Yesterday’s Wovember Words gave us some advise from Elizabeth Zimmermann. Here she is again, and this time Zimmermann tells us about how she felt that there is a shared memory, that skills seemingly lost in history actually lingers in ‘memory in the fingers; memory undeveloped, but still alive.’
A few years ago Christmas was enriched for me by the magnificent gift of an elegant handmade spinning-wheel. Hand-spinning was a skill which I have always regarded with as much awe as those of making bread, and performing the mysterious rite or proper mayonnaise. I have mastered the last two, but I danced and dodged hopefully around my wheel for nearly a year, starting and stopping, trying to understand how it worked, and how it could twist the fibers and wind them on the spindle at the same time. This has often been explained to me, and I still don’t understand it.
Since I knew no spinners, the technique of the acutal spinning had to be gleaned from a couple of excellent books, but to this day I spin in an ivory tower; I am entirely self-taught, and until recently had never seen anyone else spinning. My fingers, however, were more encouraged than not by the isolation. Now, when I set the treadle in motion, they take on a life of their own. My spinning may be unorthodox, but my fingers knkow exactly what they are doing, and lumpy but readl knitting-wool results. When the fed fibers threaten to become suddenly too thin, my left thumb and forefinger give them a quick extra twist to keep them together until they are safely on the spindle. Why is this? I certainly never cogitated on the matter; my fingers doped it out for themselves. I can only think that centuries of genes have given fingers inherited skills of which we wot not. I know that spinning sets me in a trance; it soothes me and charges my batteries at the same time.
-Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac; projects for each month of the year, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY
Picture copyright Janis Reuter, who submitted a picture of her gorgeous spinning wheel to the WOVEMBER2012 Gallery.