After my last post, I received a flood of questions both privately, as well as on the Spanish Peacock Flock Facebook page.
I welcome questions, and even expected questions. But I thought they’d be questions like, “Why is this such a big deal?” and “People pick knitting patterns before spinning all the time, why is this so hard for you?”
I did not anticipate so many questions about my spindle choices! Rather than answer them all individually, I decided to blog about it. That way everyone can benefit from everyone else’s questions, and sometimes I realize new things in the process of writing a long-form response.
Why supported spindles when, by my own admission, they are so slow?
Especially for a month-long spinalong, when I’m worried about whether I can spin a usable amount of yarn? Two words: context and control. By context, I mean how easily supported spinning integrates into my life. I always have a spindle, bowl and fiber within reach, and can spin supported in a variety of places where I can’t use a wheel. Second, supported spinning gives me a level of control over my yarn that I’ve never been able to attain with a wheel. Maybe someday, but for now, if I want a yarn of a consistent thickness, supported spindles are my way to achieve it.
Why six spindles?
This is mostly a matter of hand strength. Since these spindles each weigh 28 – 30 grams, if I split a four ounce braid between six of them, each only has to carry 2/3 ounce, so the heaviest the spindle will be with a full cop is about 1 2/3 oz, which my hands should be able to bear.
Plus, six spindles also gives me the flexibility to spin a two ply (three spindles per singles yarn) or a three ply (two spindles per singles yarn) OR if I go gradient-crazy, a chain ply (one continuous singles yarn spread across six spindles).
The problem is, I currently only have five qualifying spindles.
Why these six (well, five) spindles?
Yes, I have plenty of other ninjas I could have chosen, but I specifically wanted six with very similar characteristics—similar weight, length and rotational dynamics—so the yarn would be more consistent along its length than I usually manage. And these were the five ninjas with the closest weight. Some of them have heavier or lighter weights of shaft versus whorl, but they all spin pretty similarly. And the shaft lengths are about 11″, so I can pack the same amount of cop onto each of them.
For those who were curious, here are the deets for this five ninjas, from lower left to upper right:
- Padauk whorl on a chakte viga shaft. 29 grams. Previously featured on this blog in my Tour de Fleece 2020 Spin.
- Yellowbox burl whorl on a maple shaft. 30 grams. I’ve had this lovely spindle since mid-2020, but somehow I never posted a project with it on this blog. This was likely one of the last “seconds”, a.k.a. Spanish Peacock spindles that had too much wobble to sell to customers. He has since learned how to weed out whorls and shafts that won’t work before they ever get this far. Yes, the number of spindles I own has leveled off accordingly.
- Thuya burl whorl on an ebony shaft. 28 grams. This beauty was featured in the Supported Spindle Fashion Show, in position number 10. Like the first spindle in this set, I used it for the Tour de Fleece 2020 spin. …oh, if you are reading between the lines yes, that means the TdF2020 singles are off the spindles and plyed. Details in a future blog post!
- Cocobolo whorl on a chakte viga shaft. OK, this one is a bit lighter at 27 grams. Like the previous spindle, it was also in the Fashion Show, at number 6, and the aforementioned Tour de Fleece 2020 project. Hey, it was a big project that used 10 spindles!
- Cocobolo whorl on an olivewood shaft. 29 grams. