Posts tagged ‘history’

Yesterday I did a spinning demo at the Swedish Christmas Festival in San Francisco. A couple of days ago a friend sent me an email about it, at the last minute the organizers contacted her about getting a couple of spinners to demonstrate traditional crafts. (When we got there, we found a weaver, knitter and wood carver as well.) I didn’t want to go by myself, but at least one other person was going to be there. I didn’t have anything particularly urgent yesterday, so I went.

It was a little amusing, here we were two people who were neither Swedes nor all that big on Christmas sitting down for a day at a holiday festival. It started off ominously when the display of toys behind us started playing sickly-sweet Christmas tunes. But they fed us sticky buns and smoked salmon sandwiches and we had a great time. As a culture, the Swedes kept many textile traditions alive when all across Europe people were abandoning them as fast as possible. Of the group who normally comes out for demos, we were probably two of the most appropriate as we both are traditional spinners and weavers and know a good bit about Scandinavian textile history.

My friend brought his antique wheel that he describes as having “come across the country the first time in a wagon and the second time in a UPS truck.” He bought it off eBay from a family in Minnesota that has records going back to its manufacture in 1797 in what is now Norway. Dozens of people stopped by to say their mother or grandmother had one just like it. A very frail elderly woman told us how, as a girl of ten, she and her sisters spun in a demonstration for the King of Sweden. Seeing us clearly brought back a rush of memories and was one of the highlights of the day. Even me, there with my very Italian name on my little paper nametag, had someone stop by and say he was also a Longo. His family had come from Sicily to Argentina and now he was in the Bay Area. We are probably related somehow.

There were of course a lot of blonde heads wandering around, but this being San Francisco not as many as you might expect. A couple came by to chat with us, a tall burly man clearly of Scandinavian origin (in his amazing wool coat and 18th century style buckled shoes) and his Japanese wife. I can’t imagine what he must have went through living in Japan, but they spent many years near her family home as well as the United States. A college student doing a paper for her folklore class talked to us about the history of handspinning, both ancient and modern. Most everyone that stopped by knew that we were spinning, as we talked about what we were doing and kept watch on tiny hands intent in exploring every little moving part.

I had no idea what to expect when we showed up, but I think we will be back again next year.

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