Honey, why do you have so many spindles?

. . . My darling husband asked the other day, when four large Capar spindles from Natural Knot Wood Designs arrived in the mail. (Four had arrived the week before from TurtleMade, and four medium Capar spindles two weeks before. And there were even more that he didn’t even know about. . . but this isn’t an AA meeting.)

I have to admit, it is an honest question. A dangerous question, but an honest one.

There are three reasons why I have so many a wide assortment of spindles.

1. For teaching

I need an assortment of styles and sizes for my spindling instruction. I teach people how to make yarn with a spindle: I work with absolute beginners to more advanced spindlers. People learning how to spin on a well-balanced medium-weight spindle (30 – 40 grams) have a greater chance of success and limited frustration in the learning process when they are working with a good piece of equipment. So I have several top-whorl spindles (enough to cover the entire class of eight) that participants can use during the workshop if their spindle is giving them grief.

There are also people wanting to learn how to stretch their skills like learning how to spin cotton or short stapled fibres like cashmere. They want to move beyond the suspended (drop) spindle and move to supported spindles. They may simply want to try it out before they decide to jump in and buy one. For this, I have two Tahkli spindles, three Houndesign Little Twisters, three Russian Spindles, two antique supported spindles – stick and clay whorl – from Guatemala, and a Navajo spindle made by Houndesign. From left to right are the Little Twister from Houndesign; Tahkli; and the two antique spindles from Guatemala.

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They may also want to learn how to work with a Turkish spindle. As a suspended spindle, it is similar to the others in the drafting and spinning process. Where it differs and people may want tips or practice, is in the starting and winding on process. So I have a fleet of Turkish spindles for them to use during the workshop. Below is one of them from TurtleMade. It is made on a 3-D printer.

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2. For making different kinds of yarn

The spinning wheels that give us the greatest variety of yarns with ease are the ones with multiple whorls and drive options. Why not so with spindles?

I have some spindles that are really light (16 grams) and have a smooth shaft, which allows me to spin off my thigh and put a LOT of twist into my yarn FAST. I also have a spindle that is heavy (50 grams) and as a Turkish spindle, it requires a flick of the fingers to get it in motion – much slower than rolling it off my thigh. Because of the weight of the spindle and the slower speed of the spin, the twist goes into the stretched out fibre slower than it does on the fast light one. I can take the exact same fibre, with the exact same fibre prep and spin on each spindle the light one and the heavy one – and I get very different yarn. In fact, I’ll do that experiment over the weekend and will prove it.

So depending on the yarn I want to make and/or the fibre I am working with, I will select my spindle accordingly. The same way that if I want to make soft singles using my Ashford Joy, I’ll set it on the largest whorl – so there are fewer revolutions per treadle and set my tension for a slightly stronger uptake. If I want to spin for socks and I’m making a three-ply sock yarn, I’ll change to my smallest whorl so I get more revolutions per treadle, and slow the uptake down so a lot of twist can get into the finely drafted singles yarn.

It’s easier to change your whorl and uptake than it is to change what your body does. Because of body or motion memory, we easily and quickly go back into the rhythm we generally use to spin – hence the phenomenon of default yarn. So using the same principle, I change my spindle to get a different result for a different kind of yarn.

The Steampunk spindle, shown below, is a terrific spindle for making singles and especially for plying. Since it is large and can fit 4 ounces (and probably more) plied yarn onto it, it has become my go-to plying spindle. No messing around with the smaller ones. This one is the King!

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3. For the simple and undeniable fact that they are beautiful tools

They are beautifully crafted, often made from exotic woods, and are delightful to look at and hold. For the most part, the ones I own are made by artisans I have had conversations with and are people I want to support in their craft. Here’s a small sampling of some of the spindles. There are a few more tucked away here and there in my studio.

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So the long and short of it is this: there are three good reasons why I collect spindles and since all fall within the parameters of my hero William Morris’ famous quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

I’m good. Really good.

PS –  I reached a point last week after ordering more spindles, that I had to stage an intervention on myself. That consisted of deleting the Etsy app from my smartphone!

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