Updated spinning videos– wool and flax!

I’ve done some more videos of me spinning.  You’ll have to excuse that my movements are a tad slow and clumsy, I’m sick and it’s winter here which means my fingers were like icicles and blue with cold.

Here is the video of me spinning flax. Right at the beginning of video I don’t have my distaff in the right place (to busy being spinning in time for the 10 second timer on the camera) and in the kerfuffle that follows the thread snaps. Just after that when you see me fluffing my hand around I’m fixing the thread with water and twist. Works great for flax.  I took other videos but this one was the best so I thought you might as well see me doing an oopsie. Shows how easy it is to fix partially spun flax to partially spin flax though!

When I first wind onto the spindle I’m trying to show you that some of the spun thread has collected on top of the spindle, so I’ve spun a bit more than it looks like I have.

The second time I rest my spindle for a few turns on the chair next to me. Sometimes you see in pictures ladies resting their spindles. You can see here I spend longer spinning the spindle and I’ve collected quite a bit bore thread on top of the spindle.

You can see I’m also being a good girl and wetting my fingers with my pot of water rather than my own spit. Often in the past women would lick their fingers or even run the flax thread through their mouth. You can see both the left hand and thread are so close to the mouth this is very tempting and it really helps you get a nice thread more quickly than using you finger with water. I find the spinning with water much more slow, but it is very unhealthy to run flax through your mouth and even just to lick your fingers so I’m sticking with the bowl of water.  I saw a video recently of an old lady spitting on her flax which seems a great alternative, it’s not the spit on the flax that’s unhealthy (it’s going to be washed anyway, and you always wash your hands after spinning anyway) but the flax in mouth (and yes, finger from flax  to mouth counts as this), but I’m not much of a spitter, especially in public.

Here is the video of me spinning wool. It’s my own combed wool which is combed with dog combs, so it could be a better preparation! However I’m endeavouring with it! I still prefer the Merino wool I learnt on, good thing I didn’t know when I was learning that Merino was meant to be ‘hard’!

I start off just as I do with flax, and I could spin like that, wind on, spin more, wind on, especially if I wanted a lower twist thread. When I’ve moved awa from the distaff a bit I then pop a few half hitches onto my spindle and suspend the spindle out. The second time I spin I also show dropping the spindle off at the side. I don’t always do this. When I reach an arm’s length if I have the perfect amount of twist in my thread I just wind it on. If I have a little extra twist then I will drop he spindle.  I tend to drop my own combed wool more than I do the store-bought merino because I can draft the merino so much faster. This stuff takes more time to draft and I’m more likely to get to an arm’s length and realise I’ve got heaps of twist. I find one spin of the spindle is less than the amount of twist I want for the drop to the floor, and also if the spindle touches the ground or starts back spinning on its own (my whorls spin fast but short, often not long enough for the spindle to go from the height of the chair, to the ground and back up again) which is why I don’t tend to drop the spindle if my amount of twist is perfect.

As always, my methods are still a work in progress but are becoming a bit more standardised. My next task is to experiment with more types of wool and see what other differences I can find the fibre makes to my spinning technique!


13 responses

  1. I am a novice spindler and am still getting the hang of things. Question: when your spindle is in your hand (and not being used as a drop spindle), each time your index finger moves in the video, is the spindle completing one simple revolution, or is it spinning multiple times, nearly as rapidly as when you use it as a drop spindle? I can’t make my spindle go faster than one revolution per “twiddle,” unless I use a support, like a teacup or even a table surface.

    • Still a novice here also! I span the other day with a 6 year old helper who had spun once, a year ago and in five minutes was better than I was in two weeks. When she asked to do some spinning with me she asked if I thought she’d still be better than me and I told her I’d been practicing all year to catch up with her, lol. Five minutes later she was spinning as fast as I can, as long as I drafted for her, but she was controlling the twist and how much to put in. Her twist putting in is more even than mine but we’ll need to work on her drafting. I’m going to get her plying at ournext living history event because then she can concentrate on spinning without getting frustrated that her drafting is making her twist settle unevenly, or needing me to be with her drafting. I don’t mind, but I’ll be busy at this event and she’s prooven to be able to stick with spinning for long periods. The other day she told me “I can spin all day except when I’m eating” and if I hadn’t stopped her she would have! lol, sorry, off track there!

