Video Wednesday- How I Spin my Spindle

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.

New Year New Blog!

No, I’m not going anywhere, but I have a new blog! In the past couple of months I’ve been exploring types of spinning other than 15th century spinning. So to read about my spinning on my electric spinning wheel, drop spindle, tahkli and the fun I’ve having with modern dyed fibre blends, head on over to 21st century spinning.

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I’d love to spend more time posting over here this year, but we’ll see. I have a busy year ahead. My business grew in leaps and bounds in 2016, and I expect it to grow more this year. I love being able to help my friends out by stocking what they can’t get locally (here is Australia) and we’ve helped gear up some new reenactors who have stayed in the hobby. Also, I have a wedding to plan this year (yes, my own), and not to mention the re-enactment wardrobe I meant to sew this year that’s still waiting for me to sew!

Oh, and of course I still work full time outside the home, which we have more renovations to do along with the acreage to manage!

So in summary 2016 was a great year for me personally but extremely busy, and I expect 2017 to be no different.

Thanks for all the support over the years, it’s wonderful to see so many more people embracing the traditional spinning techniques of Europe and the UK. Keep spinning, keep sharing!

Hershey Fiber Arts Spindle

 

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.

Mythbusting Monday

Myth:
Grasped spinning is slow, therefore it would never have been used when production spinning was needed, such as in the middle ages.
Fact:
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.

Wool Combs and Spinning Video

On Saturday I picked up some new wool combs! I meant to take a nice phoeo of them on Sunday put up but there was a storm on Sunday and I spent sunday night without power (camera battery dead) and Monday starting to clean up 5 and a half acres of fallen trees, tree limbs (many of which sailed over our house) and busted fences etc.

I will have to take a photo at another stage. In the meantime I stumbled across this fantastic video from Caroline from Hershey Fiber Arts showing spinning flax with a spindle. She also makes great spindle sticks (a review is on my to do list) and whorls.

Not Just Drop Spindles!

One of the criticizms I see directed at those of us who are researching medieval spinning techniques is “here is a picture where the spindle was suspeded, therefore they are drop spindles and they are doing drop spindle spinning” or words to that effect.

My methods aren’t about prooving they never suspended the spindle, to the contary the more research and experementation I do I see the more the spindle can be suspended using the methods I’m developing, especially with wool. That, however, doesn’t mean they were ‘drop spinning’ or using ‘drop spindles’. People will look at my spindle and say “oh, that’s a drop spindle.” Really, it’s a spindle. It could be used in the drop spinning method (though is’t ideal for that style), but I don’t use it that way. I call my spindle a spindle. If I were French I might call it a fuseau or if I were German I might call it a spindel or a handspindel but, and forgive me forign speakers if I’ve missed this but I don’t see other languages calling them anyhing to do with dropping. Their names all seem to revolve around things that, well, revolve, twist and turn and spin upon an axel. I don’t see any dropping. Is it just English that does this? And what makes a drop spindle anyhow? The fact it was designed to be a dro spindle, that it is used as one, that it could be?

And back to these drop spindles in the middle ages. You see re-enactors spinning on a drop spindle at living history events. They aren’ using a distaff because yo don’t need one with wool, and they’re usually spinning wool because flax is ‘hard’. And no, you don’t need a distaff to spin wool with a drop spindle, but you know tht medieval image ofthat lady spinning wool without a distaff? No, you don’t? That one from 1453 that was painted by a monk who drew an arrow to the spindle and wrote “this is a drope spindle from ye olde shoppe?” nope? Really? Well, it doesn’t exist. I’ve never come across a picture of spinning that didn’t involve distaffs with one exception:

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(which I discuss a little here)

I don’t think they’re actually spinning thread here, they might be plying or making gilt thread as in this image,

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(Gilt thread-making
Lockwood Kipling, John, born 1837 – died 1911)

but I think we can hardly be calling this “spinning fluff into thread” because I don’t know about you, but I see no fluff there.

The other thing is have you heard of the distaf side? The distaff side referrs to the female sid of the family. You see a few instances where ‘disaff’ is associated with women or women’s work, and why not sindle? Or drop spindle? Who ever heard of the drop spindle side of the family? If distaffs are something that wern’t needed in spinning throughout Europe and the UK then why is spinning and women’s work so closley associated with them?

Now, I’m wandering away from my initial discussion which is “is evidence ofsuspended spinning proof of drop spindle spinning?”

First, we have to define drop spindle spinning. People jokingly say it’s called a drop spindle because when you are learning you accidently drop it when your thread snaps! But it’s not such a joke. In drop spindle spinning your thread slowly drops down as the thread is formed. Is this the full definition? If I suspend my pindle to th side and set it spinning I can drop the spindle down as i’m drafting my thread. I could not, however, do this without a distaff, as because of the length I’ve already spun I need one hand to draw my thread to the opposite side of my body leaving only one hand to arrange and draft the fibre. Every thing I’ve ever read on drop spindle spinning and the distaff says you don’t need to use a distaff when spinning wool, though you may if you wish to keep more fibre in reach. My distaff does a LOT more than keep my fibre in reach!

So, could we say drop spindle spinning is spinning where the spindle drops down as the thread is being formed and where a distaff may be ued for oranising and holdingfibe but must not play an ‘active’ role in th pinning process (ie, you could spin without it without changing your technique).

So, it’s not so much the spindle that defines the method, but the involvment of the distaff. Which means the saying “spun on the roc (distaff)” makes a lot more sense.

And I guess ll this means that if the spinning fo the 15th century couldn’t be done without a distaff then it’s not really drop spindle spinning, even when the spindle is suspended fully.

So I’m not fighting against suspending the spindle or even the dropping down of the spindle.  I’m just saying not all suspended spinning is drop spindle spinning and while we may be seeing suspended spinning in the 15th century I don’t think we’re seeing what I would call drop spindle spinning.

You might also be interested in reading my Don’t drop that spindle! and my Research Behind the Method.

New Spinning Video– Slow Motion!

So Just a quick update to bring you all a new spinning video. My friend took this of me at a living history event.

Many of you have asked how much spin I get from each turn of the spindle when I’m holding it in my fingers. Is it just one turn? Up to now I’ve been trying to describe in words, but now you can see for yourself.

How Long to Spin a Thread?

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!

Picture Friday, St Elsbeth

 

 

Today’s picture is of St Elizabeth spinning in a woodcut from 1511.   There are a few St Elizabeth’s, but I think she might be St Elizabeth of Hungary whose charitable pratices included spinning wool for the poor.

 

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© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

What I love about this picture is that you can see spinning in various stages in the one image.

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This women here is holding her spindle how I do when I’m first drfafting out a thread across my body.

 

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This woman looks like she is suspending her spindle after drafting it out to add more twist. She even appears to be putting her thread over the back of her spindle hand the same way I do.

There is a little basket of spindles with th whorls removed holding spin thread in the foreground.