Showing the fleet of spindles

Last Monday I had the pleasure of presenting some of my spindle collection to the Textiles students at Capilano University. I call the presentation “The Taxonomy of Spindles.”

In this presentation I show the different categories of spindles – suspended and supported, and talk about the differences within each larger category, such as top whorl, bottom whorl, cross-piece (AKA Turkish spindles).

It was fun to share my collection with eager students who know about fibre, spinning, and textile production.

After I did a bit of talk, I invited the students to gather around and try out some of the spindles. Nearly the entire class took me up on this offer. It was so delightful to support such interest in making yarn with a stick.

I know there are far more supported spindles than there are suspended spindles in this photo, but that’s where the fun and learning exist for me these days — figuring out the fibre preparation, fibres, and spinning techniques to get the yarn I want from support spindles.

Looking for the top twelve – two contenders

On this latest spin I used two spindles – a new-to-me Mirkwood – destashed by one of the best spindle enablers in our guild; and a Takhli style from The Spindle Shop. I’ll give my feedback one by one.

Mirkwood: (49g and 26cm long) it’s a lovely spindle and I would never have bought it if I just looked at it online. It looked very bottom heavy (which it is) and didn’t have a thin shaft, instead has a crystal at the top! It also has crystals around the bottom rim.

I was smitten from the first flick – the red crystals mesmerize and delight me. It has a ball bearing at the bottom tip which makes for a long and nearly friction-less spin. I use a wooden spinning bowl with it because I don’t like the sound of the ball bearing against my glass and ceramic bowls. In a Tibetan-style, it has a something to build your cop against. The shaft is smooth and slightly shaped to helped with cop building.

There is no sharp point on the end of the spindle. As noted, it has a ball bearing. My only frustration with this spindle is that the lack of point on the end makes it just that little bit more difficult to brace it against my thigh or waist to wind on a firm cop. Despite that, and largely for the crystals and weight, this spindle is in the running for my “top 12”.

The other spindle I used on this spin is a Takhli style (17g and 21cm long) by The Spindle Shop in Queensland, Australia, along with their spinning bowl. It’s light, short, and spins above its weight. Smooth shaft with a rim on the bottom, it is easy to build a stable cop on this spindle. From the first flick of this spindle, I knew it would make it to the top 12. And yes, it’s there too.

It is important to note my spinning style and practices. I mostly (nearly always) spin while in bed. I know that sounds odd, but I choose my support spindles for spinning as part of a meditative practice. Something to focus me in the morning (15 minutes) and again in the evening as I settle in for sleep. It is within this context that I judged/assessed these spindles for my use.

I prepared the fibre (polwarth/silk 70/30 or 80/20 – can’t recall) into light rolags using my blending board. My focus was on experimenting with each spindle – so for that I chose light rolags with silk and a fine wool. As I filled each spindle, I wound it onto a plying ball, splicing the yarn so it was one continuous thread. You can see it in the top right corner of the first photo. Once all the fibre had been spun, I had a fairly large (53g) ball of singles yarn. Using my ball winder, I wound it into a centre pull ball, and from that wound a two-strand plying ball.

I know that seems like a lot of work, but I have learned that making a two-strand plying ball prior to plying leads to a pleasant experience plying. When you get to the near end of the centre pull ball, sometimes (nearly EVERY time) the middle collapses and you need to untangle it. It happened this time and I ended up losing the last couple of grams of spun yarn. 🙁

It’s easier to untangle the mess if you are just winding a ball, and not when you are managing the twist on a wheel (or spindle) in motion.

I plied the yarn on my wheel (Majacraft Rose) and put extra ply twist into it. The result is a 177m of yarn – washed and ready to go.

Summary: both spindles are a delight to use. And I learned not to judge a spindle just by the look – argh! That means I have to try them all out? I’m doomed . I like that they are on the shorter side (26 cm or less) and have smooth shafts to build a cop on. I also love that they each have a bit of a base to build the cop against. Cop management is a big thing as a firm cop helps to keep the spinning going.

Stay tuned as I go through my collection and (try to) rank it to a top 12.

A Mitt is a Swatch: Article for PLY magazine

In the Winter 2021 issue 35 of PLY magazine, I have an article called, A Mitt is a Swatch. Here are some photographs that support my article, in particular the pieces that didn’t make the cut.

Starting with blending board experiments, I made these rolags. I made two blending boards, trying to make them the same so once spun up, I could have about 70 grams of yarn.

And here it is in spinning progress. Singles spun on my Ashford Joy.

I made a two-ply yarn and then knit it into a wee swatch to see it better. Yes, I like this.

And here’s the mitt, with a bit of leftover rolag so I could show what it’s made up of; some leftover yarn, and the first small swatch. I call it a quick mitt because I didn’t include the thumbs – which take an additional 30 – 40 minutes to make (including having to weave in four extra ends.)

The mitt shows me much better what the yarn looks like; will eventually show me how the yarn will perform; and finally gives me a functional and beautiful (if I don’t mind saying so myself) object.

A mitten is a swatch – to read the entire article get a copy of PLY Magazine Winter 2021 Issue #35 (the Head and Hands Issue). It’s worth it.