

The first hour of their meetings is devoted to informal teaching and learning on the group’s wheels, which also are available for rent. Some members teach privately, like Donna Trunk, 49, of Shoreham, and Valerie Bealle, 63, of Northport, a long-time spinner who also teaches knitting and weaving. Bealle says that when she bought her first wheel 30 years ago, “I was more excited about it than buying my house.”

Now there’s Rumpelstiltskin, a recently opened yarn store in Sayville that is the only spinning wheel dealership on Long Island (its Ashford wheels cost $340 to $750). Already, about 45 people have signed up for its spinning classes.

“When I saw this shop, I walked in here and was jumping for joy,” says Patricia Paul, 52, who bought a spinning wheel 25 years ago. It has sat, unused, in her Sayville dining room ever since. “I tried teaching myself,” Paul says. “It didn’t work.”

The store’s owner Angela D’Aguanno, 40, of Bohemia went through a similar experience, having purchased a wheel several years ago without knowing where to learn to spin. Now she, her husband, Vincent, and father-in-law, Sal, a retired police officer who also worked for Newsday, are all learning to spin.

“I tell my customers, ‘When you sit behind the wheel, even though you’ve never done this, it touches something in your DNA, something primal that goes back in memory and you’re transported back in time,’” she says.

Rather than laborious drudgery, it’s restful and meditative, almost like yoga, spinning enthusiasts say.

“You feel totally centered and at the same time you feel very much part of the world, very there, very in the moment,” says Lutzer. “It’s a terrific feeling.”

One of Rumpelstiltskin’s spinning students, retired art teacher Kathy Curran, 55, of Bayport, says, “You actually lose yourself to it. It’s a very soothing, relaxing rhythm, your hands and feet working together.”

Replacing therapy?

“It puts you into an alpha state, that meditative state right before sleep. If I didn’t have spinning, I’d be in therapy,” adds her spinning instructor, Diane Pionegro, 51, of Dix Hills, who has never been married and says, “You can call me a spinster any day.” She can sometimes be spotted by the sides of highways, collecting wildflowers for her natural dyes, which she uses along with commercial dyes and packets of Kool-Aid to color her yarns and handknit blankets.

Another Rumpelstiltskin spinning instructor is Tabbethia Haubold, a 34-year-old professional shearer who travels during the season from Vermont to North Carolina. She raises llamas and an alpaca on her Yaphank property, and turns the fleece of her animals and others’ into roving for sale. “All the rovings I create are tagged with the animal’s name, so people realize it’s coming from something natural and real.”

Another store instructor, Linda Unger, 48, of Medford, says she’s been knitting since she was 4 and spinning for the past seven or eight years. “It’s not brain surgery, but it’s like anything else, you have to practice. It teaches patience, eye-hand coordination, self confidence. I’ll knit a pair of socks out of yarn I hand-spun, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction knowing it’s something you did from start to finish.”

Old-fashioned gatherings

Besides the satisfaction of the process and the craft, there’s a lively sense of community among spinners and other fiber artists, says Carol Shybunko, 74, of Head of the Harbor, a past-president of the Spinning Study Group of Long Island who began spinning in 1971 with the fleece of her own sheep in upstate New York.

She says there are fiber tours all around the world to check out wool farms or places with interesting textiles.

“On my own, I went to a fellow in Oregon making handmade wheels. We take a list on personal vacations of fiber stores to stop in at if we’re in the area,” she says. “We chuckle about the idea that we do such silly things. We’re all fiber-junkies.”

She says that most spinners have more than one wheel. “There are different styles,” she says. “It’s like a car; there’s always something new coming along. Some have four or five.”

And some are willing to pay for the best. Donna Trunk, of Shoreham, for example, has been on upstate wheelmaker Norm Hall’s seven-year waiting list for his $3,000 wheel for four years (he makes only 12 a year). “It’s a work of art,” she says.

Retired machinist Gunther Maertz, 63, of Miller Place is one of the few male members of the Spinning Study Group and comes with his wife, Bettyann, his daughter, Maryann Raleigh, 41, of Sound Beach and his granddaughter, Emma, 12, who received her own spinning wheel for Christmas.

“It started way back when we bought my daughter a spinning wheel when she was in college,” he says, “She had sheep in our backyard, then, naturally, wool gets cut, and what are you going to do with it?”

Now he has a llama and an alpaca and spins just as much as he feels like it. “If it becomes a chore, it’s not fun anymore.”

A 1 1/4-ounce, two-ply skein of yarn took him two weeks of on-and-off spinning: “What I do, I go sit there for 10, 15 minutes during the day, and by the end of the day, I’ve put an hour in. I don’t push myself. In between, I walk the dog and work on my cuckoo clocks.”

“I love it, I enjoy it,” he says. “There’s no question there’s people much better at it, but I do it to my satisfaction.”

[b]VIDEO: Spinning in Sayville[/b]

The Yarn Tree in Brooklyn also offers spinning classes.[size=6][/size]

Thanks for the info!