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Spinning complements knitting craze

Kathy Belt uses her thumbs to maneuver nylon threads into a single strand of yarn. The process is called drafting. She's working on a drop spindle. She teaches spinning classes each second Thursday of the month at Monika's in downtown Park Rapids from 3 to 5 p.m. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

As the nationwide craze for knitting shows no sign of cooling off, many knitters are now exploring the art of spinning their own yarns to enhance their creations.

But if you don't have an antique spinning wheel or your name isn't Cinderella, (who used a saxony wheel in her dusky attic) a drop spindle might just suffice.

On the second Thursday of every month, fiber artist Kathy Belt teaches the art of hand spinning at Monika's in downtown Park Rapids.

It's an art form that's been around for 8,000 years, she said. Spinning wheels have been around a mere 500 years.

Drop spindles come in all shapes and sizes and you can even make one out of a CD, Belt said.

They essentially enable the spinner to twist many strands of thread together to make a "more unified structure," Belt said.

She likes the portability of a drop spindle. So did centuries of women.

"As you'd walk to markets, you'd be spinning," Belt said, early multi-tasking.

While most people are familiar with typical cotton, wool or nylon threads, Belt said she has used dryer lint, animal hair, milk thistle, and cottonwood tree fluff. "Flax, hemp and stinging nettles become linen," she said.

Some spinners are making art yarns, incorporating beads or feathers in with the threads, she said.

A technique called drafting uses your thumb to separate threads from a ball or clump into a triangle. The elongated threads then are fed into the spindle, which rotates, twirling the thread onto the spindle.

The drafting triangle's size determines how thick your yarn will be, she said, moving her thumb to make thinner lines of wool onto the spindle.

She expertly winds clumps of alpaca or wool.

"I can spin 80 yards every half hour on a drop spindle," she said. "With a spinning wheel, I can turn out 100 yards in that same half hour."

So for her, a spinning wheel only marginally increases her output.

She can vary the thread width from very fine to clumpy, the type that would make a bulky sweater.

Belt teaches spinning lessons from 3 to 5 p.m. on the second Thursday each month.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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