Spring is slowly making an appearance in our neck of the woods. Very slowly indeed. After a few days of sunny weather and 8°C we’re back in the below zero region but thankfully no more snow on the ground. Still a bit of snow in the air and the occasional sleet shower though. Somehow winter doesn’t want to let go this year.
Meanwhile I’ve discovered Russian Lace Spindles and I’ve been practicing support spinning for the past month or so. They are a curious thing, these support spindles. Traditionally they were used to spin very fine, short fibers like goat down for example. While in other regions spindles like these were used as hand spindles without a special support device in Russia’s Orenburg region they were used with support bowls.
Spinning on a supported spindle requires mastery of the long draw technique. Which essentially means one hand twirls the spindle and the other hand lightly grips the fiber supply and gradually draws back from the spindle thus creating a thread. Long draw can also be used on a wheel or a suspended spindle. But this long draw and I we’ve never gotten along all that well in the past. Somehow it goes against the control freak in me. I’ve always ended up with lumpy, uneven singles that lost it’s integrity halfway through the spinning process. Which was fine by me. I could always use short draw and end up with a lovely, even yarn. I’ve never had the patience to try long enough to maybe get better at it. But with support spindles there is no excuse. No way around learning long draw. So that’s what I did. I sat back on the sofa, spinning bowl in my lap and started to practice long draw.
The thing with long draw is: You gotta let go. No gripping the fiber supply too tightly. No anxious concentration on making your yarn. I tend to cramp up and try too hard to force my will onto the fiber. This won’t work for support spindling. Just let go and let the spindle and fiber do their thing. So far I still have to constantly remind myself to ease up and let go. But sitting reclined in your favourite lounge chair or comfy sofa helps a lot in this regard.
Support spinning is fun. It’s kind of addictive and a lot more relaxing and slow going than any other spinning method I’ve tried so far. But a little tuft of fiber will probably get you the most spinning fun you’ve ever had. And today there are a few very talented wood workers who make such lovely tools, you will be hard pressed to choose because they are all so pretty.
Lisa Chan from The Gripping Yarn – Lisa’s signature are spindles that are slightly more rounded and bit curvier than the classical Russian style spindle. I love her work. The Walnut spindle I got from her feels gorgeous and is an absolute delight to work with. She does mostly custom orders and will gladly try to accommodate individual wishes for a particular wood or weight. Lisa is super nice to work with.
The Spanish Peacock – Mike’s spindles come closer to the look of those traditional Russian spindles. Clean, hard lines and a super polished surface as well as beautiful exotic woods are characteristic for his work. So far I’ve got two of his Russian spindles and they are wonderful spinners.
Ed Tabachek – Ed’s spindles have been available longest from all spindle makers I know. I think his work has done the most for bringing support spinning back into the spinning community. His spindles are available in two sizes, the smaller for spinning and the larger ones for plying in the Russian/Orenburg way. As far as I know his spindles are available through certain dealers only. My Tabachek is a large plying spindle that I got from The Wheel Thing. It can be uses as any other support spindle though and is not restricted to plying.
Tom Forrester – Tom’s spindles have been around for a while now. I haven’t encountered his Russian spindles all that often though. Gemini Fibers lists Russian spindles as part of his spindle repertoire. They very much look like the traditional Russian spindles.
My favourite videos on support spinning
Annotation: Nannette’s note in the comments reminded me of one spindle maker that I had forgotten in my little article. She is right of course. A Spinner’s Lair can be found on Etsy and their speciality is using reclaimed woods and give them a second life as fiber arts tools. They make different kinds of support spindles, matching bowls and regular drop spindles, too.