Friday, September 30, 2011

From the Collection: Weaving Accoutrement Part III

Drop spindles!  Of course you can spin wool into yarn with a spinning wheel (got to go round/drop all your troubles by the riverside...)!!  But if you're learning to use a drop spindle, what you drop, along with your troubles is the spindle.  And you drop it a lot.  I never learned to use one, but the Roommate knows how; he is however, a bit out of practice.  But he told me at his first class, there was little talking, but lots of clunking (spindles hitting the floor).

Once again, we're back to why decorate something that is for utilitarian purposes? (I know why, but I get a kick out of it, so you'll probably hear about it again.)  Sorry the photo isn't any better; you'll have to take my word for it.  The spindles above are from: Ladakh, Laos, Oman and Thailand.  The largest one, and the one on the bottom, come apart completely, I'm not sure why--for transport?  They are all heavily used, very worn.  They're simple, beautiful, and do the job (once you know how).

Here are two Tibetans using drop spindles somewhere on the road to Kailash.

There are plenty of videos on youtube showing how to, and videos of spinners from all over the world.  I don't want to discount anyone's spinning skills because I can't do it at all, but I was especially impressed with the women in Peru & Bolivia...they do it standing up & sometimes while walking (and we didn't see many sidewalks or paved roads when we were there).  I can't even being to think how that works; I can text & walk, but I have to think hard and I only do it on routes that I take every day.

If you've ever seen anyone spinning (with a wheel or a drop spindle), it's mesmerizing.  I find it so relaxing.  The old fairy tale about straw into gold?  It's about magic--and when you see wool being spun into yarn, you'll realize you're seeing magic, too.  And a skill that's probably at least 20,000 years old.  More on that later.  Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.  Questions? Comments?

BTW, the Met has an exhibit on Andean Huipiles (Tunics)! Unbelievable weaving & dying techniques on these masterpieces--some of them over 2000 years old.


  1. FAscinating! And the earlier post about shuttlEs. Thank you bella

  2. Hi! Stopped by while looking for a Tibetan spindle.

    As from the date of this post, you may have found out what the bottom spindle is used for, but if not, here's the explanation.

    The bottom spindle is interesting; most commonly used in and known as a Turkish spindle. It is unique in that it winds the yarn around the crossbeams into a ball. Then, it comes apart and you have the ball of yarn to use.

    As from the date of this post, you may have found out what the bottom spindle is used for, but if not, here's the explanation.

    1. Sahara, thank you so much! Very interesting. I know what a hassle winding skeins into balls of yarn that would be great to go straight from spinning to ball.

      Interesting about it being "Turkish," we got it in Ladakh! But now I understand why it comes apart & goes back together so easily.

  3. The big one in the middle isn't actually a spindle. It is a niddy-noddy. To use it, the horizontal bars at the top and the bottom shouldn't be lined up. One will point right and left and the other will point towards you and away from you. It is used to wrap your freshly spun yarn around to create a skein. It is also used as a measuring tool so you know how much yardage you have.

    I love the image! These tools look very well loved.

  4. Thanks, Anonymous...I will put this information in the file for our "archive!"


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