Spinning wool is like breastfeeding – also new things are hard.


I recently purchased a beautiful second hand Ashford Traditional Spinning wheel, she is just lovely; I have always wanted to spin, it looks so relaxing and meditative. The women I have seen doing it always look so zen, calm and centered. I gotta get me some of that !

I have got some newly shorn alpaca wool that I grabbed, I popped on the cotton band to make the spinning wheel go and off I went…..bring on the zen feelings!

Anyone have any guesses how I went??

So very bad.

The fiber wouldn’t attach to the string, it kept running away into the spindle bit, it would catch into all the hooks, it got jammed and there was no zen. I was convinced the spinning wheel was broken. I downloaded the how to booklet and looked at a few YouTube clips and I hadn’t put the machine together properly, so then I reattached the items properly and the alpaca wool still wouldn’t grip. I was getting very frustrated to say the least, why was it so hard for me and appeared to be so smooth for the man who owned Ashford Spinning Wheel in New Zealand??

Then I remembered that I had some purple fiber that I used for felting and I gave that a crack – success I got it to catch onto the lead string and wind onto the spindle bit, woo hoo I was home and hosed! But then it got jammed and I had to stop and start again, and the thread broke about 50 times and it got stuck.

I then went back to the How to Book and really read it rather than skimming because I am a skimmer. I hadn’t installed a spring properly, so then I undid it, measured it and reattached. I also looked at another youtube clip and sent a message to a friend who is an avid spinner for help and assistance.

Then the fiber all twisted up in a big knot and I had to undo the unspun fiber, before starting again. Then I finally managed to get the fiber from my hands onto the spindle with minimal stress. I was worried it didn’t look like the woman in the video I watched but it was working for me. It still broke and is really tight and isn’t at all smooth or snazzy but for about 20 minutes last night when my people were in bed asleep I did feel a sense of zen about spinning and then the thread broke!

While I was trying a new skill which I am not good at and probably wont be for a long time I was reminded of how breastfeeding is a developing skill.

I don’t come from a family of spinners, I have watched friends spin and been impressed by their skill but not at all aware of how they made the fiber into an even and smooth line of spun thread.

If you don’t come from a family or community of breastfeeders then often the first breastfed baby you have a look at is your own, we don’t tend to look intently at women breastfeeding in public – don’t do that they don’t like it and it isn't cool.

I have no muscle memory for spinning, as I haven’t done this before and it takes a long time to feel comfortable doing a new skill, breastfeeding is the same. Take the time in the first six weeks after birth to develop your breastfeeding muscle memory, take time to take on board your new skills and allow your new baby to learn their innate skill in the big wide world.

I was comparing my spinning to a man who owned the Ashford Spinning business possibly a man who was born on a spinning wheel. You can’t compare how you breastfeed to how another woman breastfeeds, there is a reason that we don’t see a newborn feeding in public very often. It is like feeding an octopus on a red cordial buzz, tricky and involves about 12 arms. How you breast feed; as long as it doesn’t hurt and there is good milk transfer; doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like how your friend breastfed or how your mum breastfed, your breasts and your baby have never met before and it will be different because that combination has never touched the earth before.

I had set up the wheel wrong which was never going to work well, I was using the wrong tension and I was using the wrong fibre for my first spin. When breastfeeding your position, your baby’s latch and attachment can make all the difference to your ability to feed pain free and with good milk transfer. The mechanics have to work first in order for the basics to work well.

I also assumed that watching a few videos on you tube and reading a how to manual would be enough, here is the shocker it isn’t. I needed to see women spinning and watch and learn from these women (or men) – I probably need to take a class or two and get the basics. I am not going to be like the women on the youtube videos' they have not recorded themselves when they were learning; they recorded themselves when they were masters at it. I am a long way from spinning on a lake in a long woolen skirt listening to birds and spinning away; I am still swearing like a sailor and I have no idea what I am doing.

I am well aware that a spinning wheel is very very different to a newborn baby and a newly lactating woman however any new skill regardless if it is a physiological driven skill or a newly developed need, you need time and knowledge to move forward. No one expects you to get this immediately and there will absolutely be days when you feel like you are really really crap at breastfeeding and parenting and spinning, and then there will be days when you are flying high on your skills.

If you are wanting to learn about breastfeeding by all means google search and watch web videos, but also ask your women relatives and friends their good, bad and not so great experiences and more importantly ask what they would do differently if they were to do it again, go to classes that are more than an hour long, immerse yourself in the experience. I guarantee you that by becoming aware, knowledgeable and resourced you will be able to start the journey to becoming experienced. You won’t be spinning on the lake in a long woolen skirt experienced but you will be on the way.

Right I am off to talk to some experienced spinning women to stop my fiber looking so twisted and tight.

The Canberra Lactation Centre can help out with knowledge and information on breastfeeding however if you are after spinning ideas then unfortunately we are at a loss, but I am learning.

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