Spinning fibers into yarn is one of the most ancient crafts. In these days of easy access to anything and everything we don't often put a lot of thought to our first ancestors, who developed this craft before the written word. Yesterday as I was spinning, I wandered back in time to try to imagine how the first thread, yarn, rope was spun.
Usually the first image I get is that of someone rolling hairs against a surface and discovering twist. I guess this is because I have a dog, and I perform this motion on a daily basis. I've even make short lengths of yarn for dog owners from their pets fur in this manner, usually at dog parks where I never have a spindle handy. But there are other ways to discover the strength of twist. Have you ever broken off a twig of something like mulberry or maple and had the bast fibers in the bark hang up on you? You start twisting and twisting to break the stem and it just gets stronger and stronger. I even picked a long blade of Johnson grass last weekend as a makeshift leash for Monk when we found ourselves at the 4th of July street dance without a regular leash. That's one tough grass, but it's tougher when twisted. And imagine being the first to pull on a silk cocoon to find that, unlike spider webs, the fibers didn't break. How did that happen? Did one fall from a tree into a cooking vat and start to expand? Stew spoiled, most beautiful fiber in the world discovered.
All this is fascinating in its own right, but what really impressed me was the fact that before twist was discovered, clothing and binding came from the hides of animals (paper too). Imagine how many animals were spared when humans found other sources of food and clothing. This very discovery was the beginning of conscious civilization. No wonder spinning, knitting and other fiber arts bring us back to our core, help us be present, centered, help us feel like we're really accomplishing something tangible.