Rudy Amman, Spinning with Precision


Rudy is something of a celebrity in Maine and the US spinning world at large.  I’ve read articles he’s written in two of the more recent editions of Spin-Off magazine: Spinning Worsted and Woolen and Choosing your First Wheel…both full of useful information clearly gleaned through years of study.  I admit to being a bit intimidated by the thought of spinning in the same room with him at SPA, let alone talking with him about teaching classes at Fiber College;  But instructor Linda Whiting insisted that all would be fine and with her pushing me ahead, I introduced myself and voila…

Rudy is teaching 3 classes this year…Saturday morning he’ll be teaching “Woolen, Worsted and In Between“, Saturday afternoon he’ll teach “What Fiber to Spin” and Sunday morning he is offering “Breed of Wool Makes a Difference.”  Since some people may know little about him,  we asked Rudy to respond to our interview questions, this is what he had to say:

ammannal1)     Teaching takes courage and experience…and so much extra time.  When you’re not teaching, what else do you like to do?

In addition to spinning, and also teach nalbinding. Nalbinding is an ancient technique of creating a fabric by stitching loops of hide, cloth, or yarn. When I am not teaching, I am often planning future workshops, developing new workshop projects, revising or creating new handouts, and making new samples of techniques and different fibers. This past spring I also started learning how to use a circular sock knitting machine. My machine was made by Harmony Knitters, Inc., Harmony, Maine, in 1982.

When I am not doing something with fibers or yarn, I like to work in our garden and yard, cook, read, or listen to both classical music and jazz. Also, I walk with our yellow lab every day and take him swimming when the bay is not frozen.

2)     We’d like a sense of your expertise and ability to teach the class you’re offering…so tell us how you came to feel confident about leading a group through your particular class.  How long have you been practicing?

ammandropMy first teaching experience was at a summer camp in Vermont where I taught weaving when I was in high school and college. The weaving studio had three 4-harness looms for the older campers, and a half dozen potholder looms for the younger campers. After graduating college, I taught high school mathematics for 20 years. Then for 15 years I was a high school administrator, and one of my responsibilities was observing and evaluating teachers. When I was approaching retirement, I learned how to spin and also learned nalbinding. For about fourteen years I have been teaching both spinning and nalbinding.

3)     If you make a knitting error (substitute your art form here) do you jump right in and frog it (rip it out) your spinning project does not turn out as  you expected, do you abandon it, or do you call it a design feature and keep right on going?  Does the mistake cause you anxiety or do you feel like it’s just one more opportunity to make the project your own?

When I start spinning with a new fiber or technique, I usually first make a sample. If the sample does not turn out as I expected, I try to figure out why or what happened. Why did the yarn turn out as it did? Then, if the yarn I created is not appropriate for the use I intended, I try to determine if there is some other appropriate use for it.


4)     What techniques are in your bag of tricks for motivating a student to struggle through a difficult step…maybe something that’s just a bit out of his/her range…and come out the other side feeling successful?

I have long been aware that each person has a unique learning style, and the challenge to a teacher is to make it possible for each learner to succeed by presenting new information in many different ways. I try to break down the thing to be learned into small steps, gradually leading to accomplishment.
5)     If you could ask your students questions and class time wasn’t an issue, what sort of things would you like to know about the people sitting in front of you?

Where are they from? When and how did they become involved with fiber arts? What fiber arts do they know? What is their favorite fiber? Do they have any fiber animals or pets? What else do they like to do beside spinning or nalbinding?

6)     I am an avid collector of:

. . . many things: handcrafted things of fiber, wood, and ceramics; books about spinning, nalbinding, fiber, and other crafts; cd’s of music.

7)     The best advice I have ever been given:

To learn most things involving muscles and coordination, it takes patience and practice.


8) What is your favorite color? List three qualities of the color. Consider that these qualities apply to your work.

My favorite color is yellow. Although I have classic red-green color blindness, I do see colors. But yellow is the color I can always see.

9)  My formal educational background is _____________.  It took me several years to meld ________ and _________.  My most recent work straddles the line between _____ and ________, and incorporates _________.

In college I was an economics major, with a minor in mathematics and secondary education. In graduate school, I earned additional certification in elementary school education and secondary school administration.

My spinning mentor was Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and I learned nalbinding from Kate Martinson.  Although I do high whorl spindle spinning and teach spindle spinning, I much prefer wheel spinning. If I want to take a portable project with me, I take nalbinding.
10)  What do you like best about what you do?

It is fun! And, teaching is a very rewarding experience.

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