There is a tradition in (I believe Bulgaria) where spinning and singing are combined. I don’t know anything about it and would like to learn more- i you know please comment!
Today I share an old film showing Norwegian crafts. There is weaving, spinning, and other historic crafts you don’t often see in films such as fingerloop braiding and naalbinding.
Of interest is the spinnin technique uses a hook in place of a distaff. It also shows the plying technique which Norman Kennedy speaks about, where the yarn is run through a hook in the ceiling.
Tell a bunch of spinners that the output of a medieval spinner could be no more than 20 metres per hour, and they’ll want to prove you wrong. As such, the folks over at the Evangelical Church of Distaff Spinning are conducting a spinning experiment, looking at the production rates of modern spinners. The experiment collects a wide range of date, from spinning method, years of experience to fibre spun, tools used and more. Collecting all of this data means that we can use the results for different things. For example, we could compare grasped spinning production rates to that with suspended spinning, or we could look at how years of experience affects production.
I encourage you all to take part, here is the form you need to complete and you can take part multiple times.
When you are filling out the form, pay attention when it asks you to enter in the amount spun- just do that! There’s a slot for time spun also so your production rate per hour can be calculated. Don’t be clever and work out the average you spun in an hour, otherwise you’ll confuse the results:
At least it gave me a laugh! The preliminary results (without my mistake) are up on the facebook group so if you’re not a member, join to check them out. But we need more responses, so please take part!
I was working on writing a guest blog post today, and I was talking about a specific spinning video I have seen. I went to re-watch it to reference it, but it has disappeared from you tube. I notice this quite a bit. A lot of videos I have watched and loved have gone. I don’t know why, often they just look like old home videos so I don’t think it can be copyright? Sure I’m finding new videos all the time, but I miss the old ones. I consider the European style spinning with spindle and distaff a dying art so it is sad to see an old video gone.
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.
So I was searching around and I discovered this Video and I went “hey, he’s spinning flax just like I do!”
I did a bit of investigation and I found his one and went “Hey, I want my wool on my distaff to look like this!”
His name is Norman Kennedy and he’s some old codger who’s bloody brilliant.
He grew up in Scotland and started spinning after WWII. He learned from the old people back then and managed to learn a TON of information that didn’t get passed onto the generation above him and then was lost for many people.
Guess how he spins?
And he’s not just a hobby spinner, he’s done real work spinning. Spinning and weaving sheets, towels, blankets and even fine linen shirts. Also knitting clothing from homespun.
He has a video for sale on wool and one on linen and cotton and because I found them for download and on sale I decided to download one. Well, I soon after downloaded the other. There’s a lot of information, he talks about fibre prep and spindles and different types of spinning wheels and a million things besides, but I found it all really informative, even the bits I thought I wouldn’t be interested in (like modern spinning wheels).
So anyway, this old Scottish guy uses a spindle the same way I’ve been using mine. They way I’ve been spending a long time trying to document.
His documentation for this method? I’ll summarise it below.
This is a spindle. Not a drop spindle, I hear folks saying drop spindle and I think ohhh that sounds clumsy, like them old folks was always dropping things. Oh no, they was smart those old folks. And this is how they taught me to spin it, none of these hooks and letting it go, just like this and you see them old folks was smart, they didn’t just hang out, no, always working and if they were going to market or herding sheep then they’d be working at their spinning even then. They got a lot done, all Henry the 8th clothing started out being spun like this and oh that was very fine, I know, I’ve seen some of it! But they wouldn’t drop their spindles like the folk of this country [he now lives in Canada] do.
So yeah. His documentation is “this is how I was taught by the old folk in my day, and they learned from information passed down through the generations.”
He doesn’t need a million pictures and videos because someone taught him.
But he seems a fascinating man and I’m really glad I’ve watched his videos, they taught me more than I thought they would!
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!
So I finally took off my hairtie whorl and replaced it with one made of clay. Here’s a photo of it with my current spinning on it. To celebrate the new whorl I’ve been practicing suspending the spindle from a half hitch at the top. It works not to badly. I think there’s a trick to how you wind on your cop to help the knot not fall off the top. Sound gross but a bit of spit on the top helps as well, makes it stick a bit better. More practice at this is needed I think!
While I was making my whorl I made another spindle (with a clay whorl) and because my beautiful organic wool arrived I took my flax off my distaff and had a go dressing it with wool. Because I still don’t have a period correct distaff (remember the “I don’t do woodworking” thing?) I put a curtain rod end on my distaff to secure my ribbon and woo onto. It actually worked pretty well.
Then of course I had to have a go at spinning it…
What can I say? Spinning wool is very different from spinning flax. It’s easier to keep a consistent thread width and if I draft too thick I can easily stretch the thread out thinner before adding more twist. I also don’t need as much twist to hold the stuff together.
Here is my early progress with the wool.
I’ve heard people say you need a distaff for spinning line flax but don’t need one with wool. Well, I can see why a distaff for wool is so great! You just reach up and pull when you need to draft more fibre. Even though I didn’t do a great job at dressing it, it still worked out fine. I found if I let the twist travel a little into the wool in the distaff I could just pull the spindle away as I spun it and the wool more or less “drafted itself” at an even thickness with little impact from me. I believe this is called spinning the wool woollen so I’ll have to investigate that. The other option is to spin it worsted which is where you don’t allow the twist to go into the drafting area. I’m sure there are more differences than that, but it’s something to learn!
That’s all for today, next I’ll investigate woollen vs worsted spinning and of course keep practicing!