Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Tiny Epiphany

I had a tiny epiphany last week.

I saw a YouTube video about handspinning--(not sure if it was the same video I'm attaching to this post) and I realized something that hadn't occurred to me before.

A hand spindle is nothing more than a stick--often a  stick that is tapered at both ends and thickest in the middle.  It's used to twist raw fiber into a smooth strong thread.  During the Middle Ages, whorls (the weight that makes the spindle spin at a particular rate to twist the fiber) were not permanently glued to the stick.  That not only means they could be easily replaced if the whorl broke, but they could be swapped out for different whorls.  Being able to change whorls matters because in general, the lighter the whorl is, the more twist it imparts to the fiber, and the finer the resulting thread is likely to be.  Heavier weights tend to result in slower spinning, the better to make thicker threads that need less twist.

All of that I had known before.  But what I realized in watching the video is that a spinner could use more than one whorl to obtain the particular speed of spin of a spindle.  (Take a look at the video above starting at about 1:47).  That means she could, at least in theory, change the spindle weight in tiny increments to achieve the type of thread she wanted to make.  It could also be used to improve the performance of a particular spindle/whorl combination, as Lois Swales indicates in the video.

It goes to show that one should never assume one knows everything about a particular subject; thinking about a topic from a different angle can result in new knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. I never would have thought of that! I don't spin on spindles as much as I used to. But this would be so useful -- typically I wind off before the spindle gets super full because the weight starts getting to be a bit much. And since all my spindles are a wooden toy car wheel crammed onto a dowel in extremely lazy fashion without glue (or even a hook -- I use them as low-whorl so don't really need one) it would totally be removable.