Bayshore residents Joan Heitz, 85, and Joan Johnson, 75, were taking a walk recently in Brookwood Hall Park with Heitz’s dog, George, when they came across six antique spinning wheels displayed around a picnic table.
On the table’s bench sat a woman with dark hair pulled back into a bun, a warm, kind face and a spindle in her hand.
Heitz and Johnson stopped to talk to the spinner, Rosane Mordt, 46, and were mesmerized by Mordt’s collection.
“I think it’s absolutely fascinating,” said Heitz, who crochets. “I wish I had thought about doing it years ago.”
Mordt began spinning about 16 years ago, after seeing a woman “doing something with a wheel” at an outdoor fair in Suffolk County. She was curious and approached the woman, who explained to her the art of spinning.
A native of Petropolis, Brazil, Mordt came to the United States on July 4, 1982. Now an East Islip resident, she’d seen weaving, crocheting and lace-making in Brazil — her mother practiced the crafts. Spinning was something new to her, but “It’s like going home,” she said.
The Hofstra University program analyst by day, spinner by night, began collecting antique wheels three years ago. She started her collection because she feels a sense of history and connection to the past when she spins.
“Every civilization has had some sort of spinning tool,” Mordt said. “The history that’s present when I use these machines, it’s just unbelievable.”
Her collection includes fully-functional wheels and spindles from the 1700s and from countries including America, New Zealand, France and Canada. She owns spindles made of such materials as moose antler, pink ivory, purple heart, redwood burl and chestnut.
Paul Mordt, 56, a former Levittown resident to whom Rosane Mordt has been married since 1988, encourages his wife’s collecting. He said he’s always been interested in history and antiques.
He does not spin himself, but supports his wife’s passion for the craft.
“She took to it like a duck to water,” he said. And, he noted, she is a perfectionist.
“She’s known to create a work, and there’s one or two stitches wrong, and she takes it apart,” Paul Mordt said.
Janet Gremli, 54, of Lake Ronkonkoma, used to live across the street from the Mordts. She has known Rosane Mordt for almost 24 years now, and has been a recipient of her work.
“She’s just someone who, as soon as we met a number of years ago, we were like kindred spirits, we became friends, and that’s how it’s been ever since,” Gremli said.
Gremli said she has drawn out designs of scarves and other neckware that she has asked Mordt to create for her.
“She does lovely work, she’s an engaging person,” Gremli said. “She’s a very educated and inspirational person, she’s been a mentor for many people in her craft.”
Mordt belongs to a spinning guild, the Spinning Study Group of Long Island. She writes the newsletter for the guild, which has about 110 members.
Fellow spinner and guild member Joanne Garcia, 49, of Massapequa, has known Mordt for almost five years.
“She’s very knowledgeable, extremely polite, always willing to help all of the experienced and the new spinners,” Garcia said. “I always enjoy doing demonstrations with her because I learn something every time.”
But Mordt is multifaceted. Not only has she previously focused her energy on drawing, painting, 35 mm photography and etching, but she is a scholar and professional.
Mordt received a bachelor's degree in psychology at Hofstra University, and is working toward her masters there in comparative arts and culture. She works there as a programmer analyst.
Colleague Penny Piro, 60, who’s known Mordt for about 13 year, described Mordt as “a Renaissance person.”
“She’s just a very inquisitive person, basically, very curious about life,” Piro said.