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Sherri Richards, Published January 09 2011

Out for a spin: Fiber Artists Guild honors tradition

Cheryl Cegla had set aside her spinning during the holidays. “Now it’s time to get something done,” she said, pedaling her spinning wheel while feeding bright-orange wool onto the bobbin.

It’s a custom that dates back to pre-industrial Europe, and one that members of the Northern Prairie Fiber Artists Guild were honoring Saturday at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

The group’s monthly meeting celebrated “Rock Day,” or St. Distaff’s Day, Jan. 7, when women would return to the daily chores of spinning after the 12 days of Christmas. Rock is another name for a spindle or distaff.

“It’s part of the old tradition, and we’re doing old traditions when we spin or dye our yarns,” said Ruth Morton, president of the guild. “We’re honoring our beginnings.”

Most of the guild’s 25 or so members do more than one fiber art, such as knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving or lace-making. “Some or all of us do all of it,” Morton said.

Cegla started spinning in 2008. Her preteen daughter had been reading the “Little House on the Prairie” books and watching the TV series. While at a yarn shop in Perham, Minn., she spotted a spinning wheel and drop spindle and asked if she and her mom could try it. Cegla was hooked, especially after seeing the women of the guild demonstrating at Bonanzaville in West Fargo.

Cegla keeps her wheel set up so she can spin during downtime, like when she has five minutes before work or while waiting for the oven to preheat.

She usually waits to decide what project she’ll make with her thread until she knows how much yardage she’ll get, and what its weight will be.

She already had one skein of the orange Polworth wool, so thought she might make a shrug.

Tina VanHoecke spun midnight blue Merino wool into a fine thread Saturday, planning to make a lace shawl from it. VanHoecke is an assistant manager at Boucle Yarn Studio in downtown Fargo. She teaches classes on spinning, and said she’s seen increasing interest.

She describes it as a relaxing hobby that uses all the senses. The wool is textural, and its colors are visually beautiful. There’s the whirr of the spinning wheel and scent of the lanolin.

“You’re making your own unique yarn that you can use to make your own unique garments,” VanHoecke said.

VanHoecke said she likes Rock Day. “Women would put their handcrafts aside for the holidays,” she said. And while for those woman, spinning was a necessity, “Now’s the time to get back into your crafts and hobbies.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556