Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Spinning with a spindle

There is a story going around that I cannot spin with a spindle. It is libel.

I have even taught spinning with a spindle at some of the local spinning guilds "learn to spin" booths, including a couple of years at Stitches West.  Later, a friend who is a very fine spinner wanted a travel wheel for a trip to Southern Europe. Together, we shopped for a wheel, but decided that a set of spindles designed for the kinds of fine yarns that she wanted to spin would actually allow her to spin faster than any of the commercially available travel wheels.  So, I undertook to design suitable spindles for her.  I spent a few hundred hours getting good at spinning with a drop spindle. I used a drop spindle to spin miles of "fines".  I learned to spin fine and fast.   And, I started making spindles for spinning fine and fast. There were at least 4 distinct generations of design as my increasing skill informed my spindle design, and better spindle design allowed better spinning. The last couple of  generations of these spindles are so fast that they require the use of a distaff to permit drafting fast enough to keep up with the spindles.

A set of the Third Generation spindles was stolen and passed around fiber groups in Ohio. I expect that those spinners tried to spin 2,000 ypp singles rather than the 22,000 - 30,000  ypp singles that the spindles were designed to spin. Thus, the spindles did not work well, and the spinners did not like those spindles.  They, decided that anyone that made such spindles must not know how to spin.  And they posted such nonsense.

(I allowed the spindles to be stolen because I already had G4 spindles that were better, and I wanted to see if those spinners were honest.)


MorningGlory said...

Hi Aaron!

I have struggled for five years plus to learn to spin. I have a drop spindle I ordered online and once a year I try to learn and I fail. I would like to learn to spin fine like you do on a drop spindle but I can't even get a start. Very frustrating! Do you have any recommendations for books, etc for someone to learn? What kind of drop spindle would you recommend? Or am I spinning challenged and should just stick to knitting?

Thanks for any help you can give!

Lisa said...

Are you talking about those three spindles you sent to the spinner in Indiana for her to test? I got to use them, and found one of them to be very nice indeed. In fact, I told her I would buy a spindle like that one if you put them in your etsy shop. I felt that the hook could have been better, but that's a small adjustment in an otherwise good spindle.

Maybe there was simply a misunderstanding about whether the spindles should have been returned to you when she was done testing and gathering opinions on them? I know she's not the kind of person who would steal someone's spindles.

Aaron said...

The deal (in writing) was to have them back in my hands by New Years.

The other part of the deal was that I was to get comments and feedback. I never got that either.

Perhaps she did not think of it as theft? They may have just thought of it as passing the "swag" around.

Aaron said...


Frankly, I had to spin on a wheel for a while before I got good with a spindle.

Perhaps, if I had started with a spindle and a very good teacher, I could have succeeded earlier with a spindle, but I doubt it. I did not have the patience. And, I knew the wheel was faster, And I knew that I wanted faster. That was always the problem; from the beginning, I wanted faster.

Now it is like a video game with the maw of my beast snatching fiber from my fingers as fast as I can draft.

Anonymous said...

MorningGlory - the best resource I've seen for learning to spin on a spindle is Abby Franquemont's 'Respect the Spindle'. But it's more important to practise for a short time every day, and accept that it'll take a while to get the hang of it.

MorningGlory said...

Aaron and Anon10:27,

Thanks for your replies! I suspect my issue is like yours, Aaron, that I'm not particularly patient. I'm also thinking that I might do better on a wheel as well. You've given me things to think over. Thanks again!