The word spinster originally meant a female spinner of thread, specifically an unmarried woman. Spinster eventually came to connote a woman who was not only unmarried but also beyond the expected matrimonial age. As a professional title, however, the term spinster refers equally to men and women.
Today, my husband and I were both spinsters… except I doubt very seriously that anyone would hire us professionally. Perhaps, we are better dubbed Spinsters in Training. We took a spinning class together in the local yarn store. We were the youngest would-be spinsters there. We were also the only married couple, and my husband was the only man.
Perhaps we’re breaking all the spinster rules.
We began with learning how to use the drop spindle, which my husband already knew how to use. Drop spindles are forerunners to the spinning wheel. My husband—brilliant Latin teacher that he is—has taught his students how to use drop spindles and once taught a student how to use it who was particularly anxious and stressed out; the methodical rhythm allowed her to focus on something besides her anxiety on a particularly rough day. Yep, he’s empathetic and into fiber arts; I married up (thus breaking more spinster rules).
The drop spindle was much easier for me to learn than the spinning wheel. I was just starting to feel like a confident spinning boss before we transitioned to the wheel. I spent the next twenty minutes of class staring at a vision of gnarled wool and wondering what had happened.
Eventually, I started to improve my spun wool. My husband was head of the class though! His experience at the drop spindle allowed him to pick up the spinning wheel more quickly than me. Just compare our first bobbins of yarn.
As the class spun on, I started to find a rhythm to the spinning. Let me tell you—as the spinster pro that I am—rhythmic spinning is essential. You need a finessed movement that is smooth and steady, not warbled, jerky and panicky. You do move from one set to the other; it just takes time and practice. Our instructor recommended that spinners use a pound of roving as practice to iron out the literal kinks in the process.
By the end of class, I had my own skein of lovely double-ply yarn and a ball of single-ply yarn that I intend to finish as soon as I can, either by drop spindle or by splurging on lovely spinning wheel. Our favorite was the Ashford Saxony-style wheel with a single treadle, but we still have more to try. We both enjoyed the class more than we thought we would and found spinning yarn to be soothing after we had eased into that steady rhythm. A calming and productive hobby? Sign me up!
And in true married spinster style, we both returned home to spend a quiet Saturday night together with our fur babies—all of whom believed that our freshly spun yarn was made just for them.