Spindle sticks and spindle whorls

When I started I was using a carved wooden dowel with a bunch of hairties as a whorl.

What am I using these days?

I’m using spindle sticks from here.  They are fantastic! I’m not too good at making my own so these are perfect. They have a tapered end so with each twirl of my fingers the spindle turns several times. Also when I spin it I can get a nice fast spin. I have seven and I’m buying more (so I have plenty to let others use and have a try at spinning at living history events. No, seven is not enough to do that with. Factor two to spin wool spindles with and one to ply them onto and the same for flax only gives me one spare.)

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You can see the spindle stick here with three whorls. The right (top) of the spindle stick is darker because its absorbed the oil from my fingers as I’ve been using it. The corners on the top are starting to round and the stripe just above the whorl is where my handmade whorl sits. I tend to swap from my heavy whorl to my lightest to no whorl at all as I build up the cop.

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My whorls. The top left is one I bought from flaming gargoyle pottery at a medieval tournament. I was so busy at the event I didn’t get time to go shopping but one of our newer members told me they saw some whorls for sale and so on the last day when I went to get my first real coffee for three days right when the stalls were packing up (in the rain) I ran and found the stall. I bought three, their biggest, their smallest and one in between. The one pictured is the smallest.

The top right I’ve made myself and is significantly thicker in the middle and quite thin at the edges. This is my lightest whorl.

The bottom is from the reproduction spindle at The Woolery. It comes with a notched stick that I find useless. You can’t hold it out to the side of your distaff as the thread doesn’t stay in the horizontal notch and the top is so fat that every turn of your fingers only turns the spindle once. It works great as a drop spindle but the whorl spins it short and FAST. Like, REAL fast. Like, I couldn’t even start drafting before it went into backspin fast.

But for the style of spinning I’m doing the whorl works fantastic. Not surprising as it was based on medieval whorls and I’m trying to reproduce medieval spinning. This whorl is my heaviest. Unfortunatly, as fantastic as it is, because there is very little (almost no) taper in the hole it doesn’t stay too well on my spindle. I can wedge it on with a splinter of wood or wrap some yarn around the base of it to keep it on. It’s new so I haven’t experemented with it much yet.
Costs? Spindle sticks are seven euro.

The Flaming Gargoyle whorl was three for $10 (they were $4 each but they only asked $10 for the three without me even bartering. 🙂 )

My whorl was essentially free as I’ve had the clay lying around for years. Can’t remember how much the clay was but you can make a LOT of whorls from it so even factoring the cost of the clay into account it would by FAR be the cheapest.

The whorl from the Woolery was $17 plus postage from America (postage from America always seems more expensive than postage from anywhere else and often takes twice as long to arrive). Yes, that was for a complete spindle but as I said, I can’t use the stick.

My go-to whorl is the one from Flaming Gargoyle. I use my homemade one when the cop gets heavier then I just take the whorl off when I no longer need it. As I said, I haven’t had the one from the woolery long enough to do much spinning with but I wouldn’t want to use it walking around a reenactment event as I can see it slipping off and getting lost (and being dug up by archaeologists in years to come, lol).

What I really want is a whorl just like the one from the woolery, without the stick (I have perfect ones already) that has a tapered hole. Anyone got any sources?

So that’s what I’m spinning with now days.

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7 responses

  1. Sounds like just what I’m trying to do. If only we were closer! I hadn’t thought (blush) of changing spindle weight as the cop increases… maybe that’s jusst what I’m seeing in illustrations.

    • The internet is great but sometimes it’s wonderful to just sit down with someone and work through things together. I’m going to try and get some videos up online of the technique I’ve developed so far because a video is better than photos and descriptions.
      I must admit the changing of the whorl happened accidently. I was trying to spin as fine as I could, and after a while I kept breaking the thread whenever I suspended it and the spindle fell to the ground and the whorl fell off. Well, the third time this happened I couldn’t be bothered picking the whorl off the floor so I grabbed my other whorl which was lighter and I could spin again. Then after a while the same thing happened and I took it off completley.
      Norman Kennedy also shows in one of his videos how you can take the whorl off when you get enough of a cop. So not something I thought of on me own!
      I think we now know why so many whorls are found in archaeological finds! lol!

  2. Just curious, but how deep (if at all) is the groove at the tip? Is there only a groove or is there a little hook (or overhanging edge) as well, to prevent the thread from parting from the spindle? I’m trying to envision what it looks like so I can try to make one.

    • Hi, there is nothing at the tip. When I suspend it after spinning an arms length I pop a couple of half hitches on the top and they stay on fine if I’m spinning with wool. When I’m drawing out and spinning the first arms length I don’t put a half hitch on because I don’t need to and my fingers would probably knock it off anyway. If you click on the picture it will give you a supersize one. Yes, it really is nothing more than a tapered stick!

  3. How do you keep the whorl on? I’m both a woodworker and a (fairly new) spinner, so I was considering turning a shaft and adding a whorl of a heavier wood (pewter casting is something I haven’t tried yet). But if the whorl just stays on with a friction fit, I’m not sure if tapering the hole to match would help or hurt.

    • Hi, the whorl just stays on via friction. I find that my tapered whorls stay on better (perhaps because there is a larger surface area in contact with the stick which increases the friction?) than my non tapered ones. As mentioned my metal whorl (with no taper at all) doesn’t stay on my spindle too well. It does for a time then falls off. It stays better if I wrap some sool tightly around the bottom to hold it on or I could wedge a small wood splinter in there. Good luck with your attempts at making a spindle! Please let me know how it goes. I haven’t tried pewter casting yet either though a friend does it and she says once she’s finished moving house and is settled she’ll help me out with some pewter whorls 🙂

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