"i spin as often as i can"

Sheep often populate the meadows and alpine pastures in the Tennengau. They wear white, gray, brownish or white and black woolen “coats”. Maria Kronreif from Abtenau, who is over 80 years old, spins fine wool from the warming fleece of the four-legged friends. From it Lammertal women knit hoods, socks and mittens.

"i spin as often as i can"
Maria spins at the HayArt Festival in Abtenau

Maria is a “spinner” straight out of a picture book. She has been doing her hair in a “Gretl hairstyle” since she was a teenager. To do this, she braids her long hair into two braids and wraps them around her head like a crown – according to ancient tradition. When the spinning wheel whirrs, a calm and pleasant atmosphere spreads through the room. As soon as temperatures allow, she sits on the house bench, spinning and enjoying the sun. She also enjoys demonstrating this ancient craft at custom events.

"i spin as often as i can"
Wiesbach farmer Maria Kronreif on the spinning wheel

I was allowed to watch the Wiesbach farmer as she makes fine yarn from fleece with nimble hands. While she evenly treads the pedal of the spinning wheel with one foot and the wheel whirs, she pulls the fibers of the sheep’s wool apart evenly with the thumb and forefinger of her right hand. Maria twists or twirls them on already warped fibers. This is how the thread is created. A pile of thread forms on the bobbin over time. The bobbin is filled evenly by transferring the thread to hooks on the spinning wing. When the bobbin is full, it winds the spun thread from the bobbin onto a ball. “The art of spinning is to treadle evenly, pulling the fibers of the wool apart to create an even thread,” Maria explains. This requires a lot of practice.

"i spin as often as i can"
Bobbin with wool
"i spin as often as i can"
Two different colors on the coils

Next to the spinning wheel is a basket full of fine, soft raw wool. It is white or light beige. From both wool colors she spins fine threads. Then they are twisted together with the help of the spinning wheel. Mottled wool is created. When asked if she can also spin straw into gold, she laughs and tells us. “I used to herd cows when I was a kid, and I used to read fairy tales. The cows often escaped over the property line and I didn’t notice.” Unfortunately, she could not spin straw into gold.

As a 15-year-old, Maria learned to spin from her mother. The spinning wheel, which will soon be 60 years old, was given to her as a gift when she was a young farmer’s wife. Since then, the mother of six has been spinning as often as she has time. “Spinning is a quiet activity and maintains my dexterity,” says the Tennengauer.

"i spin as often as i can"
Wool and fleece

Farmers from the Lammer Valley bring her the raw wool. After shearing the sheep, it is washed in cold water with curd soap until the water is completely clean and no residue can be found. Then the cleaned and dried wool is combed with a special machine until it is uniform and soft. Maria then spins the raw wool into fine yarn. Friends peasant women knit socks, hoods and mittens (gloves) from the white, beige, brown and black yarn. These are sold at Bauernherbst festivals and before Christmas in Abtenau and Russbach. The net proceeds will be donated by the Tennengauer to her sister Klara. As a missionary sister, she looks after street children in Bolivia.

Anyone who is interested in spinning or would like to buy knitted items made from homespun sheep’s wool can contact Maria at 0664 787 2507.

"i spin as often as i can"
Socks, gloves and hoods can be purchased from Maria.

Picture credits: Christine Fröschl

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