A Tight-Knit Community

Spinning fiber into yarn by feeding it steadily by hand into a spinning wheel or spindle was a main focus at the Newport Spin In on Saturday. (Photos by Stephanie Blair)

Spin In draws a crowd

NEWPORT — Over 220 people checked in at the front of the Newport Intermediate School cafeteria on Saturday, all for one reason: spinning yarn.

Each year the Yaquina Fiber Arts Guild hosts the Newport Spin In, where vendors cart raw fiber, spun yarn, spinning wheels and spindles as well as other knitting, sewing and felting accoutrements. This year, 20 vendors lined the walls of the event while shoppers and spinners sat in small circles in the center of the room. The size of the Spin In has grown drastically from its first year, nearly three decades ago.

Organizer Linda Hannah first became involved when she began spinning, herself, 25 years ago. She remembers, “When we first started we had maybe 30, 40 people and … one vendor (from Coos Bay).”

Hannah explained that the reason so many people gathered to spin on Saturday was the same reason they have been since the dawn of ropes and cloths — it’s practical and it brings people together.

“Every culture has spinning and fiber in it — no matter how they do it, however they’re weaving, however they’re spinning,” said Hannah. “It crosses cultures and all times, for thousands of years. As long as people have been living together in groups.”

Barbara Ballas, a fellow guild member and event organizer, evoked images of the Egyptians and Greeks.

“All the togas, the Viking sails — those were all handspun,” she said. “It would take years and years to make a sail.”

That sense of community in the Spin In hasn’t been lost by the change in size. Rather than one huge circle, participants sat in circles of no more than 14 chairs to spin and chat throughout the day. A mix of ages, races and experience levels could be found throughout the room. In addition, another community aspect that has remained the same is the money that’s made — or rather, where it goes.

Rather than paying for their spot at the Spin In, vendors donate items for drawings which are held throughout the event.

“The vendors make money, and there’s certainly money made,” said Hannah, “but it’s more about everybody having a good time, the community.”

As a not-for-profit group, the guild has no need for the money raised, Hannah said. Instead, they chose an organization, which is almost always local, and donate the funds. This year, the Spin In supported the arts programs at Newport Intermediate School and the summer reading program at the Toledo Public Library — where the Spin In and regular guild meetings are held, respectively.

The guild members can also feel good about bringing people, and business, to Newport from around the state and beyond.

“Even when the weather’s really, really bad — people come anyway,” said Hannah. “Because it’s like, ‘well, it’s something to do in the winter.’ And they come and they stay in Newport, they eat in Newport, they spend their money in Newport.”

The Spin In is the guild’s main event of the year, but the group meets regularly to share projects, visit and learn about various methods of spinning, weaving, sewing, knitting, felting and fiber sculpting.

“We’re always about learning about ‘well, how did they do that? How does this country do that?’” said Hannah. “(Guild meetings are) a lot of talking, a lot of visiting, eventually some spinning.”

Yaquina Fiber Arts Guild meetings are held on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Toledo Public Library. No membership is required to attend and all skill levels are welcome — from absolute beginners to weathered fiber workers. More information can be found at the group’s Facebook page: Yaquina Fiber Arts Guild.

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