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Junior puts a new spin on an old hobby

Editor’s Note: This story was written when Lexi LaMar was a junior. She is now a senior.

The spinning wheel creaked softly as the spun yarn gathered around a spool. Lexi LaMar gently fed the wool through her hands as she moved her feet in tune with the wheel. While treadling the wheel with her feet, she chatted casually, almost as if the spinning wheel was an extension of her that required no effort to operate.

The junior insect biology major from New Castle, Indiana, can be found spinning wool in her room when she’s not in class, clubs, or other activities. The act of spinning, she said, allowed her to extend her circle of friends and deepen her connections with others. One of the ways she does this is by spinning unique gifts.

“I’m showing someone how much I value our friendship,” LaMar said. “Most people can tell that you really care when you give them a homemade gift.”

Lexi LaMar at her spinning wheel Lexi LaMar spins wool to relax and interact with her friends. The junior insect biology major from New Castle, Indiana, often uses the wool to make unique gifts. Photo by Allison Lund.

LaMar grew up raising sheep with her family, so not only are her gifts handmade, they’re also homegrown. LaMar said she loves the entire process — from shearing the sheep, washing and combing the wool, spinning the wool, to eventually crocheting. She once followed that process to make a cardigan sweater.

“It holds a special place in my heart just because I made the whole thing from scratch — from the animal to the product,” LaMar said.

LaMar said that someone can learn to spin wool in one day, but it can take years to perfect the art and be satisfied with one’s work. And she loves that work, so it was an easy decision for her to bring her spinning wheel with her to Purdue, where stress from classes and busy schedules can sometimes seem endless.

“Because I grew up doing it, I wanted to keep on doing it and have it as a nice stress-relieving, calming hobby,” she said.

While LaMar typically devotes time to the hobby for personal enjoyment, she has spun it into an educational opportunity. She takes pride in sharing her love for her hobby with others. LaMar showed her spinning supplies to friends at Purdue. That sparked an interest in several people who are curious to try their hand at the craft. LaMar said.

 

Since then, LaMar has patiently taught numerous friends how to spin wool, and she continues to meet people who jump at the opportunity to try out her spinning wheel. She has even been invited to give a wool spinning demonstration at one of her student organization meetings.

“It just makes me feel nice knowing there are other people who are interested in these things and might even want to give it a try one day,” she said.

In a way, she’s been telling people about wool her whole life. LaMar grew up sharing her passion with visitors to county fairs and wool festivals over the years. She has received a variety of reactions to the idea of spinning wool, but she appreciates having the opportunity to shed light on the art of wool spinning. It’s a broader community that she is a part of and is happy to welcome others into.

“Just talking to different people I meet about it is good to just kind of open people’s minds and show them that these things are still alive and are completely doable,” she said.

LaMar has also weaved a network of wool spinners throughout the state. She says that there are more people who partake in this art than you may think. Finding other people who share her love for the craft strengthens her own appreciation for wool spinning.

“I grew up going to fiber festivals to sell our wool, and so we were around a lot of people a few times a year who [spun],” she said. “So it always seemed like just a normal thing that everyone did.”

LaMar has recently joined a local spinning guild called the Tippewa Spinners that gives her the opportunity to regularly meet with other members to spin and craft with wool. The guild offers beginner classes and gives people the opportunity to try out spinning. LaMar said she sees the club as a chance to do what she is passionate about, although she is one of its younger members.

“We went around the table at my first meeting and everyone said their name and a couple other things, and they said how many years they’d been spinning,” LaMar said. “It was kind of weird that I’d been spinning longer than most of the people there.”

However, LaMar finds it essential to keep wool spinning alive since it has provided her with such great joy.

“It’s just a really good skill to have,” she said. “These days, it seems like a lot of people are living life too fast and too busily, and I think it’s important to get back to your roots and see the benefits of living slowly… You can really lose yourself in spinning”

LaMar plans to use her position as a college student to continue to advocate for the craft and spark an interest in her peers. She recognizes that it can be as simple as showing off her work.

“I would like to start making more things that I can wear, so maybe make myself a sweater or a pair of socks,” LaMar said. “When I wear that in public, if I ever get a compliment on it, I’ll be like ‘Oh, thanks! I spun this yarn,’ and that could start a conversation about it and teach someone something they didn’t know before.”
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Allison Lund is a senior agricultural communication major from Cambridge, Wisconsin

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