I am excite! My order from The Woolery arrived today. I grabbed a couple of pewter spindle whorls cast from 15th century metal detector finds, and a pound of longwool top to do some experimental archaeology regarding medieval European spinning technique. The bottom spindle there is one of the new whorls jammed onto a spindle I’ve whittled to match the few extant ones we’ve found, scaled up a smidge to fit my giant man hands.
Fun fact: we all know the story of Sleeping Beauty and how the curse entailed falling into a magical sleep after pricking her finger on a spindle. Most illustrated versions of that story show either castle-style treadle wheels or a great/walking wheel because they’re visually impressive, but you know what? There’s no place on those to prick your finger. The story’s talking about a hand spindle, like the bottom one. You can see that the end opposite the whorl is super sharp (that top point is twirled between your fingers; the taper maximizes the number of rotations you can get out of a single flick of your thumb) and I’ve got the scars to prove that it’s possible to injure yourself with them if you’re handling them carelessly.
(Also, contemporary listeners would’ve laughed at the prospect of a king trying to outlaw spindles. Even as wheels became more common, spindles remained in use because they were cheap, portable, and lent themselves to certain techniques that early wheels didn’t, so a lot of people were still relying on them for at least a portion of their textile production. Such a law would be equivalent to the President outlawing cars because he dreamed that one of his daughters would die in a crash.)
The top spindle is one of my knocked-together toy-wheel-and-knitting needle ones, that I use in the Egyptian/Greek/Roman style that most modern handspinners use. The yarn on it, and the handful of fluff under it are actually dog hair. My Great Pyrenees is blowing his undercoat, so I can pull wads of fluff off of him in the same way people harvest cashmere or angora. Dog hair has a comparable micron count/staple length to those fibers, is water/frost resistant and is much more insulative by volume than sheep’s wool. People who find me spinning it always ask about the smell, but that’s probably because they’ve never met a live sheep before.
Pyrenees originated as livestock guardians, and I’ve found some anecdotes claiming that people would card and spin their undercoat together with the sheeps’ wool. Given that (especially assuming an old-fashioned longwool sheep breed) that would end you up with a softer, stronger, more versatile product than either by itself, I could believe it.
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- saberwitch said: This is awesome!
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- thepetrichist said: This is so cool =O
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