Big Wheel Keep On Turning…

This past weekend I ran up to the thrift store to look for new puzzles for family game night. Next door to my destination – Value Village – was the City Markeplace, an indoor, weekend-only flea market I’d never seen before. I was there with my friend and our four kids (combined total) and we decided to take a look.
The first vendor we walked past was selling a huge assortment of utility and hunting knives. Now normally I like a good knife display, but a member of our party was three years old and was hypnotically drawn to the shiny, unsheathed metal. We moved on, and quickly.
The next several vendors didn’t ring my bell, though at least one of them was, in fact, selling bells. And then we met Linda Doolin. Linda was comfortably set up in a sort-of living room without walls, complete with settee and spinning wheel. 
Linda at her wheel
When we slowed to check out her wheel she asked if the kids would like a demonstration of how it worked. Kids, shmidge! I wanted to see how it worked! Linda showed us how she took a big fluff of alpaca fiber and twisted and spun it into soft, gorgeous grey yarn. We got to talking and it turns out she’s pretty skilling in the domestic arts.
Linda raises the llamas and alpacas that she shears for wool, and then spins, weaves and felts their fiber. She used to raise angora rabbits to, but apparently if you have the space, alpacas give a lot more fiber for the effort involved to get it. She is also a silversmith and an accomplished potter. Oh and just in case you weren’t already shaking your head in awe, she took up her “hobbies” seriously only after raising five kids and retiring from a career as a nurse. She’s also just really nice.
Rose Grey Alpaca fiber being spun into yarn
At the flea market, she sells under the name Willowcreek Pottery and Crafts and has a nice assortment of her handmade crafts. There’s handmade jewelry, pottery, handspun yarn and alpaca and llama fiber. She also has her own website under development and sells through Etsy
I picked up one of these handmade lemongrass felted soaps for $6. It’s a pure glycerin soap wrapped in alpaca wool. You use the soap through the wool, which acts as an exfoliant and continues to felt itself smaller and tighter to the soap as it’s used. I can’t wait to try it!
Felted soaps
I know many of the readers of this blog are interested in greater self-sufficiency and preserving traditional home and domestic skills, so I asked Linda if she ever taught spinning and felting. For readers of Northwest Edible who are in the greater Seattle area and are willing to meet her at the City Marketplace in Lynnwood, Linda will give a free 20 minute spinning lesson on her wheel to anyone who buys one of her 3 oz. bags of alpaca or llama fiber. Three ounces looks like this (that’s a gallon-sized bag) and sells for between $15 and $18 depending on the animal and color:
If you are interested in setting up a meeting with Linda and learning how to spin your own yarn, you can email her at willowcreekpotteryandcrafts (at) yahoo (dot) com (spelling it out here so the spambots don’t bug Linda). If you are not in the Seattle area but want to know more, check out The Joy of Handspinning, a website dedicated to spindle and wheel handspinning and fiber arts.
Because I have just spent an entire blog post encouraging you to go learn from this woman and go buy her fiber, I feel the need to tell you that I have no relationship to Linda at all, paid for my own soap, and get nothing out of any business she might get from this exposure.
Beyond the enjoyable half-hour I spent with Linda I have absolutely no knowledge or skill in any fiber arts. I cannot knit, sew, crochet (which, a friend informed me recently, is totally different from knitting – who knew?), weave or needlepoint. If I’m spinning a yarn, it means I’m gabbing on about something in a way that might be less than entirely accurate. So I’m looking to my readers who may have the experience I don’t: what fiber and fabric arts do you engage in? What resources, websites, books, etc. do you recommend for people interested in getting started?
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Comments

  1. I would love to learn how to spin my own wool into yarn – but I don't knit or crochet – so I don't know what I would do with it. :) Still, I'm always drawn to the spinners. Great post! Thank you for featuring a fiber artist.

  2. What an awesome lady! My grandma taught me to crochet, and my great grandma taught me to knit, but I prefer crochet. My advice would be to find a kitting and or crochet circle, friend who knows how to do either, or go online for a simple tutorial. There are even instructional videos. One of my friends has a spare wheel she wanted to loan me because she didn't have room, but I don't have time to spin right now, darn! Hopefully someday!

  3. I'm a handspinner, and have sone some weaving. Mostly knitting. I'll try to spin anything! I love animal fibers the most; mohair is awesome (from angora goats), as is llama. When I lived rurally, I raised sheep & had lots of raw wool. Now that I'm in the city (Seattle), I buy beautiful top – processed wool, which means it's been carded & dyed – at The Weaving Works. It's my candy store. They also have great classes. They are in the U District.

    If you're at all interested, definitely learn to spin. It's very calming. NOTE: Cats love to participate… :)

  4. Those soaps are awesome! What a clever idea!

  5. What do you do with the felted cover once the soap is all used up? Can you refill them?

  6. Tuesday nights at the Roanoke – Stitch n Bitch! Anyone who wants to learn to knit is welcome! Bitching optional.

  7. Christine – I don't know! :) Good question, I'll have to ask Linda. Maybe you can re-wrap new soap? It's a new thing to me.
    Foible – this would be fun! Let's set it up.

  8. We are there every Tuesday after 5:30. Anyone interested in learning to knit should bring light-colored wool (worsted weight) sized for size 8 knitting needles. Any kind of needles are acceptable, though circulars are easier. :)

  9. I've been crocheting for years, and I know some basic knitting skills, but I haven't invested in all the knitting paraphernelia yet. I do some of my own natural yarn dyeing also. I have been aching to learn how to spin for a while now. I raised rabbits as a kid, and would love to get some angora rabbits now. Can anyone tell me the best way to get my hands on a wheel? Does anyone still make them or do I need to troll thrift shops, estate sales, etc?

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