Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Spindle for Your Thoughts

Last summer, my love and I (and the two big dogs) piled into the car and drove to California, all the way to Truckee for some parties and a beautiful wedding, and on to the coast, and up to Mt. Shasta and many points in between.  Five weeks on the road and here is what I made: 

Before we left, I decided to teach myself how to spin on a drop spindle so I could continue to obsess about spinning while on the road.  Spindles are old school (like probably millions of years old school), and there is a spindle to represent almost every culture--Andean drop spindles, Tahkli spindles from the Middle East and Asia,  Navajo spindles, Turkish spindles.  I didn't know any of this when I took a pre-trip to Alabama to visit my parents and petition my dad, a woodturner, to make me a spindle.  We spent a lovely afternoon in his shop and after 3 or 4 tries, I finally had a spindle for the road.  I learned to stand over soft grass while I got the hang of it.  They are, indeed, prone to dropping.  In retrospect, a long wool, maybe Polwarth, would have been a better choice than alpaca roving for learning.

The one on the left is the one my dad first spindle.

By the time we got to Eureka, I had a spindle full of yarn with no idea what to do with it.  I mean, how do you take it off the spindle without turning it into a bird's nest?  Can you ply it?  Do you use a spindle for plying or put it on the wheel?  By the time we got to Eureka, we had just spent 6 days camping on the Lost Coast, swimming in the Eel River to get "clean," hiking, getting sandblasted on the beach, drinking instant coffee.  I was ready for some civilization.  I was ready to find a yarn store.  I found The North Coast Knittery.  

While Ralph sat on a fire hydrant watching the parade of colorful people in Eureka (felt like home in Asheville for a while), I spent a hour in this wonderful shop chatting with a young woman who is also a fan of the drop spindle.  She recommended a book:  Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont, which truly is a wealth of information right down to the physics of spindling, for the real geeks among us.  

So many books on spinning go on and on about wheels then mention the spindle in passing.  This book is just the opposite.  It goes on and on about spindles, and oh, by the way, you can also make yarn on a wheel.  Abby Franquemont is a true cheerleader for the ancient art of spindling.  I left The North Coast Knittery with another spindle (they are addictive), the book and 8 ounces of the most amazing Australian Polwarth roving EVER in the history of Polwarth.  I can't bear to spin it till I have a project in mind.

Now that I'm home and trying to produce yarn in bigger quantities, I do tend more towards the wheel.  But my spindles are always close at hand, as are my hand carders.  I use them now for exploring ideas.  Sometimes I wake up in the night with an idea for a yarn, and the spindle helps me test out "recipes" without committing to a big batch of something that may not be quite what I intended.  For example, I wanted to make a yarn that was reminiscent of an opal.  I used the carders to blend different fibers, including flashes of fiery orange and teal like you see deep within an opal stone.  Then I spun it different ways on a spindle until I settled on a thick and thin approach.  Once satisfied, I blended the ingredients on my drum carder and spun up a few ounces on the wheel.  Fluffy opal.

And some gratuitous pics of California...

Harbor Seal on Lost Cost, Shelter Cove.

Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe.

Paradise Lake, Marble Wilderness.

Paradise Lake, Marble Wilderness.

On the way down from Paradise Lake.

View from Donner Pass at Sunrise.

My Love.


  1. Love the pictures! Looks like a beautiful time in CA!

  2. The picture of Paradise Lake is extraordinary. It reminds me of a spinning batt.
    I am intrigued to see a picture of Donner Pass. My maiden name is Donner (no relation to the members of the Donner Party, as far as I know), and as a teenager I loved to read about the ill-fated party.

  3. As always gorgeous yarn. Great photos too. Thanks for sharing them.

  4. Beautiful pictures of your trip and I love your drop spindles! i'm making spindles at the moment out of pressed flowers and resin- its so addictive! Great blog- keep it up i'll be reading! x