Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Spin me a tale

Local artist spins yarn and passes along her skills at Rainy Day Studios


Lois Johnson

Tini spins yarn with her new high speed spinning wheel.

Tah'tini Ho'okan, otherwise known as Tini, is finding advantages to being in new quarters at 308 Elm Avenue (former Star Gazette office) since she moved Rainy Day Studios last June.

"I have more foot traffic," she said. "The classes seem to be drawing more attention right now. And I can have a sign on the front of the building."

Tini teaches people how to spin yarn and to knit. A circle of chairs with extra padding in the front room of her new studio are filled with people on days when she has classes.

"We just sit and jabber," she said. "Each one is working on her or his own thing."

There are also disadvantages to the small space.

"I used to have 1,800 square feet in the house where I had my studios on north Arrowhead Lane," she said. "We still own the house but we have a renter in there now."

Tini does a variety of projects: spinning, knitting, sewing and beadwork. However, room is limited in the small space that she has now.

"It's difficult to divide what I do into cubbyholes," she said. "It becomes a challenge. I've been in it long enough so that I need to know where it is."

She said that she stores a lot of her work at home and has it organized so she can find it quickly when she needs it.

A new spinning wheel occupies a dominant place in front of her chair at the studio.

"I just got the Lendrum, a Canadian-made spinning wheel," she said. "It is a high-speed projection wheel and comes with interchangeable heads. I can use it to produce the very, very fine yarn that I make. There are more twists per treadle."

A goal that Tini has spoken about in the past is making a shawl that is so fine and light that it can be passed through a wedding ring.

"I am almost there," she said. "But, first, I have two other projects. One is a Scottish everyday shawl that I want to knit. I just finished that yarn. It is ready to put on the needle. The other project is a collaborative project with a dancer gal and a gentleman musician. That will be a performance piece. I haven't started to spin that yarn yet."

Samples of that project are on display in the window of the studio.

"I've gotten quite a bit of response so far," Tini said. "Stay tuned to see how that comes along."

The Wedding Ring Shawl is next on her list of projects after those two are done.

"I will need two or three ounces of yarn to make the shawl," she said. "The yarn has to be very, very fine and have certain characteristics."

Tini spoke about the fiber from different animals that is used in spinning yarn. Other than wool from sheep, there is fiber from alpaca, goats, camels and even possum, to name a few.

"In New Zealand, they have a lot of possum and mix the fiber from them with wool to get stability," Tini explained. "My mother visited New Zealand and brought back fiber made of possum and wool. New Zealand wool is fine wool known for its high quality. That forces me to be a little more neat. I get a lot of comments that shawls that I make from it look cozy."

Even though Tini has been spinning yarn and creating garments for most of her life, she hasn't considered herself an artist until recently.

"I always use a pattern when I make something but I don't always follow it," she said. "A pattern is just a suggestion. A year ago in January, I knitted a cover for a whole chair and entered it in a show in Brainerd as a work of art. I knitted night and day for 21 days and got it done. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Seeing that chair in an art setting, it showed me that what I do is not just knitting up something from a pattern, it actually is art. Now I have given myself permission to call myself an artist."

Tini encourages boys and men to learn how to knit and spoke of the history of knitting.

"This is not a girls thing," she said. "Everyone is welcome. Come and give it a try."

"Back in both World War I and II, both men and women knitted," she explained. "There was no money to go and buy hats and scarves and mitts and socks. You had to knit them. During the war, there was a big need for warm socks. Those would be knitted and sent to the troops. Children were taught to knit squares in school and those would be sewn into a blanket for the soldiers. It was a patriotic thing to knit. Babe Ruth could knit. He was taught at a young age."

Tini explained that men are most interested in the technical challenge of knitting patterns.

"Men don't tend to be so shy about mathematics and planning," she said. "Those are things that might appeal to a more masculine mind."

Knitting requires a minimal investment in equipment and supplies, said Tini.

"All one needs is two sticks and a piece of string," she said.

She also spoke of a teacher she had read about in a story on the Internet who has her students knit during classes.

"Apparently, people who knit when engaged in discussion retain it better," she said. "Kids that are restless stop fidgeting and concentrate better and retain it better. The principal saw the kids knitting and saw a class that was paying attention. The teacher is trying to get this information out to other schools."

Tini invites people to stop in and chat.

"The door is open," she said. "Come on in and be welcome. We can jabber."

Rainy Day Studios is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 5 p.m. Call Tini at 218-565-2518 for more information.


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