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.
I get asked a lot to do a video of how I dress my distaff with wool. I haven’t, because there are already great blog posts and videos out there, and I just ‘put my wool on’. I haven’t really researched much about distaff dressing.
But people still ask so at AROW I took the chance to do a quick video of how I dress my distaff.
If you’d like to read a great blog post on dressing a distaff I recommend you read Ode to a Distaff.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
What I love about this picture is that you can see spinning in various stages in the one image.
This women here is holding her spindle how I do when I’m first drfafting out a thread across my body.
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.
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!
It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally got a video of me spinning wool.
Sorry for the low quality and angle etc. Hopefully I’ll do a better one soon!
When I’m spinning a fine thread I use a combination of techniques– grasped spinning and suspended spinning.
First I draft the thread out holding the spindle between my third and fourth fingers and spinning it with my thumb and second finger.
Then I put a couple of half-hitches on the top of the spindle and spin suspended. This gets extra twist into the thread and I lengthen it at this stage. I then butterfly the spun thread up on my left hand, wind it onto the spindle and start again.
If I’m spinning a more coarse thread then I don’t need to do the suspended stagg, the thread has enough twist from drafting it out.
At the end of the video you see I don’t do a suspended stage, I just rest the spindle against the couch for a few spins instead and this works well if you are sitting. It also means I don’t have to fuss with a half-hitch.
So, what does everybody think so far? Any questions?
My first attempt at spinning my own combed wool. It was my first attempt at combing my own wool also! One ply of this two ply thread was also my first attempt at spinning on an antique French spindle with a spiral tip. Lots of firsts!
How do I comb wool without combs? Well, I bought some dog combs but my wool was so stringy and gnarly they weren’t enough. So I carded the wool first to make it smooth and get out the lumps and then I combed it. Below is my second attempt at combing wool using this method (and you can see my combs)
Well it’s been a while since my last post! I’ve been very busy (sadly not with spinning related things) including helping organize a major event to raise money for a local museum.
The first reenactment event for the year, History Alive, is here already and takes place on Saturday and Sunday. The plan is for me to arrive on Friday morning and help set up and stay through until Sunday night. I say that’s the plan because, with rather ill timing, I am sick! I am resting up and hoping to be well. This is our winter in the Southern Hemisphere and though many of my readers might not think our weather is cold, it gets very cold (for me!) at night time this time of year, especially in a 15th century style tent.
I have a Victorian ball dress to make for the 27th but I’m not feeling up to fitting the mockup of the bodice right now so I’ve been working on my spinning and using this time to get it all ready for HA as well as the next major event, the Abbey Medieval Tournament.
I’ve had a few UFOs sitting on my spindles so I’ve cleared most of them off. I had been spinning my first attempt at hand combed wool (I used dog combs because I can’t justify the expense of real combs) which was turning out ok, but a little coarse and lumpy. I’ve taken that off my distaff and have put on some more of the organic wool I’ve been spinning for the most part. I wanted something easy to spin at the event! But also I’ve been inspired by a thread on one of my ravelry groups entitled “large cop, small spindle” and want to make an entry on it and I have plenty of this wool to spin and nothing to stop me. I’ll be interested to see how big the skein turns out. It will be good to say to people “a full spindle of my usual spinning weight can give me around this many metres of yarn.” And if people ask how long spinning takes I can say “it takes me this time to fill up a spindle and that time to ply the same amount.”
I started spinning for my large cop, small spindle yesterday afternoon.This is my first spindle of singles so far. I’m already down to my smallest whorl (a new addition from ebay, a stone whorl that is supposedly from ancient Rome) but I think I’ve got a lot of yardage left to spin before I go no whorl and a lot to spin after that. I move to a lighter whorl when my thread keeps breaking.
At the Abbey Medieval Tournament I’ll be presenting a talk/have a try on my spinning method so I’ll need to prepare for that also. I want to put together some pictures showing the process of taking flax from seed to cloth (as many medieval images as I can!) as well as some images showing the spinning method used. I also need to get my dad to help me with my flax distaff. I’ll also be carving some spindles out of wooden dowels and making some more clay whorls for people to have a go on. Finally I need to put together some starter spinning kits to sell, not to make money but to give people the chance to try their hand at spinning now rather than having to go away and source/make the materials themselves. My mission is to get more people (especially reenactors) interested at recreating 15th century spinning techniques and if I break even money wise then that’s a bonus!
I hope to do a proper update soon talking about my current techniques and my new whorls (I have two!) but for now that will have to wait.
More recent spinning.
I spun two lots of singles then wound them both together into a plying ball. Guess what? When I reached the end of one of my spindles I only had a foot and a half left on the other spindle!!! I just guessed the spindles had about the same amount on by holding them in my hands and I was THAT CLOSE!!! Ok, a coincidence, as I’m not that good, but impressive! Right? Not something that happens every day, anyway.
I then plyed on my medieval spindle but using it as a drop spindle. The fast spin spins longer when you stand up and quickly drop your heights worth of thread for it to spin from. Sometimes I didn’t get a good spin but most times due to the tapered ends of my spindle stick I did.
Here is my spindle full.
I was worried that I was putting too much spin into my ply so for each length I plyed (a length being my eyes to the floor when standing) I twisted the spindle once and when it started to slow I walked the spindle up the thread and wound on.
Here is my spinning on the niddy noddy.
Here is the yarn straight off the niddy noddy before washing.
I thought this would have a lot more active twist than it does! This yarn at the moment has a nice feel to it. Soft and tactile. Not too hard but not without any movement either. Springy without being twisty. Of course, I don’t actually know what I’m aiming for, but I like the feel of it. When I start using my yarn up I’ll be able to look at the finished results and refer back to my notes of how it felt so I’ll know what to aim for in the future. It’s quite possible I’ll need more twist than this if I’m looking to use it for warp thread. I’ve washed it and it’s hanging to dry (unweighted) right now so I’ll see how it looks in the morning.
Talking about too much twist, remember how I said my first wool yarn had way too much twist in it and I washed it again and dried it on the niddy noddy? Well, out of curiosity I washed it again and didn’t put it on the niddy noddy to dry. This is what it did.
Yes, that’s a whole skein! It relaxed a bit after I stretched it out a bit (it was really fun to play with!) but now I wonder if it can be used. Ive heard there’s no thread to tight or too twisted to be used for weaving, but, really?
I mean, if I wove with this what would happen the moment the fabric got wet? Would it all shrivel up?
Well, I guess I could find out! New experementation is looming… 😉