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.

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  1. Oh my goodness but I LOVE this description.. a spindle trance ?? I have very much neglected my spinning this last year in favour of felting and sewing. Thankyou for reminding me how much I love my spindle ?

  2. What a delicious post! Spindle trance……………..now theres a phrase to reflect on! Love it!! Your spinning is beautiful mine does not come close to your gorgeous yarn, but I do love the activity!

  3. Lovely yarn! Looking forward to seeing your eventual project.

    I do enjoy my spindle time. I take a spindle with me and spin a little in the van while my husband drives and we chat. I don’t have much space so the yarn length is quite short between wind-ons, but the yards do mount up, slowly.

    1. How wonderful that you have found such a productive space on drives. Short amounts certainly do mount up over time and I think spindling is conducive to conversation just as much as introspection.

  4. It would be wonderful if you would make a short video of each of these steps you describe…. I am just learning drop spindle and have the basics down, but would love to actually see how you made the ball of both singles and used that to ply with the top whorl spindle…. that would be so helpful!

  5. Your lace weight yarn is stunning and I am totally in awe of you spinning prowess. I’ve only ever tried once and gave up, very disheartened. Practice makes perfect I know, but until then, I can admire your wonderful skill.

  6. I love this analysis of time, and ‘gleaned time’ in particular–the time in which so much of my making happens. So delighted you have spindling back!

  7. Despite all my years of spinning (well over 30!), I’ve never learned to use a spindle. But every time I read one of your posts about spindling, I realise what I’m missing out! Perhaps one day ….

  8. Thank you….I’m going to keep my two spindles in the hopes that one day I will make some time to start practicing. I am giving away the old floor loom that I have not found time to use in the 9 years that I’ve had it…but I will hang on to the spindles – I won’t give up on them yet!

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