Spindles

Have been taking something like a break in the past month, something about high summer that makes it a good time for reflection and taking stock. Maybe it’s those lazy days or maybe it’s the crazy amount of social activity that seems to come with the heat and daylight. Had a weekend in Lincoln at the end of July for a wedding. The nuptials themselves were in Lincoln Cathedral itself, an awesome venue, the bride was gorgeous. Also got to see the Magna Carta across the square in the castle.

Mother-in-law came back with us for a weeSpindle_whorl_with_drawingsk’s holiday. Aside from the Sandringham Flower Show (much pushing of wheel chair over rough grass – heavy going) we also took her to the Norwich Castle Museum. I found the textile bit which included the ubiquitous clay spindle whorls like these:

I’ve since been thinking a lot about those whorls and the hands that twirled them. Every item of textiles would have been produced by thread or yarn from a spindle. An activity that would have been so common a site as to become invisible. But only by women (?). And specifically unmarried ones, because clearly these ones had ‘free’ time what with no husband/children/house to attend to. Hence the term ‘spinster’.

This month’s Guild meeting included a show me yours and I’ll show you mine spindle extravaganza, I think between us we managed at least 30 different spindles, which included many examples of the bog standard toy wheel/wooden disc/fimo disc/pretty bead on a shaft weighted drop variety and one or two CD DIY versions.

Our most enthusiastic spindler also bought along her major collection which included a ‘neolithic’ whorl, a Turkish spindle with its distinctive removable double crossed struts and also interestingly a Balkan spindle.

Bulgarian spindle
Bulgarian spindle

The Balkan type spindles were unusual in that they are an unweighted spindle. It was demonstrated that they were used in conjunction with a distaff and the twist added by rolling between the fingers rather than drop spin twist and wind of the more conventional drop spindle. This is an excellent video demonstrating the method:

I’m sceptical of this as it would have taken for ever all that rolling between the fingers. Maybe that says a lot about my personality, I have no patience, I don’t like waiting when I have a project in my head that needs out. I have a need for speed…

Hmmm, I suspect I haven’t finished with emerging theme of the history of spinning, the role of women in society and the ongoing dismissing of the ‘mundane’ female dominated activities in historical interpretation from a feminist perspective. Or something along those lines anyway.

Happy summer salad days.

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One thought on “Spindles

  1. These spindles are centre weighted, like medieval spindles. I haven’t spun with a bulgarian spindle but I spin almost exclusivley with a medieval one and I find the spin much faster than my modern spindles and when using a distaff correcty there is no need to stop drafting to turn the spindle as one tends to do with drop spindle spinning.

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