Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spinsters spinning

I am working on this month's Spinster in the Kitchen recipe.  In fact right now my oven is preheating and very shortly the final step of the recipe will be complete and I will be putting my taste buds to work making sure that the recipe is ready to share.  However, in the meantime, I wanted to share an experience I recently had regarding the word spinster.

A few days ago I when I was out and about town I ran into some friends and we fell into a conversation about writing.  Mostly we chatted about maintaining a regular writing practice.  I mentioned that writing this blog had done wonders for my writing discipline as I had made a commitment to myself to post at least twice a week.   Shortly after this a woman approached us and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but did you say Spinster Jane?  Are you Spinster Jane? I read your blog.”

Now I do get approached by friends and acquaintances who share their opinions of Spinster Jane and I also of course have a fairly steady online readership that will on occasion share their thoughts as well, but this was the first time that a complete stranger had approached me about the blog in person.  This was a very exciting occurrence on its own, but it was the conversation that followed that was the real treat.

This woman shared her story with me of being single after a relationship of three decades and how it took her sometime to adjust to being alone but that she eventually realized that she was quite happy living her life this way.   We then began discussing the word spinster and its history.  I of course talked about how spinning came to be a way for women to keep themselves independent at a time when they had few options for income, and that I was seeking to reclaim the word in the in spirit of those women but then she put a new twist on things.

She said to me that one of the things she loved about the word spinster was the image it evoked of weaving and spinning one’s own life.   I know, this should be obvious right?  Spinsters spin, the metaphor really isn’t that much of a stretch.  Well for whatever reason I’d never thought of it this way and though our conversation ended shortly thereafter, the image of spinning has not left my mind and in fact it has grown and expanded.

I imagine our life experiences as the raw wool, full of brambles, sticks, leaves, mud and whatever other bits of flotsam might be collected in the sheep’s wandering through life.  At first it is dirty and unrefined but we bring it home to be washed and carded until it is fluffy and clean, ready to be spun.   Our hands take up the wool and begin the process of spinning.  The wheel turns over and over and our fingers keep up a steady feed of wool until in the end we are left something completely new; something that will eventually be further transformed yet again into a garment or fabric.

Life presents each of us with numerous gifts and challenges; many of these events are beyond our control, but how we respond to these experiences, the lessons we take away from them and how we are shaped by them, is up to each of us. It is a wonderful image to think of myself spinning the yarn of my life out of the raw wool of my own experience.   I  have been through the process of cleaning and carding many times and each time, when I sit ready to spin, I am the one who will decide how thick or light to make the yarn, what color to dye the wool and what I would like to weave out of it after it is complete. 

I really would like to thank this woman, this fellow spinster, for sharing this idea with me.  In the excitement of the conversation I forgot to ask her name.  I do hope to run into her again but incase I don’t…

Thank you for wandering by and saying hello and for sharing your spinning image with me.  I do hope your life yields a fine, strong and colorful yarn!  


  1. Hi Jane,
    I love this post! I responded to your comment on my blog (Thanks for reading!), and then I popped back over here and wanted to comment again on this post because it is really wonderful.

    Keep up the great writing! I'm really enjoying it.

    P.S. Are you in Maine? I'm in MA--but in Maine frequently.

  2. Lisa,
    Thank you for the comment. Yes, I do actually live in Maine. Love this beautiful state :-)


  3. Hi Jane,
    Me too! I actually recently plunked down my life's savings on what I thought was a fixer-upper in Waldoboro. Unfortunately, it turns out that it is a tear-down due to extensive rot. Ah, dreams postponed. Anyway, I love Maine, so someday, the house will be rebuilt, which will give me lots to write about.

    All the best!

  4. you're SUCH a star!!! I'm so pleased to have been one of those friends you were out and about town with when your blog was recognized... xoxox