Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My little drop spindle

(happy little drop spindle)

I learned to spin 20 years ago, when I was an undergrad. I learned on an old clunker of a wheel held together with kite string and spit. It was a real piece. After college, I didn't spin for a long time.

Three years ago, I got bit by the spinning bug again at a Michigan wool festival. Now I spin almost every day. Recently I started teaching spinning at a nearby knit shop. I just really love spinning. Knitting is work, but spinning is restful. And it's so arcane. For me, the more arcane it is the better I like it.

I have two spinning wheels, but lately I'd much rather use this drop spindle. It's a cheap student spindle; I needed to learn how to spin with it if I was going to teach it in my class. But now I'm utterly addicted and I use the blasted thing everywhere. I spin with it in my weekly knitting group. I spin with it at the movies. I
even tried spinning in the car over the weekend, just to see if I could (as a passenger, not while driving).

If I'm spinning in public, the spindle itself gets long, mesmerized stares. Sometimes I can tell they have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. But usually, no one even notices I'm doing it. In the past, I'd take my collapsible spinning wheel to weekly knit group, but we meet in a coffee shop and it felt like showboating. This little spindle is such a subtle thing. I spin between my legs when I'm sitting. To look at me, you'd just think I was sitting in a rather un-lady-like position, and doing something
weird with my hands (hard to tell exactly what).

The yarn in the picture is from the drop spindle, but it's 3-plied with a technique called Navajo plying. Picture a really big chain stitch, the very same stitch crocheters are first taught. Except, your hands are the crochet needle, and the big chain stitch is spinning onto a bobbin on a spinning wheel. When using this plied yarn for knitting, the technique works best with very soft fiber such as Shetland, because spinning this way makes a hard (though very beautiful) yarn. Traditionally, this yarn is used for the hidden warp in Navajo rugs. It's amazingly strong.

The fruit of this drop spindle will eventually become a fisherman's sweater for my husband. The sample in the picture is from the Navajo yarn next to it. The pattern is just so crisp.

Yes, it will take a long time to make this sweater, but I'm ok with that.


chaiselongue said...

That's beautiful! I've never learnt to spin but it looks like a restful occupation. My mother used to do it and then dye the wool with indigo. I remember seeing women watching flocks of goats in Anatolia, spinning as they walked, so why not do it in the car??!!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Wow, that is cool.

Rabbits' Guy said...

I don't know how they work but I've seen lots of young kids learn to spin that way.

Verde said...

Oh, I love this post! However I'm not sure which is better...showboating or doing something wierd with your hands whilst sitting in an unladylike position.

I picked up a spindle one time at the Taos Wool festival (a great time there) and it has a long stick (dowel) with a flat disk toward the bottom. It works rather like a top. I didn't get the hang of it however and now it just sits around in a corner.

How cool you are teaching spinnin (and have a yarn shop).

Tamra Stallings said...

I was thrilled to read your post. A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to learn to spin. I am waiting for my local yarn store to offer classes.

I am surprised you don't have angora bunnies, then you could use their wool to make yarn.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting! I gotta admit, I don't know much about knitting but it sounds like a great way to spend your time. I like the pattern you've chosen :)

Verde said...

Have you tried to spin regular rabbit hair?

BTW, I love the idea of a fisherman's sweater.