Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spun Out!

When you attend as many community events as I do, you quickly learn to

  1. Chat up the person serving the warm, cheap booze and hope they keep 'em coming
  2. Position yourself nearest the entry way from the kitchen if there is wait staff, or near the buffet table if it's serve yourself
  3. Have an excuse ready for leaving just as soon as the mayor or other minor dignitary has said their piece.
  4. Carry a little hand fan (there's never enough airconditioning to deal with the crowd) and a hanky (to deal with the really bad meatballs or to mop up the sweet chilli sauce from your good silk blouse or mop one's sodden brow if the hand fan is forgotten or to stifle a yawn if the mayor or other minor dignitary goes on a bit)
  5. Bring your imagination - sometimes the only refuge is to let your eyes glaze over and your mind wander to more interesting things like what to do with the really gorgeous sock yarn you just bought, particularly when forced to listen to the local 4th graders sing, the local (insert any ethnic group you like) folk dance troupe do their thing in colourful dress or someone recites a poem.
  6. Paste on a smile.

Last night at the Queanbeyan Historical Museum's opening of an exhibition exploring Struggletown's multicultural heritage, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the textiles on display and the lovely drop spindle in one of the display cases.

For the speeches and the entertainment (see 5 above)I had positioned myself next to the buffet table (see 2, above) and fortified myself with a top-up of the warm, cheap domestic methode champagnoise (see 1, above). A group of Croatian women, who may have been to one or two of these events as well, also positioned themselves around the still empty buffet table so I was surrounded by them. I was enjoying their chatter and the comparison of the quantity and virtues of their grandchildren when the MC announced the entertainment.

Not only was there to be no dancing (see 5, above), but there would be a spinning demonstration!

One of their number, fully kitted out in a fantastic red and cream woven costume entertained us by using a traditional drop spindle.

The fleece was attached to a long paddle, the the narrow end of which was tucked into the waist of the woman's apron. She set the spindle a-spinning (it looked like an elongated teardrop) and worked the fleece from up near her chest at the paddle shaped object until the spindle nearly touched the ground. She then wound the spun yarn onto the spindle and started again.

Captivated immediately, I was blown away by the spontaneous singing of the spinner, particularly when the women around me all joined in. Just magical, people, magical. Our spinner had not spun in 40 years, but the muscle memory was there and her yarn was pretty even and quite fine - about a five ply weight.

I spoke to some of the women afterwards and they told me that they used to spin at night in each other's homes and chat and sing.

My dears, it was a Croatian Stitch 'n' Bitch and the smile was genuine (see 6, above).


Jejune said...

Sounds utterly magical - I'm so glad you were able to find some genuine smiles in what could well have been a very tedious event :)

Sheep Rustler said...

I sat rhough half a dozen ethnic dancing troupes at our primary school fete last year - I;m still recovering. This sounds gorgeous though and singing is definitely a plus with spinning!

I must admit I shudder when Queanbeyan is mentioned - my father lives there and this is not a good association - I am glad there is something more worthwhile there...

I tried to master a drop spindle last year with only very limited success. I find a spinning wheel much easiuer though obviously less portable.

happyspider said...

ah i wish i had not been stuck at uni with king lear... such is life. does it wet your palate for the recycling of some cds? free alpaca pour vous?

Taphophile said...

Pity you couldn't get there, Spidey. Yes it did rather whet my appetite for spinning but I might wait until the pulled muscle in my soulder heals! :)