Introduction to Spindles Around The WorldBy Molly Ferriter – 16 Comments
|One of the hot crochet-related items on many crocheters Christmas list this year was a spindle for hand-spinning yarn. Spindles come in a plethora of types, styles, and models. Many are a mini-art pieces, with beautiful woodwork, designs, and colors. Hand spinning yarn, for me, has become a sister addiction to my out-of-hand crochet addiction! This is the first post in a series that plans to explore hand spindles from around the world. I’m so excited to be writing about a new passion of mine- hand spinning yarn!|
Spindles have been around since the Neolithic age, possibly earlier, with parts of spindles being found in Archaeological sites around the world. Spinning is a universal human activity performed throughout all of human history and cultures. While today, yarn shops and large yarn companies have eliminated the need for crocheters to spin their own yarn, a lot of us have caught the spinning bug and spin our own yarn for our crochet projects. Many people collect spindles, not only for spinning, but just for their artistic value. The yarn created by hand spinning is as diverse as the spindles. In a variety of textures and colors, “art yarn” is enjoyable to crochet with, making one-of-a-kind creations.
How do Spindles Work?
Handspun yarn is made of natural fibers that are drafted, or pulled into long strips, then twisted. When the fiber is twisted, or “spun”, the fibers are brought together into long, miniature ropes. When spun, the fibers hold together and are hard to pull apart, or break. Before being spun, the fiber can be easily separated and do not hold together.
A spindle is generally a straight stick or spike, that contains a weight, called a whorl. The whorl is usually a disc made of wood or stone, which serves as a weight that helps the spindle spin faster. Many spindles do not have a whorl, but are thickened towards the bottom for weight.A spinner will spin the spindle, then draft out portions of fiber while it is spinning. The spin moves up the fiber, twisting it into yarn. The spinner then spins the spindle again, drafts out small portions of the fiber, and allows the spin to move further up the fiber, forming more yarn. After a long string of yarn is made, the spinner winds the yarn onto the spindle to hold it. There are almost as many styles of spinning as there are spindles, but you get the point! Spindles come in two main forms: drop spindles and supported spindles. Supported spindles usually spin while resting on something- such as the floor, in spindle bowls, or on the hand. Drop spindles spin freely in the air. Some of the numerous types of support spindles are: Tibetan spindle, French spindle, Russian spindle, Navajo Spindle, and so many more! Exploring types and styles of spindles is like a miniature history lesson, surveying all ages in time throughout the globe. The list of different spindles is almost as long as a list of all the world’s cultures and countries!
Many of the older European spindles are larger is size, and the fiber is held on a long stick-like tool, called a distaff. As far as I know, the distaff is most generally used in older Europe traditional spindles. I have even seen types of spindles as small as a couple inches. The variety of spindles is astounding. They are working pieces of art, holding cultural traditions, history, and the human experiences in their carvings.
I would love to hear about your experiences with spindles. Are you a hand spinner? Do you collect spindles? Are you as obsessed with spindles, too? Leave your comments below!