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 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. 🙂
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.
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.