Sunday, October 26, 2008

Drop Spindling at the Bellingham Spin-In

I have a bit of catching up to do. Last weekend we took an opportunity to have a change of scenery and went to visit young relatives in Portland, Oregon. I brought along my drop spindle and actually had a chance to zone out on a cold blustery day and spin a little. The fiber is a bit of combed silk top I had which I stuffed into the dye leftover from dyeing the sample of woven shibori. I didn't stir it or anything and so I got a lovely uneven dye which is spinning into a beautiful variegated or marled yarn.
This leads me into the Bellingham Spin-In which I attended yesterday. The featured speaker was Celia Quinn. Here is the blurb on Celia since I really couldn't state it better:
"Celia Quinn, popular spinning instructor, workshop leader and well-known contributor to
Spin Off magazine, will present a program about supported and suspended spindles.
Based on historian and author Bette Hochberg’s slide archives and lecture notes, Ms.
Quinn will share the fascinating history and provenance of spindles from around the
world. In addition to learning the history of spindles, spindle use and techniques will be
discussed and demonstrated."
Her program on drop, or suspended, and supported spindles and distaffs was very interesting. I haven't had much opportunity to attend programs on drop spindling. Like the rest of my spinning and weaving, I taught myself how to use the drop spindle. I enjoy using it, in fact I have three spindles, but must admit that spinning with a wheel goes much faster. Below is a quick picture I took of a few of the spindles and distaffs that Celia brought to share and demonstrate. I quick note here, my spindle pictured above is a Bosworth spindle made from an exotic South African wood. I bought it at the Whidbey Spin-In and detailed that in an earlier post. It is lovely to spin with and it just hums.
The Bellingham Spin-In is fairly new. This was their second year. I will say here that they did an excellent job. The venue is comfortable and the programs have been excellent so far. It would be wonderful to see more people there though. I also won a nice doorprize of a hank of painted wool roving. I will have more on that in a future post. The Spin-In is put on by the Spin Drifters, a fiber group that belongs to NWRSA, which stands for the Northwest Regional Spinners Association. Click on the blue letters if you wish to find out more.
In addition to the spindles, distaffs, and excellent slide show, Celia brought a few textiles she has made using a spindle. To say they were stunning is an understatement.

The picture on the left is a detail of a camisole that was constructed using fine silk singles and filet crochet. It was very fine and soft, like cobwebs.
What I mainly took away from Celia's presentation is the idea of using a hand-held distaff with my drop spindle. At this time I usually wrap the fiber around my wrist. Convenient, until it falls off and gets twisted up with my drop spindle! I got a few ideas for constructing my own distaff. I also was impressed anew with our ancestresses who constantly spun with their spindles out of a grueling need to clothe themselves and their families.
With perhaps a few exceptions in certain parts of the world, we no longer have that need so spindling is done for our own enjoyment. The reminder that Celia gave to us makes me look at my drop spindle with new respect and gratitude. Such a humble tool spanning from a simple rock and stick to spindles made of glass and precious metals and stones. Such a powerful tool, one of the reasons why we no longer wear animal skins for clothing and I am able to blog on this computer (it is all connected you know!).
If you have a drop, suspended, or supported spindle tucked away in a drawer somewhere, pull it out again and give it a whirl. If you have never spun on one and are interested, find a local spinning and weaving guild or group and find someone who will teach you. It is an awesome way to connect to our past.
Off to spin a bit more, -Renee

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