Spindle Spun

February 5, 2016

Spindle spinning has been on my mind recently. I have been chatting with the lovely Becca, a spinner from Scotland whose spindle is her tool of choice and I have been finishing off some old spinning to leave my spindle empty for the beginning of the Spinning Certificate. The first workshop will focus on the spindle.

IMG_2352It is easy for me to forget how easy and pleasurable spindle spinning is. Amidst the knitting and the wheel spinning, it seems to get overlooked and spend most of the time gracing a shelf rather than spinning. I also forget how quickly it makes yarn. Yes, spindle spinning is surprisingly quick.

At the Bothwell Spin-In in Tasmania recently, there was a race between a spindle and a wheel for metres spun in a set time. Whilst the wheel won, it was only by a tiny margin. Over time of course, that margin would increase, set side by side. However, the special thing about spindles, that makes them efficient producers of yarn and a real alternative to wheel spinning is not their actual speed but their occupation of  a different space and set of time to that of the wheel.

The wheel is heavy and fixed. It may travel to meetings but it usually lives in a room and we go to it and spin on it for an exclusive period of time. The spindle can be with us always. You can spin whilst waiting for the pasta to boil. You can spin watching your children play sport or whilst they build a fairy house in the park. Some folks can even spin whilst being a passenger in a car or plane using a supported spindle and bowl. Because it is so portable, spinning can use bits and pieces of time that are not available to wheel spinning, adding up the yardage surprisingly quickly.

Whilst I have only spindle spun small things, some folks spin whole sweaters. Sounds surprising doesn’t it but perhaps not when we remember how the spindle clothed, powered (through sail) and carried (through bags) the Ancient World.

IMG_2346The only thing I find tricky is the plying. I haven’t really sorted this out yet. I most often ply back on the singles I have made using a centre pull ball. I have tried using the cop itself to do this and I have also used a ball winder but I find things tangle very quickly. After seeing how Bedouin spinners use a ball wound with two singles to ply from, I tried winding the cop into a centre-pull ball first and then winding both ends onto a toilet roll (is there nothing they cannot be useful for?). I could do this with less tangle than spinning them from the centre-pull ball as I could keep the distance between roll and ball short and under tension. Once I had my two singles wound up together, plying was fast and easy with no tangling problems.

The fibre was a merino and silk blend from First Edition Fibre and Yarns in Euroa, Victoria.

IMG_2392After meeting a weaver today who is a retired Steiner teacher and listening to her talk about the calming effects of ball winding on children, I got Our Dear Boy to wind the plied yarn off the cop. He wound and listened to his dad read the evening story. He was calm and proud when he finished, ready for a zen bedtime. Half an hour later, I realised I should have given his sister a ball to wind too. It is hard to share a room with a sibling who is not feeling so calm! Never mind, it is still a beautifully wound ball waiting for a wash and finish which I hope will even out the twist somewhat…I am a little rusty.

I would be very interested to hear what other methods you have tried for plying on a spindle.

Useful resources for spindling:

Priscilla Gibson Roberts, Spinning in the Old Way (2006)

Abby Franquemont, Respect the Spindle (2009 )

Craftsy spindling course From Fluff to Stuff