      But yes, I’m getting more than one revolution from each twirl in my fingers. There’s two things that help with this.
      First is a narrow tip. I hold the spindle between my third and fourth fingers and twirl it by flexing by index finger over the spindle tip and thumb. Even if you just roll it, a narrow tip will give your more revolutions than a wide tip because the tip is smaller and makes more turns over the same length. Does that make sense?

      The second thing is harder to explain. When you spin the spindle you stop holding it with your third and fourth fingers, twirl it with your fist and second then catch it with your third and fourth while you let go with your thumb and second finger to get them back to the ‘begin to twirl’ position. There’s a moment while you’re letting go with your thumb and second finger that you haven’t caught it with your third and fourth finger yet. That’s when it can spin some more within your fingers, semi supported by them but still spinning freely. It’s really hard to explain so I hope that made sense!

      It’s not as fast as spinning supported but it’s faster than doing one rotation per flick. Keep at it though! I was spinning supported for sometime and even now I stoll do when my hand gets tired. I see period pictureswith ladies resting their sindles on the floor and I wonder if they are doing the same thing!

      • Okay, that’s what I suspected—that every flick of the finger spins it multiple times. I guess it’s simply a matter of practice. It drives me crazy when I look at Youtube and see all these women spinning fine cotton thread with no problems, while I struggle constantly. If I had started early like your 6-year-old friend, I’d have no trouble at this point of my life.

  2. It’s looking really good to me – very inspiring! I just need to get a proper spindle and whorl so that I can learn too.

    I do have one question – why do you only put the half-hitch in when you are already halfway across your body, rather than at the beginning when your two hands are next to each other? If you know that the fibre you’re using is almost certainly going to require some suspended spinning at the end of the draw, would it not be quicker to put the half-hitch in when your hands are already working next to each other.

    • Thank you!

      My first spindle was very crude (a wooden dowel and a hairtie) so you don’t need much to give it a go!

      I find if I put the half hitch on first then about 50% of the time I either need to redo it anyway, or when I supend the spindle it falls off and I drop the spindle. So it is something I’ve tried and quite possibly it would depend on the spindle you’re using. I’ve spun a little bit on an antique french spindle and I don’t need a half hitch at all because it has a spiral groove that catches the thread and I think the best way to speed up the half hitch part is to try and not have to use one at all. I’d love to find someone who can put a spiral in the top of my spindle sticks as that way I could try it with them!

      • Yeah, I just need to get around to buying some dowel and attacking it with a penknife. Oh, and deal with all the other craft projects clamouring for attention…

  3. This is a revelation! All this time I’ve been spinning the ‘drop spindle’ method but, as with anything else in Living History, as soon as you find out the right method it just seems so obvious. Thanks for doing all the research!

    The only thing I’m not quite sure of is how you draft with only one hand. You’re so dexterous (not quite the correct word when speaking of the left hand – but you know what I mean) that I can’t make out how you’re doing it. Could we have some instructions please?

    • You’re welcome! I’m not by any means the first person to research along this line but I wasn’t satisfied with the conclusions other’s were drawing or the arguments being raised against their research so I wanted to do my own. I’m glad it’s been able to help you!

      I’ll have to try and take a close up video of me drafting. Essentially though, I’m using two hands to draft; my left hand, and my distaff. I’m really beginning to understand that my distaff isn’t just a place to store fibre yet to be spun, it is a hand that holds my wool and my left hand drafts it away from my distaff.

      Have a look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD8qOjB0Yzo which zooms up to the drafting at about 15 seconds in. This is very similar to how I draft. My distaff holds the fibre and my left hand gently pulls it away with my thumb and next two fingers while controling how much twist enters the fibre above my left hand. There’s a little anti-clockwise twisting motion with the fingers of my left hand as I draft which helps draft out and crontrol twist. I’f I’m allowing twist to travel up above my left hand then twisting the opposite way I’m spinning allows me to draft a finer thread easier. If I don’t want much or any twist then that anticlockwise motion when drafting will help keep twist out. It’s one of those things that is easy to show but hard to explain! I have another living history event comming up soon where I hope to take a video camera and have a friend take some video with audio of me spinning and explaining what I’m doing. I’ll add a close up of drafting to that list!
      This video here also shows a good view of drafting with a distaff http://pinterest.com/pin/562105597211986536/

      Hope this has helped somewhat!

  4. Great article! Doing research on distaff spinning for a class I’ll be teaching and your videos were very helpful, and your spinning looks just like the style shown in all those pictures! I just wanted to give you props for your work.

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