Post by Evan Turk
“Do you spin carefully at least 160 rounds daily?
Is the yarn even? Do you yourself fix the spinning wheel?
Do you keep a daily account?
If you keep this one promise, you will learn a lot.”
—From Bapu (Gandhi) to Arun, Grandfather Gandhi
A lump of tangled cotton fibers might not look like much, but it has the potential to be spun and transformed into a thread, which can be connected and woven with other threads to create something beautiful and useful.
From the first pages of the book, you see cotton in its raw form, as a fine yarn, and woven into useful fabric in the clothes of the family. This transformation mirrors Arun’s own transformation, from an unruly, wild ball of anger, towards the spun, intentional, directed thread towards positive change at the end.
Early on in the illustrations, I had a very romantic notion that I was going to spin all of the yarn by hand, it was going to teach me self-discipline like it did for Arun in the story. I wanted it to be this very meditative process that would happen as I was doing the book. So I bought a charkha (Indian spinning wheel) and a box of cotton shipped from India and I planned to sit down every day I worked on the book and try and spin some thread for an hour or so. I did that for a couple of months, trying a few days a week to spin anything at all. But it was very difficult, a lot harder than I was expecting, and after two months I had made maybe two inches of lumpy thread.
As the deadline drew near, I began to think about other options. While looking online for somewhere that I could buy charkha-spun yarn, I found Eileen Hallman’s website. She had how-to videos, which I probably should have had months ago, but I called her and asked if I could buy some yarn spun on a charkha. She didn’t sell charkha-spun yarn, but graciously offered to spin it for me. It turns out she was able to do in five minutes what I had been trying weeks to do, so I was thrilled. She spun all of the white yarn that I used in the illustrations. So although my own experience with spinning was more of an exercise in frustration and the generosity of others, in the story it is an illustration of a beautiful transformation and creation of something out of nothing.