15th century French illustration of drop spindle and walking distaff via Ewephoric
Spinning is almost as old as any form of civilization. After all, many agree that without clothes, civilization is, at best, tenuous, and spinning allows us to have both cloth to cover our nakedness and thread to keep those clothes from flapping pointlessly in the breeze:
Oh, Natasha Richardson! This was not your finest public moment.
So if we’re not all going to be naturists, we are going to wear clothes at least in public. And before the advent of harnessed electricity, refined gas, and all those other much, much later technological advances, well, we had to make that thread and cloth somehow. The drop spindle – and later the spinning wheel – and the loom were how we got it done before there was much written recorded history or the internet.
Sure, we can just go out and buy clothes, fabric, yarn, or thread today without worrying about producing our own… but where’s the fun in that? After all, I can go out and buy microwaveable meals, too, but I still prefer to cook most of the time. It’s tastier and I get a sense of accomplishment.
Yarn may not taste much better from a drop spindle, but it’s certainly more of an accomplishment than buying it ready spun! It’s something you can do with your hands while waiting for other things or while listening to music or watching TV. And when you’re done, you’ve got something useful to show for your time, whether you’ve made something just right for that chunky knit sweater you want to get done before the first snowfall or something delicate enough to turn into a spider web of lace.
If all of this sounds like fun to you… it is. And if you think you’d like to give it a try, check out these instructions from Handspinning.com. Just remember the heed the author’s warning:
WARNING!!! Spinning reduces stress and promotes well being. It can also be habit forming and lead to obsessive behaviors such as, but not restricted to: caressing and hoarding all fibers; dying them with food colors and things from your garden or whatever you have laying about; spinning the fluffy bits of the weeds in your fields, the cotton wad in your vitamin bottles and even the lint from your dryer! Proceed with extreme caution!
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.