Potential energy

Have you ever listened to the Knitajourney podcast? Really, really, you should. The host, Susan, is incredibly thoughtful and — best of all — does not have the slightest embarrassment about being smart and well read. (I hate how often women apologize for being smart and well read.)

The other day, I was listening to her most recent episode, “Physics on the Fly.” In this show, Susan shares her thoughts on how spinning and knitting impart energy into fiber. Such a simple idea, in a way, this idea that your hands put energy into the wool. But it’s quite inspiring when you really begin to look at fiber in this way.

Take this for example:

OK, granted, this is partly an excuse to post a photo of my first hank of handspun yard (all 75 whopping yards of it — probably just enough for an egg cozy). I made this during my class at the Campbell Folk School.

But really, my point is this. Before I learned to spin, I saw a lot in yarn — its texture, its color, its construction, its thickness. But learning to spin gives you the embodied sense of the potential energy in yarn. You have stored energy in there with your wheel or your spindle and your own hands. It’s just waiting for you, calling you, wanting to come back out.

Even the plying process gives you some experience with this energy release. During the spinning portion of our class, I learned that — at least when you’re doing woolen spinning (not sure about the worsted process) — you spin singles in one direction and then ply in the other. In other words, the original spinning of the fiber puts in twist in one direction. So much twist, in fact, that the singles curls up on itself.* Then — if you’re lucky or, god forbid, skilled — plying (twisting) one or more of those singles together in the other direction takes just enough of the original twist out so that the yarn doesn’t twist up on itself anymore.

It’s like two perfectly matched forces playing tug-of-war with each other. You might think the yarn is just lying there, but it’s not. It’s locked in a dance, buzzing with energy, calling your name.

___________________

* Yes, grammar queens, that is correct. Singles in this context is a singular noun.

3 thoughts on “Potential energy

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