The Ancient Art of Spinning


Spinning is an ancient textile art in which plant, animal, or in more modern times synthetic fibres are drawn out and twisted together to form yarn. For thousands of years, fibre was spun by hand using simple tools, such as the drop spindle. During the Middle Ages the spinning wheel was developed, increasing the output of individual spinners, with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century finally leading to the mass production of yarns that we take for granted today.

It is believed that drop spindles were in use before recorded history. Most historians agree that the practice of using one to spin fibres into a thread has existed for at least 10,000 years; In fact these whorls (the weight part of the drop spindle) are dated from around 10th Century BC. The spindle part is presumed to have been made of wood and therefore would have rotted away long ago.

Spindle-whirls, 10th century BC, Athens

Keramikos Museum, Athens - Spindle-whirls, 10th century BC

Selection of Drop Spindles

Selection of Drop Spindles

The drop spindle supplied in our first Craft Invaders box is described as a bottom whorl spindle. This video featuring the Weaver Christine MacLeod shows you exactly how to start spinning with it.

There are several different designs for drop spindles in use today. The Whorl can be placed at the top, bottom or even in some cases in the middle of the spindle. The size of whorl, and where it is positioned, governs the weight of the drop spindle, which in turn influences how quickly the spindle turns. Drop spindles used for spinning wool tend to be heavier than ones used for cotton or lace, as the wool fibres are longer, and therefore require a less fast spin to allow them to lock together into yarn.

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  • Reply Spinning a Meditative Yarn | Gabi Spins

    […] or bone attached? It is hard to know when the first ones were made but whorls have been found in Ancient Greek digs dating back to 10th century B.C. Make it your own. If the history factor doesn’t get to you, then […]

    September 30, 2015 at 12:33 am
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