Before you start spinning it’s best to familiarise yourself with your spindle and learn the motions.
I’m right handed and I hold my spindle in my right hand, which produces a clockwise spin. I’ll refer to my right hand as my ‘spindle hand’ and my left as my ‘distaff hand’ to avoid any confusion for those of you who prefer to spin left handed.
First, let’s practice the motion of spinning the spindle.
Take your spindle and, if you haven’t already, affix your whorl to it. Hold the shaft of the spindle between your third and fourth fingers on your spindle hand. Take the very tip of your shaft and rest it on your second finger, just behind the first joint and hold it there with the tip of your thumb.
Rest the spindle on a surface (inside a bowl or teacup works great, or even in the palm of your other hand). Practice spinning the spindle by flicking out with your thumb and in with your second finger. You’ll loosen the grip you have on the spindle with your third and fourth fingers to allow it to spin. This is the basic movement you’ll use when you’re spinning.
Here is a slow motion of it being done while spinning
Next, put down your spindle
Next you’ll need to get your thread started, so put down your spindle and pick up your distaff.
Sit or stand with your wool on its distaff so it is just above your shoulder on your distaff side. With your distaff hand pinch a small amount of wool from near the bottom of the fibre supply and draw it down, away from the distaff, twisting it with your spindle hand, pushing away with the thumb and in with the second finger. This ensures you are twisting your first bit of thread in the same direction as you will be spinning it. Pay attention to how much fibre you are pulling down with your distaff hand. This is called drafting. Pulling down more fibre will give you a thicker thread. Pay attention to how much twist is entering your thread. Too little and it will drift apart.
You can watch this being done at 4m25s of the following video
When you have a thread strong enough and long enough, tie it around your spindle just above the whorl.
Now to Spin!
Now you can continue drafting with your left hand but this time spin the spindle. At first you may find it helpful to rest your spindle on a surface but practice holding it in the air too as this way you will be able to spin standing or walking around. You are looking to move the spindle from near the distaff to the spindle side of your body, keeping tension on the thread.
Now you have a few choices. You can continue to spin this way and when you have an arm’s length you can wind onto your spindle. Or , when the spindle has reached your right side you can secure the thread to the top of the spindle with a half hitch (if needed) and spin suspened.
When I spin suspended I like to run my thread over the back of my hand and down in between my third and fourth fingers. I hold the spindle tip within my thumb, second and third fingers.
You can also pass it between your thumb and second finger.
Make sure when you spin the spindle you remember to push away with your thumb so that it spins in the right direction! Keep an eye on the spindle and be ready to catch it before it backspins.
You may find it tricky at first drafting while the spindle is spinning suspended. If so spin the spindle suspended for one turn without drafting, then hold onto the spindle and draft out until you need to spin again. This is known as ‘park and draft’ because you are drafting while your spindle is parked in your fingers.
Once again, you can spin until you reach an arm’s length and then wind on.
If you don’t want to wind on just yet you can get a bit more length into your thread before you do. Set the spindle spinning and draft, allowing your spindle to drop down toward the ground under your right hand. Keep the thread running through the fingers of your right hand and keep an eye on your right hand. If your spindle stops spinning or starts to back spin you’ll want to catch it soon. If your spindle backspins for long enough it can untwist your thread enough that it drifts apart and your spindle really will drop!
Once your spindle has reached the ground (or stopped spinning) it really is time to wind on.
Medieval Spinning, SCA Spinning, Medieval drop spindle, Medieval drop-spindle, SCA, Reenactment, Reenacting, Re-enactment, Re-enacting, Living History, Society for Creative Anachronism.