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Spinner

Spinner's Guild

THE HISTORY OF SPINNING

Spinning is one of the most basic crafts. It has been discovered over and over again, each culture adapting it to best suit their needs. Spindle whorls (the round weight, which, with the shaft, composes a spindle) have been found dating to Neolithic times. The technology for spinning did not change until the development of the spinning wheel and flyer in medieval times. For much of human history, all members of a society would have been involved on some level with the production of textiles.

The two most common methods used to prepare wool for spinning are carding and combing. Woolcombing, in fact, was the last process in wool production to be mechanized; this was not possible until the mid 18th century. Woolcombing also is the older of the two processes; carders seem to come into use in northern Europe sometime in the 13th century. Preparing fleece by carding will produce a woollen yarn, that is, a yarn that is relatively low twist, with a soft or fuzzy finish, and that will felt easily. Combing, in which the fibres are prepared to be spun parallel to each other as much as possible, produces worsted, a high twist, smooth yarn that wears well and tends not to felt.

The choice (or availability) of different types of fleece also can determine which method to use. It is more appropriate to use a longer stapled fleece for worsted, taking advantage of the characteristics of the fleece. Romney, Lincoln, Icelandic, and Shetland fleece all are excellent for combing. The softer, shorter staple of the Merino, Suffolk, Corriedale, and Jacob produce wonderful soft yarns. There are also two basic types of spindles. One is the well-known drop spindle, which has a weight at the bottom of a shaft. The other is the high whorl spindle; this has the weight at the top of the shaft. There are an infinite variety of spindles available for the handspinner. You need not purchase a wheel to be a productive spinner.

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