Making Friends with My Drop Spindle

I first learned how to spin using a drop spindle – one of the most ancient of fiber tools. A local hand dyer (Kristine from A Verb For Keeping Warm) taught me the basics at a trunk show she and her friends presented about 5 years ago. I fell in love with spinning. After creating finer and finer singles, I tried plying on the spindle. I fell out of love. Plying (ie. twisting two or more singles together to create a multi-ply yarn) on a spindle was too clumsy for me. I stopped spinning until I acquired a spinning wheel several years later. The Schact Hi-Lo spindle on which I first learned how to spin lay forgotten until January 2013.

English Shetland top on a Schact Hi-Lo Drop Spindle

Recently I found the need to pick the spindle up again in order to give a demo during a holiday knitting potluck. During practice, I fell back in love with the drop spindle. I managed to spin up a bunch of English Shetland top in a pale peachy-salmon color (a much lighter version of Spice Jar which I’ve blogged about before) which I will overdye to deepen the color.

Here is the unspun fiber:

Shetland Top in ‘Spice Jar Light’

Magically, within a few short weeks, it turned into this 4 oz. skein of 3-ply sock yarn:

3-Ply Fingering weight Shetland Wool Handspun on a drop spindle

What do I love about spindling? It’s so immediate. I can pick it up and spin for 5 minutes or an hour. Making coffee and waiting for the water to boil? Spin. Waiting for dinner to cook? Spin. Kinda bored and not sure what to do because you don’t have a lot of time on your hands? Spin on the spindle.

With wheel spinning, you go to the “spinning place” in your home, sit down, and spin for a period of time. Maybe your spinning place is a the corner of a room where the wheel is all set up. Maybe you have to pull out the wheel from where its hiding, set up your spinning chair, and spin. There is preparation involved – a ritual. You need to be sitting at the correct height. It’s location-specific. Sitting down to spin implies a commitment of time; if you’re going to all the trouble to make spinning preparations, you feel obligated to put in some quality spinning time – a half hour, an hour, an afternoon, whatever.

There is no commitment implied when spindling. You just grab the spindle and some fluff, either sit or stand where you are, and spin. Store your spindle & fiber in a small project bag and take it with you wherever you go. Keep it in the car. Standing in line? Spin. Going on a long walk? Spin. Sitting on a park bench enjoying the sunshine? Spin. Only have five minutes to spare? Spin!

Spindle spinning may seem slower than wheel spinning. Even so, all those little in-between times during the day in which you can pick up your spindle add up quickly. You’ll find that the spindle fills up more quickly than you’d expect.

How joyous is that?


About fotoknit

Knitter, spinner, knitwear designer, photographer, blogger, former yarn shop owner.
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