Spindle time

September 11, 2019

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A couple of months ago, a friend at knitting group brought me a bag of local alpaca fibre. Alpacas make very large fleeces and even after sharing it with other spinners, I still had a generous amount of fibre. It was a fine, black fleece that wanted to become lace weight yarn but my wheel was occupied with bulky art yarn project and I was keen to get started. So I got out my spindles.

I had not used my spindles since I got sick as it was just too tiring to lift my arms up, even with the supported spindle. But time and a lot of active healing work has reopened spindle work for me again. For me, spindle spinning occupies a different kind of time to wheel spinning. It occupies more of that gleaned time as pasta boils, bread bakes or children come out of school.

I carded a few rolags at time and spun a fine 2 ply woollen lace weight on a supported spindle. It is a very portable kind of spinning and I could do it sitting on the ground, in chair or even in the car. Each cop was wound into a ball and then I wound two balls of singles together to make a single plying ball. I then plied the yarn using a top whorl drop spindle, checking the twist consistency by eye as I plied.

After what felt like no time at all, but was in fact many weeks, I had a beautiful skein of laceweight. There is more fibre there so I think I will make more. The project I have in mind is a small knitted lace top.

Spindles always remind me of how malleable the idea and experience of time is. Spindle spinning is fast work, all about efficiency and speed but slow output in comparison to a machine but because it occupies the time space it does, the work seems to happen quickly.

Once you have some mastery using spindles, the spinning puts you into that lovely half mesmerised state of non doing where the hands and eyes attend actively and with precision but the mind is emptied and calm. We might call it a spindle trance. In contrast to the hyper connected, information saturated world around us, such a trance is delicious, like bare feet in cool grass.