Gathered and Spun

Photo: Mt. Monadnock… We meet again. I’ve spent a good chunk of my New England experience disliking that mountain with a passion. Why? Well, during the first few weeks of my first year of full-time teaching, I found myself on a field trip to that place. To climb it. With 8th graders. I still can’t think of anything more miserable. 4 years of teaching, 4 trips to the mountain, huffing and puffing up to a false summit, sitting and then going back down. Anyway, this weekend was my first time experiencing the mountain the way I prefer to: from a distance. I firmly believe that mountains are best viewed from their feet. How else are you supposed to appreciate their majesty?


I spent my weekend on a farm in New Hampshire with some 100 women from around the region who had gathered to knit and spin together. Every year, East Hill Farm, which is this legendary old inn in New Hampshire, hosts a knitting and spinning retreat weekend: no workshops, no vendors, no schedule. You come, you bring your projects, you eat and drink and have fun.

Dear Reader, I watched women in their 60s (and older) take jello shots and spin wool this weekend.

Jello shots. That’s not a typo!

I’ve never been so proud to be a knitter. I have always loved crafting, but what I love most about knitting is the community that it creates. Women of all sorts, all shapes, all ages and sizes gather and create warmth through little loops and slips of yarn through their fingers and onto needles. These gathered women proudly wore their creations each day, admiring the works of others and reverently feeling the texture of cables and ribbing. Others brought wheels to spin fiber into yarn. My friend, who is a bit of a knitting celebrity, brought 6 wheels with her so that people could sit and learn how to spin. Others brought fiber so that way learners could spin without care.

Spinning is hard, ya’ll! But wow… it’s beautiful. Imagine a large farmhouse hall with a large circle of chairs and a circle of knitting wheels of different ages and types within. I watched a woman spin lace-weight silk and wool yarn. She barely got through an ounce over the two days of the retreat! Another woman sat at an antique wheel, chatting with a friend who spun on a motorized one. I sat in front of a newer wheel to learn the art. My patient teacher taught me the basics, but it takes a lot of coordination to guide the fiber and treadle at the same time. I had to find a beat in my head and retreat a little bit, which allowed me to relax and let the machine do the work.

I have romantic ideas of having an antique wheel of my own in this house some day. There is something about the connection between the now and the way back when. I couldn’t help but think of the generations upon generations of women who slipped fiber through their fingers and powered those wheels with their feet. There were women at this retreat who own their own sheep, harvest their own wool, prepare their own fiber and spin it into yarn. That’s just amazing, isn’t it? It’s an old, old art and it lives.

For all of the spoiling that I got this weekend: an awesome room with a fireplace and a mountain view, 4 meals a day of super-fresh and hearty meals, drinks and laughter with friends and a fantastic roommate… I have returned relaxed, yes, but also with a new reverence for the craft. It’s a hobby, it’s a love, it’s a passion. It takes so much to make it happen, but it gives so much in return. I’m always knitting to give, I’ve never given something that I wasn’t extremely proud of, and everything I’ve ever given has been loved and appreciated. Knitting is tangible love. Knitting is tangible soul.


I was lucky to get such a clear shot of the mountain. It snowed on Saturday and it was overcast on Friday when I arrived. This shot was taken thanks to my telephoto lens. Awesome, huh?

Anyway, I returned home to two little bears who were happy to see me. They’d given their father a run for his money this weekend. I’ve gotta give that man credit: I came home to a spotless kitchen. Spotless. And he went and reorganized the playroom, too! That man is somethin’, ain’t he? I couldn’t even believe it. He got super extra points for that!

Being away from the boys for a few days makes me appreciate them so much when I return. Case in point, I’ll leave you with this little gem of conversation from today over dinner:

[Major, Minor and I are sitting at the dinner table. Major has been learning about fairy tales at school. He is learning about The Princess and the Pea this week.]

Me: Major, tell us about the Princess and the Pea.
Minor: What? The Princess and the Pea? It’s about a princess who eats a lot of peas?
Major: No way! It’s about a prince and a princess and the princess can’t sleep.
Minor: because she ate all the peas?
Major: No. The  prince had to know if she was a real princess, so she had to go to sleep on 20 mattresses and 20 feather mattresses and then they put a pea on the bottom and she couldn’t sleep.
Minor: What?
Major: She couldn’t sleep because she felt the pea. And because she felt the pea, she was a true princess.
Minor: But a pea doesn’t make you a princess.
[Pregnant pause. Major agrees with this, though he does not say so. He rolls his eyes.]
Major: “Well, but, it does… she was a true princess.”
Minor makes a face. This was truly a stupid tale. I do my best not to roar with laughter. Minor does have a point. I can’t help but think about Minor’s poor kindergarten teachers next year. He is really going to give them a hard time!
It is late on Monday, but that’s ok. The week has started and you are here, Dear Reader. Thank you for starting your week with me. What are you up to? Let’s accomplish something together!
Until Wednesday, be productive and take care.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Marneymae says:

    Omigoodness! So many layers of amazing in this post!
    So funny to hear Minor’s observation that a pea doesn’t make a princess!
    (Maybe it makes one a candidate to become a doctor of osteopathy…)

    That place sounds incredible. I’m so glad you went.
    What devotion! Spinning in and of itself is a devotional practice. Let alone the tending to sheep, and even knitting.
    So many reverent & earthy steps in making a beloved & useful item to be worn or fashioned in some creative way.
    Your mention of soul strikes me. And makes so much sense, given that the very “thing” literally comes into being by whatever it is which moves us/propels one to craft/create in such a way.

    I laughed out loud at the Jell-O shots.
    Hooray for the company of women. Of all ages & types & stripes.
    What a treasure of a weekend.

    Thanks again for sharing the goodness, and yay to the husband for supporting the adventure/soul-feeding weekend.

  2. Tikeetha T says:

    Beautiful pictures and it’s wonderful that you had a time with spinners and knitters alike. How awesome is that?

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