Handspinners roll along into Jamestown for conferenceThe fiber-lovers at the North Dakota Handspinners Conference could be called a close-knit group — they’re happy to show new people spinning techniques and they enjoy exchanging tips, bundles of wool and skeins of yarn.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The fiber-lovers at the North Dakota Handspinners Conference could be called a close-knit group — they’re happy to show new people spinning techniques and they enjoy exchanging tips, bundles of wool and skeins of yarn.
“I’m loving it. The group is very great, they’re very inclusive and great,” said Colleen Waltner, of Sioux Falls, S.D. Saturday as she worked with a little bundle of cotton. “There’s wisdom to be had all around the circle.”
At its most basic level, spinning is simply taking a bundle of fiber, such as wool, cotton or silk, and drawing it out into thread or yarn while putting a twist into it to make the fiber stronger.
Spinning can be done with a foot-operated wheel, but it can also be done by hand, using a weighted spindle.
While most of the spinners were using wheels on Saturday afternoon, as the conference was winding down, Waltner was working with a tiny tahkli spindle, supported by a little coffee cup in her lap.
The brass spindle, of Indian origin, is used to spin cotton, a short, fragile fiber that needs a lot of twist to stay strong.
Waltner, a long-time spinner, has two spinning wheels of her own, and enjoys knitting custom-made, high-end clothing items that are a perfect fit — whether a person has long arms or wide feet.
“The sky’s the limit. You’re only limited by your imagination,” Waltner said.
Equipment, patterns and ideas are available online that were never available before, she said.
And there are even new fibers out there. Corny Goodness, a company out of Benson, Minn., was one of nine fiber-focused vendors at the weekend conference. Its operators, Paul Tatge and Meg Mjoness, were selling yarn made from corn fiber.
The starches and sugars in corn kernels are fermented to produce a resin, which is then spun into a soft, water-resistant fiber.
Tatge said the Jamestown conference is one of the smallest Corny Goodness goes to.
The ND Handspinners Conference brought 52 people together this year to spin, dye and work on projects.
“The group is slightly different,” said Julie Mangnall, who coordinates the event with her sister, Jeanne Roster. “We have a lot more experienced spinners this year.”
That may be because people who took an interest the first year came with a wheel last year and by the time the third conference rolled around, they were dyeing and spinning with the best of them.
Though the conference was sponsored by the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Producers, corn fibers, bamboo, silk and cotton were available for sale, along with angora, llama and alpaca blends.
Mangnall and Roster plan to host the conference again next year.
“I like to play and I want everyone to come play with us,” said Mangnall, who has been spinning for 32 years, and got Roster involved about four years ago.
“It’s relaxing and it’s creative,” Roster said.
“Part of it is that this group is not very judgemental … it’s like a safe place, a haven,” Mangnall said.
Libbie Perleberg, of Fort Ransom, N.D., spent part of her Saturday afternoon triple-plying yarn to make it stronger, using a wheel next to her mother, Teresa Perleberg.
“We were knitting, and then we bought some sheep, and we wanted to learn to use the wool,” Teresa explained. “It’s hard to begin with, just to get the hang of it, but now it’s relaxing.”
One of the newest spinners at the conference was Heather Jarski of Fargo, who was working on a bit of sheep’s wool using a drop spindle.
“This is fun, I like it a lot,” Jarski said. “I’ll be checking out wheels here shortly.”
A spinning wheel might cost anything from $300 used to more than $800 new, and while many people use their grandmother’s wheel, new spinning wheel models are portable, and fold up for easy carrying.
Karin Boom, of Marion, N.D., was working on some undyed sheep’s wool from the sheep she raises. She’s been a knitter since she was 5 years old, and has been spinning since 1987.
“It is infinitely interesting. You can’t even get to the end of possibilities with wool,” Boom said.
For more information about spinning, look up “North Dakota Handspinners Conference” on Facebook, email Mangnall at email@example.com or write to her at 11936 79th St. SE, Stirum, ND, 58069.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org