Spinners tackle new techniques in Arkadelphia

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published April 26, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Kristi Smith, left, and Danielle Haas work on their spinning wheels at the Knit Unto Others store in Arkadelphia. The retail needlework shop offers area residents a chance to learn about the art.

Simply stated, spinning is the action of converting fibers into thread or yarn. The process has evolved over time, and today, spinning has become popular with needlework enthusiasts.

A small group of women gathered March 26-28 at the Knit Unto Others retail needlework shop in Arkadelphia to learn new techniques of spinning at the Spring Spinning Retreat with Sarah Anderson.

Anderson lives near Snohomish, Washington. She travels around the United States doing workshops similar to the one she presented at Knit Unto Others. She is the author of The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs: Techniques for Creating 80 Yarns. She also has a spinning video on YouTube.

“I was 13 when I started spinning. I taught myself,” she said.

“You can make many different yarns from so many kinds of fibers. I usually start off with wool when teaching someone how to spin, but there are so many kinds of fibers you can use to make your yarn — cotton, silk, linen, flax,” Anderson said.

“There are also a variety of wheels you can use,” she said. “You are simply twisting the fibers together to make yarn.

“It’s relaxing to spin.”

Danielle Haas of Arkadelphia was among those who attended the workshop.

“I’ve been spinning about five or six years. I started when we lived in Colorado,” she said.

“It’s relaxing. It’s fun. It keeps your hands busy and allows you to create something. I’m making a little shawl. We are learning to make boucle yarn today,” Haas said. Boucle yarn features loops and curls.

“When the kids go to bed, I pull out my spinning and knitting,” said Haas, who is a stay-at-home mom.

Kristi Smith, also of Arkadelphia, said she has been spinning for two or three years.

“I’ve been a crafter my whole life,” said Smith, who is a librarian at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. “I crochet, knit, spin and weave. I dye my own yarn. I sew.

“I’m here today to learn and practice new techniques.”

Kaye Graves came from Hot Springs for the workshop.

“I enjoy spinning,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for about three years. It’s a natural progression from knitting. I will look at something and think, ‘I can make this yarn.’

“You can spin your yarn and make socks, shawls or scarves.”

Katie Tompkins of Glen Rose raises Angora rabbits and spins the rabbit fur, or wool, into yarn.

“You brush and comb the rabbit, and the fur comes right off,” she said. “I do it about every three months. It looks like you are giving the rabbit a massage. You are not harming the rabbit.”

Tompkins was going to make a shawl during the workshop.

Claire Gehrki opened Knit Unto Others eight years ago at 323 Main St. in Arkadelphia.

“We play with yarn every day,” she said with a laugh. “We draw customers from all over. We try to stock all kinds of yarn, from the economical to the luxurious.”

Gehrki said she is not a spinner. “I’m a knitter,” she said, adding that one of her customers, Patsy Matthews, told her about Anderson and organized the spinner’s visit to the local needlework shop.

“I’ve been a spinner since 2011,” said Matthews, who lives in Arkadelphia. “I’m self-taught. I watched YouTube and videos.

“I was a knitter first. I just grew into spinning. I love the fiber. I decided I wanted to become a spinner. I got a wheel and jumped right in.”

Gehrki said she welcomed the idea of offering the spinning retreat to her customers and others.

“I’m always enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and gathering people to grow their skills,” said Gehrki, who taught English at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia for 20 years.

“I just got tired of grading papers,” she said. “I’ve knitted all my life. I like to say a ‘divine nudge’ led me to open this business. I am having a wonderful time, enjoying this community of women, and some men, who are knitters.”

For more information on Knit Unto Others, call (870) 245-2552 or visit knituntoothers.com.