One of the Grandfathers of modern handspinning has passed on. Alden Amos passed away on November 28 but his family only recently made that news public. And Alden did have a public. His full length obituary was published digitally on Dec 18th and ran on page A25 of the December 21, 2015 (today) print edition of The New York Times. Alden was a maker of spinning wheels and he was probably the best in the world. Why The New York Times ran with a picture of him working on an Ashford wheel, instead of one of his own, is beyond me.
If you dabble in handspinning you may have heard of him. Alden Amos’ handmade spinning wheels are very coveted. He built them in his shop and each was customized for the size, physical make up, and spinning preferences of the customer. The waiting list for one of his wheels was 5 years. People paid $2000 or more for them. And he made over 600 in his lifetime.
(I’m just speculating here but I think his family may have delayed the announcement of his passing because they had to contact up to five years of future customers, tell them first, and resolve outstanding financial arrangements. So if you happen to actually own an Alden wheel, treat it like gold. There won’t be any more.)
Most of us will never get our hands on one of his wheels. But, we can get his book. The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning is on my shelf. If your interested in developing your spinning skills it should probably be on your shelf too. Don’t let Alden’s suspenders and his Farmer Joe fashion sense fool you. The man was brilliant and he wrote a textbook for spinners. Its a full course of study. I’ve read it several times, in sections, and I still haven’t absorbed it all. As you might expect from a wheel maker, Alden was a technical spinner. He spun for results and measured progress and performance very precisely.
He also wrote Spinning Wheel Primer. Its more about how wheels work than how to use them. If your interested in repairing old wheels or even building your own, this might be the book for you. I don’t own a copy myself as I have absolutely no interest in that sort of thing, but I’m sure its a very good resource for aspiring wheel makers.
But he was more than a man who could build spinning wheels and explain the physics of handspinning. He was also a veteran, a father, and probably a lot of fun to hang out with. Here is a short interview he did with Interweave back in 2009.
If you didn’t bother to watch it I’ll give you the best (in my opinion) highlights:
- Don’t spin under fluorescent lights. The flicker of the lights and the flicker of the moving yarn can cause absence seizures, aka petit mal seizures.
- Drink beer. “Beer is good for spinners.” Why? “Because it makes them take frequent breaks.”
Bye Alden. God speed you to your reward. We will miss you.