Spinning and Weaving, Pt 1

Sonja Milojevic suggested I show you some of my weaving, but before I can do that, I must show you the first step.   And I keep that first step in this beautiful box:

Well, I don’t keep all of it in the box, it’s not big enough; this holds my smaller quantities of fiber, little samples, in-work projects, etc.  But more importantly, this is the box where I keep my spindles.

I learned to spin on a drop spindle about… ooh… 8 years ago?  Something like that.  I loved it immediately, and it really touched a whole new part of me I hadn’t even known about.  Or rather, I did, I just didn’t know I did.  There is a whole story behind that I’ll go into in another journal (which is in work, but waiting for this to be done first), but I was hooked from the first.

I learned to spin at a medieval reenactment event – I’m part of a group called the SCA: Society for Creative Anachronism, and part of what we do is arts and crafts as they would have been done in the medieval period, generally between 600 AD and 1600 AD.  Which really gives a lot of options for how things were done, depending on when and where.

Using a spindle dates back thousands of years, and it’s almost universal across cultures and continents.

Ancient Egyptian scene depicting spinning and weaving

The entire point of a spinning wheel?  It’s to turn a spindle.  Relative to spindles, the spinning wheel is a very modern tool.  This is the thing that Sleeping Beauty was supposed to prick her finger on and fall into the enchanted sleep.  My spindles aren’t sharp, that’s just silly, I don’t want to go stabbing any part of my body with these things!

Where was I?

Right!  Drop spindle.  This is my very first one:

It’s called a drop spindle (there are other kinds) because it hangs from the spun thread above, unsupported from below.  It “drops” as you work, the length of yarn growing longer as it is spun, and hence the name.  Here’s a very short video to give you a visual on how it works.

The lady who taught the aforementioned class offered them for $5.00 each.  That’s a steal, people!  So I snatched one up with a handful of wool (not what’s in the picture, but that *is* a gorgeous burnt orange wool, isn’t it?  I saw two balls of roving for sale and snatched them up) and thus began my love affair with this craft.

I now get far more excited over roving than any normal, sane person ought.  But that’s alright, I’m not either of those things 😀

I’ve also purchased a few more spindles, not just so I can justify moving on to the next ball of roving before I’ve finished the first (because I never do that…) but because their sizes and weights lend themselves to different uses.  The one above is a really good ‘all purpose’.  The one below is very light and I use that for my finer silk threads:

But this next one, though not my first, though not my ‘finest’, is one I will always cherish.  It was given to me by a friend who discovered my love of spinning.  She buys artifacts, the kind that they find so often that they sell them instead of putting them in museums.  Among these artifacts she gets are spindle whirls, the round thing on the top.  This one is a stone whirl found in northern Europe (perhaps the British Isles) and is estimated to be about 500 years old.

500 years old.  Five.  Hundred.  Years old.  For all I know, my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great+a lot more greats grandmother spun yarn using this whirl!  Isn’t it just gorgeous!?  I love it so much!  (yes… yes it is on a chopstick.  Don’t judge me.)

Now, several years ago, I worked at a job where the hours and the location allowed me to ride the bus instead of drive.  I really miss that, it was far better on the budget and it gave me one and a half hours per day to spin.   I got so much done!  The great thing about drop spindles is they’re so perfectly portable!  So it didn’t take all that long before I had lots of tiny little skeins of sheep’s wool, … and goat, and alpaca, and flax (linen), and silk, and bamboo, and rabbit, and bison, and I think I even tried camel once?  All sorts of great fibers to play with!

Here’s just a small sampling of them:

I don’t crochet, or knit, but I do embroider and sew and weave, so I have used my hand spun yarns to repair clothes, embellish embroideries, and weave wonderful, thin strips which can be used for trip, straps, draw strings, shoe laces… pretty much whatever you might need small, narrow strips for.

And that… will be in my next entry.  🙂

Now obviously, I spin because I enjoy it, not because I rely on it to clothe myself or create functional, useful items.

But when I do… I feel a connection to women across time, culture and geography.

Miao woman in China using a spindle

Woman in Greece using a drop spindle.

Woman in Peru using a drop spindle

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5 thoughts on “Spinning and Weaving, Pt 1

  1. The box is absolutely gorgeous!!! What a wonderful thing to keep your treasures in! And the spindles are beautiful! I mean, I really think they are beautiful, not only useful. Anything that has something to do with weaving and yarn is beautiful to me. Especially if it has history like your 500 years old spindle has!!! You are so lucky to have it!
    I can’t wait to read more about your spinning and weaving. I would love to learn how to spin, and hopefully one day I will, but right now my apartment isn’t big enough for everything I would love to try. 🙂

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