Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm still spinning grey, but not very quickly. Knitting has kind of pushed it out of the way. Having finally noticed this, I'm trying to fit it back into the puzzle. Life will be easier when this class is over.
Why, just think of it. Since I'm taking an online class, I probably won't have a final. So I'll get finals week off. And then there's always a week between classes... I'll get two whole weeks to myself before the next class starts.
Do I sound a little crabby? Sorry.

Cassie started a topic and Abby kept it going - probably other people I've not yet noticed have had a say. Should everyone learn how to spin? Yes. Will everyone learn to spin? Probably not until something forces them to. I'm not foolish enough to believe that we can go on forever the way we are - when the Apocalypse comes, we're going to be up a creek and not only with no paddle, but without any way to make a paddle and perhaps without the concept that a paddle is possible.

Someone (one of the SOAR posters, but I forget whom - sorry) quoted the saying "when an elder dies, a library burns down", or something to that effect. It's not that the data is lost forever - what humans devised once, they can do again. The question is, how long will it take to get back to that point? If textiles have been being made for 20,000 years or thereabouts, we've had a ton of humans working directly on the problems of how to do it and what works best. How many people are working on handmade textile problems right now? Far fewer than the sum total of 20,000 years worth. If ALL of us were working on these problems, no problem. At the moment, we don't have enough people working on the problems to maintain the knowledge already gained, much less make widespead innovations.

There are people who make innovations now, don't get me wrong. And they go to places like fiber fests and SOAR and private classes, and guild sponsored classes, and they teach. Hopefully they teach people who go back to their homes and teach others, preserving the knowledge gained. But how much of this innovation is recreation of knowledge previously known and previously lost?

I took a lace knitting class with Margaret Stove some years ago (wonderful teacher!). Towards the end of the two day class, when we were in more chatty than teaching mode, she made a comment to the effect that "everyone always wanted her to keep teaching the same class, over and over" - she was ready to move on to something else. I think it's a symptom of the fact that we don't have enough teachers, enough people who truly understand how the techniques are done. People who don't have access to teachers have to learn the basics through experimentation. Wasting, so to speak, their creative and innovative talents on techniques that are, or were, already known to the whole of humankind, but which are lost at the local level.

One thing that the internet has proven, is that there are spinners almost everywhere. Many of them in isolation, many the only person they know in person who knows how to spin, or who cares to. The internet has been a boon in allowing them to connect, feel part of a group. I am fortunate enough to live in an area where we have a "huge" spinning guild - 120 people (out of 1.5 million in the greater suburban area). If you say that not everyone who spins belongs to the guild and assume only a quarter of them do, why we're up to almost 500 people! But come the apocalypse that lurks, how many of those presumed 500 will be around to help whoever's left?

Demographically, we fall into an age group that will be hit hard if civilization as we know it collapses. I certainly won't be around - better living through modern chemistry is the only thing that keeps me alive. In most places in the world and almost all parts of past time, I would be long since dead. (I was accused once of being morbid when I pointed this out, but I don't think so - simply grateful that I live in the time and place I do. At almost 50, I've long since passed the life expectancy of many times and places, aside from the illnesses that would almost certainly have put me on the wrong side of the 50% mortality rate for children under 2.)

So, yes, 'everyone' should be taught to spin. My post is certainly from a 'first world centric' position, but the fact of the matter is, cultures that have maintained their traditional arts of all kinds through lack of access to 'modern techniques' are abandoning them with the same glee that our ancestors did when new techniques removed the necessity for assuming that everyone would spin. Each person who knows how to spin or knit or weave is one more tiny candle lit against the dark.

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