I fell in love at Black Sheep Gathering. Okay, me and everybody else there. There was something for absolutely every stripe of fiber artist! But my new old favorite thing this year is drop-spindling. Drop spindling is the perfect activity for keeping your hands occupied, while your brain and eyes are doing other things. Standing in the market booth, welcoming shoppers and answering questions, my spindle was the perfect accompaniment.
For the uninitiated, drop-spindling is the humble art of making string with the very simplest and most elegant of tools. First, you get some roving. This is a gorgeous silk & Polwarth blend from (where else?) Abstract Fiber, in the singular "Red".
Then, grab your favorite spindle. The one on top is my favorite go-to from Spindlewood. It's a square top-whorl, made from Birdseye Maple, and weighs a little under an ounce. I knew when I packed it that I'd be drop spindling at BSG, but not what fiber, so I chose this one because it's really versatile. I especially love it because when I need to stop spinning, I can lay it anywhere without it rolling away onto the floor.
Once I got to the gathering, I promptly filled it up to the point where the added weight of the singles made it too heavy to spin the fiber as fine as I wanted. So I had to decide what to do: Either wind the singles off onto something else (fiddly) or into a ball (harder than it seems), or stop spinning (Please! ). I could also have chosen to Navaho (chain) ply the singles, but I really wanted to make a nice smooth 2-ply yarn. Either way, the real problem was that I had no way to support the spindle in order to move the singles off. And then it hit me, as I stood at Ground Zero of Handspinning, that I could just buy another spindle and figure out how to move the singles later.
Duh. So I popped on over to the Spindlewood booth, where I found a beautiful sister to my maple one: It's Zebrawood, and weighs just the same. But of course, I filled that one up, as well. So with two full spindles, I was ready to make 2-ply yarn, but, with no way to hold the spindles, I was going to have (a lot of) trouble plying. At which point, I remembered again that I was in the Black Sheep Gathering Marketplace. And with almost no effort at all, I found my new favorite toy: A tensioned spindle Kate!
This one holds up to three spindles, so you could make 3-ply yarn with it as well. I parked my full spindles in it as shown. The cotton cord you see acts as a brake to tension the spindles as you ply (no backlash)! Then I just plied onto a third, larger spindle (in my hand), to get this:
Gorgeous, lighter-than-air, 2-ply laceweight. My 2 full spindles yielded 133 yards of finished yarn, without ever having to move the full cops. So sexy!
Phillip Trifiro of Trif's Turnings makes the fabulous spindle Kate in your choice of woods, to hold 3 or 5 spindles. He told me he could also make Kates to accommodate as few as 2, or as many as 7 (!) spindles, on request.
By eliminating the need to remove the spun singles from my spindles in order to ply them, Trif's Kate has allowed me to fall back in love with my spindle collection. The tension brake on the Kate works perfectly, preventing backlashes and tangling. The brass swivels hold the spindle hooks securely and spin smoothly, too. I plied my 133 yards in under an hour, while stopping to help customers as often as needed.
Now I'm inspired to take my beautiful spindles with me wherever I go, knowing how easy it is to make yarn from them. Especially in the heat of summer, when knitting can be too hot in my lap, drop-spindling is just the ticket to keep me entertained (never easy).