women spinning on a spindle

Spindles – They are for everybody

I’m primarily a wheel spinner. Actually it’s been that way since I learned to spin. I love my wheels. I love how they look. I love how I imagine I look when I’m using them (don’t laugh). Many of the classes I teach are wheel focused classes.

But I like spindles too. I have plenty of them. Don’t ask how many. It’s not important.

When I learned to spin I began on a spindle but it was slow going and I was convinced that my lack of progress was because of the tool I was using and I needed a wheel. So I bought myself a used Ashford Traditional. Needless to say, the tool was not my problem. But that’s another story. Anyway, I took some lessons and got to be decent on the wheel. When I was satisfied that I was learning and improving I picked up the spindle again and magically I could do it! From then on I was a fan.

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Let me tell you why I think you should like spindles too – beyond the fact that they can be beautiful.

For the last couple of years I have been immersed in a couple of projects that needed a wheel to complete so I hadn’t picked up a spindle in a while. Then, last month I was teaching at the Palouse Fiber Festival in Moscow, Idaho and I was there with my friend Esther Rodgers who was also teaching. Esther had been told several times by Abby Franquemont that her arm problems when she used a spindle were because she was using a spindle that we lovingly refer to as a boat anchor. What that means is that is was too heavy. I was able to drag Esther to the table of Greensleeves Spindles. I own at least 10 of their spindles myself and I know that they are super good spindles. Well, Esther began to spin IMG_20160702_182904and try some out and she chose one to buy. Well, she didn’t stop spinning on that spindle for the whole weekend and I think she’s still spinning with it! I also think she may have visited the Jenkins table and bought a second one before we left Idaho.

So I was inspired and last week we were headed to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan just to spend the day with all of our kids and grandkids and on the way out the door I grabbed a spindle and an illusive Abby Batt to work on while we walked around. I got pretty much done in the midst of semi chaos. and I began to think about what I learned from spinning on a spindle. all of the things I’ve learned translate to wheel spinning and make me a better overall spinner.

I learned to better handle live singles. I rarely have tangles. I learned this by butterflying the yarn onto one hand to raise the spindle rather than reaching for the spindle when it is hanging by a super long thread. If you are unsure what I mean by butterflying the yarn you can see it here at around the 5 minute mark. (yes, that’s me a few years ago.)

I learned that sometimes it’s better to take some time with a project rather than always trying to be in production mode. Please don’t mistake me, spinners all over the world spin pounds and pounds of yarn using only spindles but I am not as practiced at it as they are since my focus has been a different tool. I am thoroughly convinced if I made yarn exclusively on a spindle and carried one with me all of the time I would be able to do it too. but since that isn’t the case, I like to use a spindle for special fibers that I only ahve a little of so that I can savor the experience.

I learned (again) that the right tool for the job is often key to getting the results that I want. spindles can add twist extremely quickly and with very little tension on the yanr being made so they are perfect for spinning super fine/gossamer type yarns that spinning wheels may not be as good at.

I’m sure there is more that I’ve learned but it’s all in my hands and not in my brain right now.

Do you spin on a spindle? What have spindles taught you?

11 replies
  1. Jan Adams
    Jan Adams says:

    I began with spindles I bought with no thought and no knowledge of them. I had little success until I ordered my first Golding. After obtaining it, I became obsessed!

  2. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    Evidently there is supposed to be a video attached to this post, since Beth refers to seeing her butterfly technique at the five minute mark.

    I love my spindles. They are portable and I take them with me to spin wherever and whenever I wish. I bounce between using drop spindles, supported spindles, and my wheels, depending on the project and my wish to maintain flexibility in my hands as a preventative measure. Working on spindles makes me a better wheel spinner, and spinning on a wheel makes me a better spindle spinner.

  3. Lyn Crenshaw
    Lyn Crenshaw says:

    Ha, I am not the first to note that a few years on the shelf, while we are busy with our wheels, do those lovely spindles a world of good! ;P

  4. Dorothea Pierce
    Dorothea Pierce says:

    I am primarily a wheel spinner, but as Lyn said, my spindles got so much better after their sojourn on my shelf and now I can’t LIVE without my Spanish Peacock spindles. They are the only company I will buy from sight unseen. I find the adage is true, I spin more on the wheel by the hour, and more on the spindle by the month. I challenged myself this year to spin a little every day on a spindle, and here we are at Day 189 of #spin366 and I haven’t missed a day yet. It’s become a bit of an obsession! Love those spindles!!

  5. Amelia Garripoli
    Amelia Garripoli says:

    I probably split my time between spindle and wheel about the same. That said, spindles are my go-to sampling tool, and also my tool of choice if a fiber is proving difficult. I can slow it down and keep it simple with a spindle, where my feet seem to always get the better of me on a wheel.

  6. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thoroughly good read, thank you! I learned to spin on spindles and was sure wheel spinning was my goal. I was wrong. I have a lovely wheel and am adequate but spindles will always be my first love.

  7. labcat
    labcat says:

    Other than my charkha for cotton spinning, I only spin on spindles. Sometimes I find it hard when my wheel spinning friends whizz though fiber to have yarn in no time at all. However, I have plenty of yarn; both mill spun and my hand spun and only a limited time to knit it all, so spinning faster really isn’t necessary.

  8. Renee O-C
    Renee O-C says:

    Great post, Beth. Like Amelia Garripoli, I use multiple tools (wheel, e-spinner, and spindle, in my case), with spindles a favored sampling tool and way to better understand a challenging fiber. I also find that spindles provide me with the most intimate connection with fiber. I usually take a new fiber for a trial run on a spindle, because that’s how I get a feel for what the fiber is about, how the fiber and I will interact, and what the outcome of that interaction might be (lace weight? worsted? textured? yarn for weaving?).

  9. Sergeant Majorette
    Sergeant Majorette says:

    I’m a spindler. I do own a wheel, but it’s kind of not my thing. Me and the wheel have come to an understanding of what we will and will not spin. Also I live in a little city apartment. Also I use public transportation. So spindles suit my lifestyle: I spin waiting for the bus, at the doctor’s office, on the bus, standing around gossiping, whatever.

  10. Lee
    Lee says:

    I spin almost exclusively on spindles, and have for about 7 years. That’s partly because wheels intimidate me, even though I just bought a wheel at a fiber festival a couple of weeks ago (I’m learning to make friends with it.). I love collecting a variety of beautiful handmade spindles and I’ve found my groove using them. Spindle spinning is relaxing and satisfying. I keep them by my bed and spin a little before I go to sleep. 🙂

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