spinning stories into yarns

i’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we tell ourselves. not good/bad self talk per se, but where we place ourselves in the narratives we create, and how those stories can become a tool.

a wooden spinning bowl in my lap with teal fiber being spun on my spindle

when i first started journeying as a teen, it was mostly accidental. i would take my sketchbook or cross stitch and whatever fiction i was reading at the time and go outside to sit under a tree, or take a long walk to the park or set up a blanket tent on my bed or shut myself in a closet to get away from the noise of my large family. 

then once i was settled and knew for certain that i would be undisturbed, i would calm my anxiety with deep regular breathing and tell myself a story. stories became a trance trigger for me. and also a gateway to journeywork. 

as i sat under that tree in the backyard, and drew the needle and thread of my cross stitch in and out of the pattern i was sewing, i would start with a title. “this is the one about the frog,” “this is the one where we are walking thru a glass corridor and outside the walls we can see time shifting and changing” or one one of my favorites still, “this is the one where i am tiny and live underground. what does my house look like and who are my friends?”

three wool nests in red black and white

sometimes i would base those stories on things i watched on tv or movies i saw or the book i was reading. building elaborate hallucinogenic fanfiction daydreams that were never entirely attached to the original story, i was just playing with the characters, themes and sets like dolls.

over time, tho. i lost interest in other people’s stories and created more and more detailed and elaborate worlds in my head with characters that would react and speak and move in ways that i didn’t expect or have control over. and that was ok! i had a very rich inner life during a time that was very tumultuous and uncertain and i made deep friendships with people in the Otherworld that i still have and continue today. 

but that part of my life all started with storytelling. 

i’ve been interested in fiberarts all of my life. i started out with plastic canvas and a blunt darning needle and chunky bright yarn sewing x’s and making patterns while i sat with my mom. when i was a little older i made constant dandelion stem cordage for bracelets and in middle school i would tear banquet napkins into strips and twist them into cordage and then braid that into doll forms that i would then weave clothes for out of even more shredded and twined napkins. in adulthood, i took up knitting and crochet as well as embroidery, sewing and currently i’m learning weaving.

brown wool on a spindle waiting for me on my messy desk

every one of those projects were meditative and trance inducing and i was able to use trial and error to decide which method worked the best for the level of trance i was looking for and the level of safety that i had. working with a project in my lap both gave me an excuse to trance out and also gave me a focus to keep my hands busy and bring a physicality and motion to my experience. (and afterwards i got a cool thing that i made!) 

nowadays, i tell stories as i spin and process fiber. the process of scouring and picking and combing and carding to get ready for the actual spinning is just as meditative and trance inducing to me as the spinning itself. and i do most, if not all of it in the company of my Sisters. having constant company with my Gods and Spirit Allies has been a staple of my life for as long as i can really remember and the stories that i tell and am told in Their presence are the basis of my practice. it’s a way of getting feedback and being instructed in the work that i’m doing as much as it’s for comfort and companionship. 

part of that instruction i call “right time, right place.” it’s knowing when to push that red button of no return and when to watch and wait until things fall into place. knowing when to follow the threads of a situation to their source and when to let a mystery be a mystery and accept that i may never really know why. 

naalbinding a pink and purple blanket on my lap

spinning for me has a lot of “right time right place” to it. a lot of places where gentle pressure is needed, but an all out assault of productivity will only lead to a repetitive strain injury that will set me back months to heal. time is as much an ingredient in this work as the materials and tools themselves. 

there is a history of spinning and storytelling. yarn and thread and spinning a tale are all used to describe it. spinning is a communal activity, what with the constant presence of it in pre industrial people’s lives and even long after mills and factories became a thing. it’s only been recently that spinning has become an almost forgotten hobby in the west. and many of our well known folk and faerie tales have come out of days and nights of spinning in groups and around the fire engaging in stories and gossip and conversation. 

as i spin my thread, i whisper stories to it. some are truths, some are true lies, some are complete fabrications with a core of emotion that i want to embrace. “this is the one that feels like…” and each of those stories leads somewhere Other than here. i twist that feeling into the thread and then weave and knot it into material reality and bring it into the waking world, crafting my reality. 

a grey spindle in my wooden spinning bowl with grey adn green fiber and a small loom behind it.

and just like the spinsters of old, i bring my spindle everywhere with me. i’m never without a project to work on when i have still hands. i’ve been spinning daily, barring illness and RSI healing time, for almost 10 years now. i spin events and thoughts and tiny delights into my threads. when i ball up a skein i see flashes of events and music and feelings that i experienced while i was spinning it, and then i transfer that to whatever i’m using the thread for by layering that project’s own tiny delights and events within it. 

i love colors, the brighter and more vibrant the better but lately i’ve been trying to dye locks for a more muted and neutral yarn to weave a set of divination cloths for my rosebones set. and although i’ve been enjoying the tiny pops of occasional color, as well as the calming nature of the neutrals, i am looking forward to spring when i’ll be able to move on to the red thread of my next project. colors have a story all their own. the dyes i use on the wool i’m spinning create a mood and a setting for many tales and often, i’ll dye first and then choose colors based on the story i’m telling. i’ll wear colors based on the story i currently am living. and i’ll spin colors to match the journeywork i have planned. 

it sometimes seems chaotic and patternless, but the end results are always stunning. mixing up conventional combinations of color and patterns works on my brain to help me see outside of my expectations, keep me from stagnating and it creates tactile memories that remind me of often overlooked moments in my life that i can learn and grow from. change is a constant in my work and i am constantly changing within the boundaries i’ve set. 

there’s a satisfaction in repetitive motions and actions. repetitive tasks create a time-out-of-time where i can curate and sort the stories and experiences i’ve had and form a narrative to work with in my current life. whether it’s spinning or walking or washing dishes, i’ve always enjoyed the process of going thru the steps and doing the tedious work while creating a boundary to be creative in, be that singing or storytelling or color choices or journeying or having a conversation, it’s almost always a good time as long as i keep in mind the dangers and stay within those set boundaries.

red thread on a spindle with a small white ceramic spinning bowl

learning to create my own place within my narrative helped me to become a stronger and more resilient person. someone who has thought out a lot of solutions to strange hypothetical problems while untangling several hundred yards of laceweight yarn, and also learning peaceful conflict resolution with my family thru washing dishes every day. 

the practical is also the fantastical in both waking and dreaming life and it takes a lifetime of practice to master it. i’m still far from that, but i am working towards coming closer to becoming the devotee that my Sisters see in me with every walk, every clean dish, every story and every spindle full of thread.