Drop spindle spinning is the name we give to a type of suspended spinning that is very popular amongst modern crafters. We give it this name to differentiate it from other types of spinning. There are other ways to spin suspended. I don’t always spin suspended but when I do it’s different to the drop spindle spinning you might be familiar with. In this video I talk briefly about the difference.
Today I share a close-up video of how I spin my spindle.
I have heard grasped spinning called many other things, including in-hand, in-the-hand, twiddling, suspended and supported. (yes, some people say it is suspended and others call it supported!) I’ve always called it grasped as I learnt that from Norman Kennedy who uses this technique. I was accused on ravelry of making up the term simply to confuse people, but sadly I can’t claim the term, it’s just what I use. I’ve have seen grasped spinning mentioned in a book from 1930—well before I was born!
Forgive the spinning is a little clumsy in this video, I was trying to move my fingers out of the way for the camera and was leaning at an odd angle to get my hand in view of the camera. Also, that’s not dirt under my nails, it’s cocoa. I was baking in between takes and cleaned my hands but missed my nails. Oops.
Today I share this fantastif video of Luca Costigliolo spinning with a distaff and a suspended spindle. He explains that as the spindle needs to be continiously turned that the drafting is done with only one hand, the left. This keeps the left hand at the distaff and the right hand at the spindle.
Later he talkes about suspended vs grasped spindles. He mentions that his spindle has a bulb on top for holding the half hitch so it should be used as suspended and that spindles with points like that of a great wheel should be used grasped.
Also of interest is the sling around his neck to hold the distaff, rather than relying on having it in the crock of his arm like I do.
Today I thought I’d share a video of me spinning with a Hershey Fiber Arts Spindle
I love these spindles, they have really nice fine tips and she can do them with a spiral notch. She does quite a few other types of spindles and other fibre equipment, such as whorls and distaffs, so make sure to have a look at the rest of her goodies.
I know I’ve been promising it for ages, but I finally got some time to do a video update on my spinning. This video has sound so you can listen to me ramble on about spinning. 🙂
Grasped spinning is slow, therefore it would never have been used when production spinning was needed, such as in the middle ages.
If grasped spinning is slow or not is objective. People learned how to spin grasped from a very young age, they would have found it faster than a modern person who has spun using a different style for, say, ten years, pick up grasped spinning, try it once and find it slow.
Many people say Continental knitting is faster than English, however some of the world’s fastest knitters knit English style and English style knitting has been used for many years. All my cardigans as a small child were knit English style and my mother had to knitt them or I went cold. If only the fastest method was used in situations where people had to produce or go cold then why did my mother not use Continental or my Nana’s knitting machine?
If speed was the only factor, why was the wheel not embraced more readily? The wheel was considered to produce thread of poorer quality and it was hundreds of years after it’s introduction before it really gained hold.
Those of you who follow my blog know I’m a HUGE fan of these spindle sticks.
They are ‘just a stick’ but brilliant in their simplicity. You can see what another blogger thinks of them here.
Well, now we have a new spindle stick to choose from, baby spindle sticks which you can read about at here.
If any one gets a baby one (or several) I’d love to know what you think!
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.)
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.
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.
When I first started investigating spinning I ordered a few spindles. The first to arrive was a large one with a hook on the end. I went with the hook because I thought (rightly) that I’d have problems learning to use a half hitch to hold my thread and I thought (partially wrongly) that a hook would be easier. I’ve learnt a hook is easier, in that if your thread slips off the cop it just coils around the hook and eventually stops. It’s harder in that sometimes the length the spindle can slip off is the same length as the bit you’ve just spun which means you have to uncoil the mess around the cook, rewind it and hope this time you do better.
What have I been using this spindle for? Well, I had two small spindles of wool singles and one of them was rather uneven in spots and the other one not so bad so I thought I’d ply them as neither were much good for singles. Pied they are very strong.
I think I’ve put too much twist in, but when my niddy-noddy arrives I’ll make a skein and then wash the wool which I’m told helps sort out and set the twist.
So I’ve been working on my spinning. I’ve managed to suspend my spindle with the wool a couple of times now and also managed to take a chunk out of my whorl. That chunk actually happened when I was making the whorl and I just plastered some more clay over the break so it’s not surprising it broke again. Need to make a new whorl for it.
I’m still sure there’s a trick to suspending the spindle. I’ve got the knot down pat, a visual is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1l3tAMFu3c It sounds silly to need a video to learn how to do a half hitch, but my version of a half hitch was something different and I always wondered how people could be doing that with one end attached to the spindle and the other to the distaff. The reason my half hitches sometimes don’t hold is because the downward pull pulls the thread up off the cop and up the spindle shaft which then means the knot pops off the top. I’ve noticed spinning tends to help stop this—as in it’s more likely to happen if the spindle’s hanging rather than spinning fast. I’m sure there’s a trick to do with how you wind the cop. Need to trial and error to find it I think.
I’ve started reading through my copy of the Museum of London Textiles and Clothing book. According to the glossary Woollen is a yarn made of carded wool fibres and Worsted is a smooth thread spun from wool fibres which have been laid parallel by combing. I’m reading a bit about the different preparations and the technology available and the spinning weel and so on, so hopefully I’ll have more to say about that next time!