I can’t believe I haven’t already written this post since I have been spinning for months now!!! Last Summer I took weekly spinning lessons from a very talented and experienced fiber artist who owns a fiber farm just over the mountain from our farm. I learned how to turn fiber such as sheep’s wool into yarn using a spinning wheel. Spinning wheels aren’t just those giant wheels on display in your grandmother’s living room. They come in many shapes and sizes and if you haven’t ever seen a modern castle-style spinning wheel you’d be surprised I can fit a spinning wheel in my little house. I actually didn’t know for sure when I started learning to spin that I would really get into it – it just seemed a logical thing to learn to do since I already had Angora rabbits that produce fiber and I already loved to crochet. Once I started learning to spin I fell in love with the feel of the fiber, the rhythm of the wheel, and the way spinning can be so peaceful and exciting at the same time. Plus it’s really fun to be able to make something out of nothing but fluff from my rabbits. Every few months the Angora rabbits will start to shed out their coat which is when it is ready to be either plucked or sheared. I prefer shearing. The rabbits don’t seem to mind having their fur cut off. In fact, if I don’t cut or pluck it when it’s ready to come off they will start pulling it off themselves. For the first couple of months I was spinning I rented one of my spinning teacher’s wheels while I scoured Craigslist daily for local spinning wheels for sale. I had just about talked myself into spending a small fortune on a brand new Lendrum spinning wheel when that exact wheel appeared on Craigslist for a steal of a price. It was an older model and needed a few new parts, but they were relatively inexpensive and easy to order, so I still got a great deal!
I’ve been spinning whatever fiber I can get my hands on (and afford!) for months, mainly wool and llama fiber I buy from the fiber farm, as well as several types of wool from online retailers and the downtown Asheville fiber arts store. By November I was ready to start spinning my Angora fiber. It’s quite a bit more difficult to spin than wool because it is so fine and only a few inches long. It’s so incredibly soft and fine that it will just float away on the slightest breeze! Once I started spinning the Angora fiber I started going through it faster than my bunnies could grow it! What to do??? If you know me at all, you know exactly what happened next – I got more bunnies!!! I now have half the cage space in my “Bunny Barn” dedicated to my fluffy friends. I am really enjoying having the extra few bunnies in addition to enjoying the spinning. I really like grooming them and knowing they can be pets as well as farm animals. Most of my meat breed rabbits I don’t get too attached to. Even if they are breeding adults, they will most likely be a meal within a few years (with the exception of our beloved Timmy!!!).
Another neat thing about my learning to spin is that I have gotten to spend a lot of time at the fiber farm learning how to work with llamas!!! My spinning teacher (and now friend) happened to ask one day when I was there for a fiber-dyeing-lesson if I’d like to help train the young llamas – OF COURSE!!!!! I have always loved llamas and alpacas, and always hoped that at some point we will have some of them on our farm. After spending a few hours every week or two going for walks with young llamas for the past few months, I have to say I am totally sold on llamas! Alpacas are beautiful, but llamas (at least the ones I am getting to know) are quite a bit more personable. There is something so peaceful about them. It feels like they know me just by looking at me with those big eyes. I don’t know how they do it, but llamas have this way of embodying both simple-farm-animal and zen-master at the same time. Llamas (as well as alpacas) are not a species that does much touching or mutual grooming, so they do not seek to be petted like a dog would. They are a bit more like a semi-feral cat – curious, but wanting to get to know a person a bit before approaching. Some of them will give you a llama-kiss that will steal your heart if you let them…which I did. I think I’m even more hooked on llamas than on spinning. One of my dreams for our farm is to one day have some tiny guest cabins up on our ridge and have some pack llamas be part of the guests’ agritourism experience. Maybe pack llamas could carry guests’ luggage to the cabins? Or maybe we could find a way to do llama hikes nearby? Or maybe I just have some fiber llamas for myself…There are lots of possibilities for the future! For now, I’m just going to keep learning and just keep spinning!