Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Day at the Chandler Multicultural Festival

I didn't take my camera, so I have a rare pictureless post tonight. I just thought I'd sit here for a few minutes and share my day.

Once a year, my town of Chandler hosts a multicultural festival. It always feels like a breath of fresh air. For one day, people come together to celebrate diversity and culture with food, music, dancing, art and education. Why oh why can't events like this be headline news?

I had my husband drop me off. I headed down the sidewalk with a blanket roll slung over one shoulder along with my messenger style purse. The other shoulder supported my tote bag full of yarn and samples of my craft. My hands were busy carrying a big African basket with display materials, a handful of drop spindles, roving and other goodies. As I walked into the center of downtown, I passed a grandstand where a new group of American citizens were being sworn in. There were big smiles in the crowd and plenty of cameras too. The pride on their faces was almost palpable. I walked on to have my senses livened by tasty aromas. I knew the food tents were near. I kept on until my own little culture came into view. Finally, the spinning wheels of my fellow TelaraƱa Guild members greeted me. The sun shone on this sweet little group of casually dressed women, expertly feeding roving to hungry wheels while chatting in happy tones. I felt a flush of warmth as I joined them, my people.

I rolled out my striped blanket and sat cross legged in the middle of it like the happy bohemian I am. On one side, I set out a display of my oversized tatted necklaces and bracelets. On the other, I allowed a large cloud of Blue Faced Leicester to billow out of a hat box surrounded by drop spindles. I like teaching, so I sort of come to these events prepared to interact with anyone who looks interested. I especially like working with kids. Every so often you see that sparkle, and you know you've got a real creative mind in front of you. It's exciting to think that you may be witnessing the beginning of a lifelong passion.

Anyone reading my blog post is probably already a fiber enthusiast, but if you're not, you may be surprised to learn that spinning, even with a simple drop spindle, can be a real crowd pleaser. I would even go as far as to say that people experience the "wow factor" the first time they witness wool becoming yarn. It's always the moment that tickles me the most as a teacher. I'll be instructing a young girl as her parents look on. She'll be holding the wool in an anxious pinch with one hand as she spins the spindle for the first time with the other. I like to keep my beginners in the moment so I'll say, "Can you see the twist getting tighter and tighter as you spin? Can you feel it starting to put pressure against your pinch?" Their focus will shift from their hands to the fiber. Their eyes will get a little wider as the see the twist for themselves. Then I'll have them park the spindle and slowly pull back on their pinch. "Watch the twist travel up the wool." I'll say. My student's eyes will get even larger and they'll suck in a breath as they see the twist climb up towards their fingers. One of the parents will usually exclaim, "Well, will you look at that? That's something!" I'll smile at my delighted young student and inform her, "You just made your first piece of yarn!"

Before my students leave me, I always unwrap the yarn they spun and give it to them as a keepsake along with a little roving. Spinning is all about the connection you feel with the wool and I want them to take that connection away with them. I know that with this souvenir in hand, they will be much more likely to seek it out again in the future. After all, the only way to keep your culture alive is to pass it on to the next generation.

There are always a couple students that stand out in my mind at the end of the day. They are the ones that I know will spin again. There was one woman, Alyssa, who was about my age. As she spun yarn for the first time, she became so excited. "I have to do this!" She told me more than once. I just giggled and nodded. I know exactly how she feels!

No comments: