It takes one hour to spin one ounce of wool, six days to spin one fleece, or enough yarn for one sweater.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Storytellers spin yarns of adventure and suspense. Kay Thomas spins yarns for sweaters.
And hats. And mittens. Purses, scarfs and shawls.
She's been spinning ever since she met a couple of old mountaineer women in West Virginia who taught her the art 40 years ago.
"I already had a spinning wheel. I collect antiques," she said.
Thomas has been demonstrating her technique at the Canfield Fair for 33 years.
"I came out to get wool one year and they asked me to come out and show how it's done," the Monaca, Pa., resident said.
During the fair, Thomas and her reproduction spinning wheel set up under a shade tree in front of the sheep barn and spin eight hours a day. "It's very, very relaxing," she said. The lanolin in the wool keeps her hands soft, too.
Her 14-year-old great-granddaughter helps her spin one day out of the six-day run of the fair.
"I taught her to spin when she was 8," Thomas noted. "My grandsons used to spin, too, but they're grown now and are interested in other things. But I have another [great-grandchild] who I think might be interested."
After she buys the fleece, Thomas washes the wool and fills a basket that will sit on the floor next to her chair while she spins. She grabs a small handful and carefully combs out the short fibers and any remaining dirt.
Then she skillfully pulls the fibers over the strand she is spinning, allowing them to flow together invisibly, stretching them out so the yarn won't be too heavy.
It takes one hour to spin one ounce, she reported; Working eight hours a day the duration of the fair, Thomas will spin one fleece, enough yarn for one sweater.
After the yarn is spun, Thomas washes it one more time.
"I like working with natural colors," she said, so after it dries, it's ready to be knitted or woven into clothing or a blanket.
If Thomas wanted another color, she'd dye it after the second washing.
Although she sells items she makes, Thomas uses store-bought yarns for those.
"Handspuns have a lot more character than what you get in the store, and it's hard to find wool yarn," she said. "So I keep those for myself."
Thomas demonstrates spinning at county fairs and Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Pa.
She'll be at the sheep barn at the southern end of the fairgrounds through Labor Day.