On a warm Friday afternoon in late September, Rowie Budde, a senior at Castleton University, decided to take a near life-long hobby out into the sun.
With a bag of wool and big wooden spinning wheel over her shoulder, Budde set out to spend a few hours spinning her own thread on a shady bench by the Campus Center.
Though most passersby didn’t stop to chat, they couldn’t help but glance at the familiar but uncommon sight of a spinner at work.
This was the first time Budde had brought her hobby out like this on campus, and it was just as fun as she’d hoped.
“It was nice out and I wanted to see what people would do,” she said. “It’s a weird hobby and most people have never seen that before.”
Anyone who knows her, though, is very familiar with what she does.
“She’s been doing a lot of spinning. She got the spinning wheel over the summer and just started using it when I got to campus and I thought that was pretty fun,” said Mary Franks, a senior who’s known Budde since their first year at Castleton.
“She just bought a whole spinning wheel for herself. Only Rowie.”
Spinning, either by wheel or by hand with a spindle, is something Budde has done for a long time. She first learned as a child from her mother, the only other person she knows who does it.
It wasn’t until August of last year that she started up again, but now that she’s invested in a wheel of her own it seems the practice is here to stay.
The wheel itself is surprisingly unobtrusive. Though it appears large and heavy, it’s easy to carry and it tucks away well along with the many stacked boxes of fibers and threads in her room.
Her roommate certainly doesn’t mind.
“It’s really not loud. There’s like a little squeak when she presses the pedal or something but it’s not annoying or anything. I think it’s cool,” said Alyssa Ezell, Budde’s roommate since last year.
Some friends even find it soothing to watch, Budde said.
The hobby is good for a lot more than just relaxing, though.
“It’s generally cheaper than buying it. You can get like a lot of fiber and then make your own yarn for less than you would pay to buy said yarn,” she said.
But it’s not just like saving a few bucks on a ball at the store. A few hours behind a spinning wheel makes a lot more than you’d think.
“I can do a couple hundred yards in one sitting. If I spend a couple hours doing nothing but spinning I can get several hundred yards of yarn out of it.”
Depending on the thickness of thread, that could mean a few hats worth in just a couple hours. This especially comes in handy for her as spinning is just one of a laundry list of fiber based hobbies she works on.
“I’m really into fiber arts. I knit, weave, spin, sew, crochet, braid. I haven’t met a fiber art I don’t like,” she said.
She’s thought about the potential for selling her crafts in the future, but wants to hold off for fear of making subpar work. They understand her concern, but her friends disagree.
“I say she’s really talented, she says she’s dedicated, not talented. But I still think that takes talent,” said Ezell.
Since she doesn’t sell, all this work means a lot of gifts for her friends, which they don’t mind at all.
“She made me gloves, she made me a shawl for my birthday – it was really beautiful and it has different layers of green going into pink and brown and I absolutely love it. And she’s made stuffed animals and it took her like only an hour for each one,” said Franks.
“She’s so talented … Anything she puts her hands on, she makes it beautiful.”