Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drop Spindle Turning equals Twisted Delight!

Being a weaver and a spinner and loving all sorts of different fibres and textures it gives me great joy to use a drop spindle. It brings me right back to earth if I am high as a kite and grounds me thoroughly when I am focused on keeping the spindle going and the fibres twisting and elongating.

Early on I got my husband to make some drop spindles for me (under my strict supervision =-) which I sold at the local farmers' market. He is a busy man that husband of mine though so soon I realized that since I had lots of drop spindles in my head which needed to come out and see the light perhaps I should learn how to use a lathe and then be able to do my own turning of aforementioned wool tools.

It was a bit nerve wrecking at first – power tools have never been my #1 choice of entertainment (especially not vacuum cleaners!) but I first studied my hubby's movements and ways of working with the lathe and then I decided that I could definitely do it – and so I did. I worked slowly and carefully, no scatterbrain or speed is allowed around a heavy and powerful tool like the lathe. Caution and carefulness are better choices. Focus!

A necessity to keep the lathe spinning is lots of wood – nice wood, interesting wood. Seeing that I do like to recycle and seeing that it was early spring many years ago when I first started using the lathe , I took full advantage of it soon being big garbage day in our area.
People put out the most magnificent pieces of 'garbage' for pickup twice a year. I have picked up beautiful hardwood and teak chairs. A leg might be loose, a wrung broken ..... But I am taking them apart anyways, so I am smiling from ear to ear. Not to mention all the old wooden floor mops, brooms, rakes, shovels, often with beautiful hard wood handles. Ready for turning into spindle sticks as soon as I get them 'beheaded' (sorry am reading a historical novel at the moment =-). Drop spindle wood seems to turn up when I least expect it.

And now I have been turning spindles for the last 8-10 years This morning I was in the barn turning spindles for an order I have to deliver to The Loop in Halifax http://www.theloophalifax.ca/on Wednesday. Each time I go back to the lathe it is a great joy to see the wood take the shape I am hoping and aiming for. To find the balance in each spindle partnering up sticks and disks (my spindles work both as high whorl and traditional drop spindles with the disk at the bottom) is fun – and I line them up like a row of ducks and stare at them and pat them to feel each one's softness and shape. They come out of rough pieces and end up as soft as baby's bottoms.

Once upon a time...... you know that witch in the old fairy tale Sleeping Beauty was using a drop spindle and not a spinning wheel as most people believe, for in the early translations she is walking below Sleeping Beauty's window (when she was still the Awake Beauty looking down to see the witch) spinning fibre. Whether she was spinning flax or wool it would not have been difficult to get pricked in the finger by a splinter from the fibre. Perhaps a piece not quite clean linen, the stalk of the flax plant is quite rough and hard. The soft smooth fibres of the linen is revealed through a long and quite arduous process. If it was wool, perhaps the sheep had been through the briers looking for something delicious to eat and picking fleeces completely free of vegetable matter and other interesting stuff is not easy, so ...... when you spin watch out for sharp objects in your fibre stash as you spin along – unless you are looking for a long nap =-)

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