Finding the right kind of yarn for a project can be a difficult task; a fiber artist has to think about the right color, density, and texture of the yarn. Betty Barry thinks beyond those surface details when picking out her yarn and considers important details down to which breed of sheep to use for particular projects. She owns Little Shop of Spinning in Fort Wayne and actually spins the raw fiber that is used to make yarn for projects.
She begins by washing the raw locks to remove lanolin, vegetable matter and dirt. The locks are dried and then carded or combed to prepare for spinning. When that part of the process is complete, she starts spinning from a mass of raw fiber that looks like fine, interwoven hair. Once the unspun fiber is attached, she pumps a treadle with her foot to make the wheel turn and the flyer spin while strands of raw fiber pull from the mass and twists the yarn as it winds onto the bobbin. After it is spun, she can take two or more strands to create a balanced, stronger plied yarn. When she is not spinning, she spends her time dyeing yarn with dyes made from natural elements, such as flowers, leaves, bark, insects and roots. She sells spinning wheels, fiber and natural dyed yarn and teaches beginning spinning.
Her interest in yarn sparked at age nine while being taught how to knit by her grandmother. She discovered spinning later while walking around Johnny Appleseed Festival and finding people using a walking wheel. She learned that people in the past would walk miles on their walking wheel just to spin fiber. Her interest began to grow as she learned more about the importance of spinning in history. She finds herself having a romantic view of past generations only having the tool of spinning to make their yarn. For example, she often thinks about how the sails on Vikings ships were made, knowing that they certainly would have been made with a spindle. She also commented on the “herstory” of spinning since it was a huge part of what women did to take care of their families. She admitted that now yarn is highly in demand and mass produced with large machines, but she likes to consider times when spinning was a necessity. Today, it is a choice.
Little Shop of Spinning is a quaint shop located on the first floor of Three Rivers Luxury Apartments. Barry teaches introductory spinning classes, which is a great way for people of Fort Wayne to explore spinning as a hobby. She charges $45 for a total of three sessions, which she says is usually enough time for people to decide if they want to pursue spinning even further.
For more information, visit Barry’s website at littleshopofspinning.com.
Don't forget to check out the Pique store to get our most recent issue!