Members of the Waterville Wednesday Spinners group work their magic Wednesday at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. In the foreground is Roberta Bailey, and then from left is Rachel Marsh-Sachs, Gigi Diemer, Peggy Horner, Edda Briggs, Ellen Paul, Kathy Brownell and Linda Tully. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

The women sat in a circle with their spinning wheels, transforming big fluffy clouds of wool into yarn.

Some were knitting afghans or hats; all were engaged in lively conversation.

I happened on the Waterville Wednesday Spinners group as I strolled this week through the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville.

The women were telling stories, laughing and socializing as their fingers deftly worked the wool.

“It’s incredibly calming and grounding in a time when we all need that,” Roberta Bailey said.

Bailey treadled two wooden platforms in her stocking feet, prompting the wheel to spin.


“We started this group in July,” she said. “It’s a new group. It came out of a Selah Tea (Cafe) knitting group that meets on Fridays. We had an interest in starting up a spinning group and inquired about using this space, and Serena was thrilled to have us come.”

Bailey, 66, of Vassalboro, was talking about Serena Sanborn, manager of outreach and community partnerships for Waterville Creates, based at the Schupf Center. Sanborn was floating about, greeting the women and admiring their work.

“This is a space for anyone to come hang out anytime,” Sanborn said of The Hub, the center’s large lobby whose wall of glass overlooks Castonguay Square. “The purpose of this space is for people to use it in any way they want. It’s a public space. We’ve had school field trips come in and the kids got to watch people with spinning wheels and they had never seen one before.”

Bailey said anyone may join the spinning group, free of charge. The group, which meets from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, has a Facebook page, Waterville Wednesday Spinners, which is private but people may ask to join. Members hail from Augusta, Norridgewock, Sidney, South China, Unity, Vassalboro and Waterville.

Bailey said that you don’t have to be a spinner to join.

“Quite a few women here are weavers and do a number of other fiber arts as well. Fiber art includes knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, felt making — anything with fabric — quilting, sewing.”


Bailey spun a blend of gray and brown wool, mohair and alpaca into yarn on two bobbins and then spun the strands together, a process she called “plying.”

“You spin it in the opposite direction,” she said. “Each strand is called a ‘ply.’ ”

Bailey has been knitting sweaters all her life for family members, and was wearing a green scarf she had made from handspun silk and yak’s wool.

“When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I had a handspun yarn business and a flock of sheep,” she said.

She worked many years after that at Fedco Seeds and when she retired, took up more crafts, including tapestry weaving.

“I make Christmas presents. I just made hats for my grandkids and now I’m knitting little vests,” she said. “Once I retired, I was able to come back to more creative ventures, more fiber arts. I used to do all knit projects.”


Some of the spinners in the group are former teachers who taught spinning in classrooms.

“Just having the children sit and treadle on the wheels would calm them down,” Bailey said. “It is very calming for kids and it’s certainly calming for all of us.”

The afternoon sun streamed into the center, where visitors stopped at Bixby Chocolate Cafe for hot drinks and perused a holiday bazaar in the Ticonic Gallery where all sorts of handmade jewelry, tote bags, pottery and other gifts were on display. Some strolled into the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art or took in a movie upstairs at the Maine Film Center. Potters were working in a first-floor studio.

Sanborn, of Waterville Creates, pointed to “art carts” placed around the lobby with materials visitors may use to create art.

“We have free wifi, we have art-making and spaces to gather with friends,” she said.

Edda Briggs, knitting a large afghan in the spinners group, said she loves every area in the center.

“It’s delightful because they are all arts spaces — a true community art space.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published this year by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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