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.
I thought I’d add a new segment to my blog called ‘sharing Saturday’. When I first started researching I didn’t know many people at all who attempted to re-create the European medieval spinning methods with a distaff. Most people were just doing the drop-spindle technique. Now there are a whole bunch of people! So I thought I’d start sharing their work more.
On that note, I’d love to have people do guest blogs, so if you have anything you’d like me to share or have a blog post you’d like to post on my blog, let me know 😀
The first thing I share hasn’t got that much to do with medieval spinning but there is a medieval spinning related story behind it.
There is a thread on Ravelry called ‘Large cop, small spindle’ where people post pictures of their VERY full spindles. I was inspired so began working on my own entry—on my medieval spindle. Well, I was almost there, I had a HUGE cop on one of my spindles. So huge a lady at an event commented on it and I explained to her why I was spinning it. So I had it at the event. I’m not sure when the last time I saw it was but I haven’t unpacked it since coming home from the event, maybe I lost it there? I don’t mind the loss of the spindle but there was a LOT of thread spun on this spindle. I need to properly look through and sort my re-enactment gear, hopefully it is just hiding.
So when I was searching around on pinterest I came across the Spindleful board by Andrea Mielke Schroer and it made me happy to see all the spindles full of thread but also made me think of my old full spindle.
So I spun some modern wool on my spinner and made that nice and full instead, LOL
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 return from the 15th century I aim to do a series of posts on the criticisms I’ve seen about methods similar to what I’ve been developing. One of the most common ones is that ‘drop spindles spinning is faster than spinning with a distaff and spindle. They had to spin every piece of thread in every cloth so needed to use a fast method.’ There’s two statements here and while I’m equipped with research to deal with the latter (would they have used the faster method or not) but I’m not yet equipped to deal with the former (is drop spinning actually faster?)
This brings us to the question ‘just how long is a piece of string?’ Ok, not quite. But if I am to spin on a drop spindle, then to spin using a distaff and spindle I will spin faster with a distaff and spindle because I’m not practiced with a drop spindle. When a person who has been spinning with a drop spindle for years tries other methods they may be slower at those because they are practiced with drop spinning.
Other than taking someone who has been drop spindle spinning all their life and taking hem back to the 15th century in Europe and racing them against the women there, there are a few things we can do to help answer the question of which is faster and for this I need YOUR HELP! Yes, you! (assuming you can spin with a spindle!)
What I’m asking is for anyone who can spin on a spindle (any spindle!) to spin their default thread weight. Time yourself from the moment you start spinning that thread to the moment you finish winding that length of thread onto your spindle and are ready to start on the next thread again. You may like to time it several times and take an average or time yourself spinning several lengths of thread and divide that time by the number of thread lengths you made. Because, you know, how long is a piece of string, you’ll also need to work out the average length of thread you spin when you spin a length.
Now, it takes less time to spin a chunky thread than a really fine one, all other things being equal, because te fine thread needs more twist to hold it together. So there’s a few other factors involved. If you can provide some quantifying measures of the thickness of your thread this would be great. It could be wraps per inch, grams per metre, or whatever. Just state how you measured and the units you used. Again feel free to give averages or measure several different ways!
Then if you could please report back to me with:
What you’ve spun (fibre and the preparation)What tool/s you’ve used (such as what type of spindle)
The average length of your thread that you spin
How long it takes you to spin it
How thick is your thread.
How long you have been spinning for (In general as well as with this spindle/technique if there is a difference)
You can report back in a comment to this post, or feel free to make a blog post of your own about it! I’m sure the results will be interesting and useful to more than myself so feel free to share the experiment with the followers of your own blog. If you spin using several different techniques then this is a great chance to examine your own spinning and see which is faster, with which you produce a finer thread or anything you like.
I understand that there are still many variables I haven’t addressed but it is a good side better than me saying ‘well, I sure can’t spin this fast on a drop spindle!’
I shall be doing my time trials in the 15th century this weekend so I shall report on my results when I return!
I’ll be putting the raw data I collect on this blog so all I ask is that if you participate you’re happy for your numbers to be shared freeley– I don’t own this idea or the raw results so I’m not going to restrict who can see it!
Thank you to anyone who will help out and in the meantime, happy spinning to you all!
Well, up until today I would have told you I know of no pictures from the late middle aes or early renaissance that depict plying.
I know many others have said this.
But tonight when I opened up pinterest I saw this picture (which I’ve brightened to help see a few details)
The manuscript is this one here http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/list/one/bge/fr0064 and here is the page this image is from http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/bge/fr0064/161v/large
Have a good look. It appears they are spinning thread hanging down from the ceiling. Well, this rattled something in my brain. I KNOW I’ve heard people talking about plying using hooks or mails driven into the ceiling.
I’ve been sick recently and spend some time in bed half-watching Norman Kennedy spinning videos. I’m 90% sure he mentions someone taking him to an old house and pointing to hooks or nails in the ceiling and wondering what they were for and Mr Kennedy said “oh, they were for plying thread.” I’m sure I’ve hard of it from some other source too (I’m thinking a lady somewhere in eastern Europe but I’m not sure).
How plying from a hook or nail in the ceiling works, I don’t know. I’ve always imagined the threads are run up from the floor (either in the form of a single plying ball or two spindles of singles), passed through a hook together and then spun.In the picture there are no threads going up, only going down. Of course, this is a medieval picture (looks 15th century French to me) so threads going up could just not have been painted in. They often left out parts of looms too.
So, what do you think? Medieval plying picture or something else?
I really love this image for a few reasons. We get to see a few things we often don’t see in images of ladies spinning in the 15th century.
Have a look at her right hand where she is holding the spindle. The spindle is held between her third and fourth fingers. I’ve seen this a couple of times in period art and it’s where I naturally hold my spindle when I’m trying to recreate 15th century technique– which makes me think I must be doing something right. With the top of the spindle through these fingers you can use your thumb and second finger to flick the spindle and the third and fourth finger to grasp the spindle firm enough to stop it dropping but light enough so it spins. When winding on your spin thread these fingers work again in the same way, third and fourth holding the spindle, thumb and second turning it.
Now look at her left hand. When I have an arm’s length of thread and go to wind it onto the spindle I have to unwind what has spiraled around the shaft, leaving me with more than an arm’s length that will kink up on itself. If I’ve been suspending my spindle at the side and have even more than an arm’s length then I have an even bigger problem. I “butterfly” the tread around my thumb and pinkie on my left hand to keep the tension on the thread as wi wind it onto my spindle. This looks just like what this lady is doing here!
It’s really hard to know if what I’m doing is right, I can’t go and visit the 15th century and it’s always hard to know how accurately images depict technique. But when I discover something in a picture that I’ve been doing already then that makes me happy! Have you ever had this happen with your research?