Spinning entered my life in the early 1960s: a neighbour who had seen me knitting presented me with a fleece. What to do with it? I contacted Miss Aileen Stace, a redoubtable spinner and author of Twists to Treasures, who ran a nearby spinning group, to ask “Do you know someone who could spin this for me, and what would it cost?” Her reply has helped shape my life. “Spinning is not something you buy, it’s something you do. Come to me and I will teach you to spin.” So I did, and she did.
At that time I was a student at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, aiming for a future either as an archaeologist or as a scholar and teacher of ancient Greek. In the end I didn’t have the necessary aptitude for archaeology but I had a lot of fun finding that out.
Now everything else took a back seat while I completed a PhD on Homer’s poems in London. That was a good excuse for some travel in Greece:
During a week in Bergen, Norway, I bought the first wheel I had ever actually owned. Then through happy years of teaching and researching back in Wellington, and enjoying family life with my husband and two daughters, my lovely spinning wheel got limited use. That was to change …
After a while we moved to a small farm, ten hilly acres half an hour out of Wellington. It needed animals to graze it, and the natural choice was coloured sheep. As my academic career wound down, sheep and wool began to take over. Soon I was spinning again, selling fleece, and deeply involved in the Black & Coloured Sheep Breeders’ Association of New Zealand.
With the rise of internet discussion groups (the early listservs) my online name maryinnz brought enquiries from spinners wanting to find out about their New Zealand spinning wheels. Eventually this led to a website and later still to the book. Research like this can never be complete – there is always more to be discovered, and the website still gets updated from time to time. It has brought me wonderful contacts with spinners in many countries.
Our land seemed to get steeper as the years went by, and now we have moved to a little town in the rural Wairarapa. I belong to the Wairarapa Spinners & Weavers Guild; I tinker with spinning wheels; and I still enjoy researching and writing about them. Just plain curious, I guess.