|A drop spindle with some pastel-hued yarn wot I have made.|
|Crafty Magazine, Issue 7. Turn to page 14...|
|... and ta da! There's my article.|
The topic? The drop spindle classes that Rachael Matthews teaches at her shop, Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green.
But what's a drop spindle? It's a pretty simple bit of kit that involves a couple of bits of wood and a hook or two. It turns fleece into yarn by a combination of gravity, rotation and a fair bit of hand-eye coordination. Here's a picture of a spindle doing its thing.
|A drop spindle in action.|
On an aside, of course it's been women making the yarn. The drop spindle is the ideal thingamybob to pick up and put down in and amongst other responsibilities like children. Or cooking dinner. Or chatting with your chums. Or tending the sheep. It's about feel, technique and muscle memory rather than linear thought and intense focus. It's the perfect tool for a multitasker.
For the chaps who defined Antiquity, the drop spindle was probably not so useful a tool when out hunting things or doing battle with the neighbours. I mean, could you imagine Leonidas, king of Sparta - or even Gerard Butler for that matter - drafting a laceweight yarn in a manly way whilst glaring down the roaring hoards of yet another set of foes?
Nope. I didn't think so.
But back to the textiles made of these yarns. For centuries these textiles drove economies, created markets and forged transport networks that stretched across the Mediterranean world, Northern Europe, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. And may even have been amongst the economic and political factors that caused the wars in which the chaps were too busy to be drop spindling.
And imagine how these yarns helped define agricultural practices - "Whut? They want more woolly jumpers in a part of the Antique world that I've never heard of? We'd better farm a few more sheep then" - with the resulting effect upon landscapes and the environment.
However, shuffling on from scantily-clad and worryingly oiled-up chaps of Antiquity, let's hop along to the Medieval period. This was when someone clever in China or maybe Iran or Iraq got all technical and created the spinning wheel. The wheel resulted in a considerable speeding up of the spinning process, a leap in efficiency that wouldn't find compare until the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the Spinning Jenny.
|The Spinning Wheel. A technological leap in the production of yarn and a useful narrative tool for many a fairy tale.|
Oh, and you're making something. Which is always satisfying.
What is interesting is that spinners today encourage beginners to get to grips with a drop spindle first. If you can tease out the fleece - a technique known as "the draft" - at a decent enough pace to keep up with your rotating spindle and create an even yarn then you're set for a real spinning wheel.
So, a pretty simple bit of kit. But with profound economic and social impact.
|Simple bit of kit. Profound implications for humanity.|
On the plus side, there would be a lot of pretty pictures. So that's nice.
|A spectrum of the yarns that Rachael and her colleagues spin on site at Prick Your Finger.|
(Images: Zoë F. Willis, Crafty Magazine)