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Alcott, stories, and stitching conversations

Louisa May Alcott's short story collection, Spinning Wheel Stories, is a great illustration of the way that fiber gives us the space to connect and work through our world views. With albeit slightly dated nineteenth-century morality, Spinning Wheel Stories introduces us to a group of children caught inside because of bad weather. They find a spinning wheel in the attic, and their grandmother teaches them how to use it while telling them a series of stories illustrating various morals. The collection isn't as rich or wonderfully complicated as other works by Alcott, but it does speak to what we know about fiber, identity-formation, and the art of conversation.

How many of us are known as "the knitter" or "the crocheter" or "the spinner" or "the yarn person" among our relatives, coworkers, and group of friends? What kinds of conversations has your fiber interest started?

I often find that if I take my knitting to places where I have to wait--the doctor's office, the auto repair shop, etc.--people will engage in some pretty interesting behaviors. Some will sit and stare at what I'm doing. I often assume those people either really want to know how to knit or crochet or they have never seen someone knit or crochet. Others will just ignore what I'm doing. And still others will take that as an opening to begin a conversation. Those conversations are fairly wide-ranging. Sometimes they want to tell me about someone they know who also knits or crochets or spins or weaves. Sometimes they want to ask me where I learned because they want to know how. Sometimes they are already a stitcher/spinner/weaver, and they want to chat about yarn and pattern choices. Typically, if someone talks to me when I'm working on a project, the conversation will be pretty interesting.

As for my circle of friends... some are crafters. Some have absolutely no idea how to tell the difference between a crochet hook and a knitting needle. Our yarn conversations are also pretty wide ranging. My fellow crafters and I will dive into the weeds and discuss yarn brands, color choices, stitching techniques, designers... you name it, and we'll probably have a conversation about it. My non-craft-inclined friends are funny. One of them allows me to talk about all sorts of things yarn and fiber related even though he doesn't really know about either, but has since picked up quite a bit of the terminology and has even Googled a number of the things I've talked about. Another let's me talk but still really has no idea about the world of yarn but is wonderfully supportive whenever I send him something handmade, although I'm still a little sore about the time I made him a pair of socks and his first question was whether or not he could throw them in the washer.

Regardless, the little discourse communities that we create for ourselves can be wonderfully enriching and allow us to explore the numerous aspects of our crafts from a variety of perspectives.

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