The drop spindle is one of the oldest tools known to mankind – it has been in use since an estimated 25,000 – 35,000 years ago. But what on earth is it, and why would anyone want to use one? (And why is Ingebretsen’s having a demo/drop-in participation day for it?)
In its most simple form, a drop spindle is a stick stuck through the center of a weight, which aids a spinner in making thread or yarn. What that weight does is provide momentum to allow a single movement to keep the spindle turning and adding twist to the fibers, which is necessary to hold them together and allow them to become a thinner, stronger form of fiber. It’s up to the spinner to draft out (pull apart) the fibers consistently to make a yarn that is good for knitting or weaving.
Why would anyone go to that kind of trouble to make yarn? For most spinners, the act of spinning itself is appealing. I personally find it to be almost meditative – a morning that starts with 15 or 20 minutes of spinning is often a much calmer day than one that starts with checking my e-mail. Handspun yarn is often described as “livelier” than commercially spun yarn is, and you can often find more interesting fibers and colors at a price that is less expensive than mill spun yarn. Of course, it comes “some assembly required”.
The upcoming Spin In! here at Ingebretsen’s on June 29th will give you a chance to see some of these remarkable tools in action, as well as (we hope) a spinning wheel or two, so you can see the difference. There will be at least one spindle and some fiber available for anyone who wants to try out the technique, although be forewarned: while spinning can be addictive, there can be quite a learning curve. If you get bitten by the spinning bug, there will be a “Spinning on Drop Spindle” class this fall. Hope you can join us!
–Laurie Olson Williams