Sunday, August 21, 2016

The spinner's creed

What does a good spinner need to know?

aspirational - be able to name and replicate any natural fiber yarn or thread, including those in suiting, shirting, coating, undergarments, and other fabrics, both archaic and recent.

The core of a spinner's craft is being able to make the particular, and named yarn, that is desired.

A spinner should be able to estimate/ budget materials required to make a particular batch of yarn, the tools required, other resources required, and the total spinning labor.

Things a spinner stands ready to do, include:

  • grade wool as to spin count with a twisty stick / modern tools
  • sort and scour a fleece  (
  • comb wool
  • card wool
  •  name yarns,  particularly including grist  (, etc )
  • spin wool at its spin count 
  •  ply and cable yarns
  • care, maintenance, and setup of single lead, and double drive spinning wheels
  • design and specify spinning wheel whorls
  • prep spin camelid fibers finely 
  • prep and spin cotton, both woolen style and worsted style into very fine thread
  • prep and spin flax into fine linen threads 
  • prep and spin hemp into thread
  • and, of course, spin silk finer than frog's hair.
  • prepare fiber and yarns for dye operations
  • dye to desired colorway
Compared with the above, the little bit of history in a "Master's Spinning Course" is trivial and will be picked up along the way. (I figure basic spinning requires about 6,000 hours of practice, and master's level spinning requires about 14,000 hours of practice.) I find skills to be highly transferable between fibers.

Spinning is about spinning, not history.  If you want history, go look at the fabrics depicted on recently discovered Classical Greek sculpture (not Roman copies) showing the very fine yarns/fabrics that were produced in Classical Greek times ( , but I cannot put my finger on it at this time.)  The Classical Greek stuff sets a much higher bar for the "Old School" production of textiles.  


Ruth B said...

You do realize that those Flemish spinners in the Middle Ages and Renaissance you so admire, never mind Ancient Greece and Rome, did not spin cotton or camelid fibers, don't you? And how's that mythical bolt of shirting going for you? You have no standing to create criteria for anyone other than yourself, and treating Alden Amos as though he needed to learn from you rather than the obverse, is insulting, to say the least.

Aaron said...

Their wonderful linen lace thread makes up for whatever they did not spin. It is glorious stuff!

Besides,I find that folks that can spin one fiber very well, can also spin other fibers well.

As for Alden, he was a giant, and by standing on his shoulders, we can see over his horizons; We can see farther. We can do things that he could not. That is the greatest tribute that a craftsman can have. His work is a foundation, that we can build on, without fear that it will fail in any way. Every other (modern) book on spinning has flaws in it. Anything built on those foundations will crack, and will not endure.

If we do not build, then the craft of spinning will contract and diminish. Do you want hand spinning to fade away? I have seen aspects of hand spinning fade in just the last decade. Look around. Sure there are more wheels, but there is more flash and glitter and less functionality and substance. It is a tribute to AA to spin better. He liked intelligence, competence, and excellence in spinning. We owe him! It is our duty to pay back by working smarter, spinning faster, spinning finer, and producing better yarns. In particular, he wanted to spin finer, so we need to learn and teach the techniques for spinning finer.