Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day spinning.

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Today is Mother's Day here in the United States. My daughters Kat and Amy took me out to dinner -- brunch is too early for us -- and then Amy pulled out a couple of drop spindles she bought recently and let me play with them for a little while.

A drop spindle is basically a low-tech, but quite efficient, way to create yarn or thread from carded wool. (Carding cleans the sticks and other junk from the wool, and lays the fibers straight so they can be spun into thread or yarn.) Last fall, Amy talked me into taking a learn-to-spin class at the yarn shop where she works. She took the class, too, and has gotten really good at spinning. I have not practiced much, and so I am not as good at it. (Actually, I'm not very good at it at all. I need a lot of practice.)

The spindles in the top photo are all top-whorl drop spindles, the "whorl" being the circular chunk of wood (or other material) at the top of the shaft. There's a hook on the end of the shaft above the whorl. You wrap your wool around the hook to anchor it, then pull on the supply of fiber to thin it out, and then you set the spindle spinning to put twist in the yarn. The twist makes the yarn stronger. Once you've got a length of spun wool, you unwind it from the hook and wind it around the shaft below the whorl; then you wrap the unspun end around the hook and do it all again.

Pschemp | | CC 3.0
There are bottom whorl spindles, too, including what's known as a Turkish spindle. Its whorl is two interlocking pieces of wood that, when assembled, make an X shape. There's no hook at the top of this type of spindle -- instead, you make a half-hitch knot near the top of the shaft (the spindle in the photo has a little knob at the top to keep your half-hitch from sliding off) and then spin just like you would the top whorl spindle. When you've spun a length of yarn, you undo the half-hitch and then wind your yarn around the arms of the whorl. The big advantage to the Turkish spindle (to me, anyway) is that when the spindle is full, you pull out the shaft and the arms, and you've got a ready-made center-pull ball of yarn.

Other bottom-whorl spindles have a point on the end. You use them by putting the point in a bowl or on the floor, and spinning the spindle like a top.

I say all this like I have a great deal of experience with spinning -- which, as I said above, I don't. At all. I have a bit of yarn that I spun with the very basic top whorl spindle we got in class, and that's it. But I've been wondering whether part of my lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that I don't really like the spindle we got in class. So Amy (bless her heart!) got me a gift certificate for Mother's Day, and I've just ordered not one, but two new spindles. One is a bottom whorl spindle that's flat on the bottom, so you can set it on the floor to "park" it while you're stretching out the next bit of fiber (the other options being sticking it under your elbow or holding it between your knees). The other one is a spindle that you can use as either a top or bottom whorl. If I hate both of these, I'll try a Turkish spindle. And if I end up hating all of them, well, Amy's going to get a nice collection of spindles out of it.

The game is afoot for the release of Dragon's Web, the first book in the Pipe Woman's Legacy duology. As the first step in my nefarious plan, Seized is now free at Smashwords, and the price is never going back up. If all goes well, it will also be free everywhere else by the end of the month, including -- with any luck -- Amazon. I'm hoping this will bring lots of new readers to the series.

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