Whorled peace

| 09 Mar 2012 | 11:23

    Asked why she spins, Vicki Botta invokes Gandhi. In perhaps the most iconic photo of the pioneer of civil disobedience, he is seated on a rug in lotus position, reading. In the foreground is a spinning wheel. Gandhi, who carried his spinning utensils in a box, pulled Indians together by getting them to spin their own cotton instead of buying clothes from the British. In the process, he found that the endlessly revolving whorl replenished his soul.

    Vicki gets that feeling of spiritual release pedaling her spinning wheel in her Goshen living room, turning silk, flax, even long dog hair into yarn while her husband watches TV. She gets the feeling when she runs alpaca fleece through the sharp teeth of a comb in her studio upstairs, preparing it for spinning. “There’s something so soothing in washing a fleece,” she says. “It’s the same feeling as hanging washing out on a line. It forces you to do something that gives you time to think – if you want to think. We don’t do mundane tasks today. We pay other people to do them.”

    Before she started making pouches, cowls, coats, sweaters, collars, mittens, double-sided blankets and ponchos, Vicki was hustling to meet deadlines at her graphic design job. Trying and failing to get pregnant for five years had left her depressed.

    Then, staying at a cousin’s cabin in Maine, Vicki saw a little shuttle on the hearth. She climbed up on a loft, and there was the loom, along with every color of yarn under the rainbow. “This is my next thing,” Vicki knew.

    Vicki didn’t realize it yet, but yarn entangles the roots of her family tree. Her great-great-grandmother Antonina, who grew up in Corlione, Italy, passed down a wooden bobbin that Vicki now has in her work room. Vicki’s grandmother worked in the garment industry. Vicki’s mom sewed Vicki’s wedding dress.

    Vicki bought a $125 spinning wheel, quit her job, and joined a spinning group at Museum Village, where she met fascinating women like a falconer who had grown up on a dirt floor hut in Ireland. Over the years she acquired three different kinds of looms and 12 angora bunnies that she raised in a hatch in her backyard for their hair.

    Her first project? Knitting three midnight blue sweaters, one for her, one for her husband, and one for the baby boy with whom she promptly got pregnant after she started spinning.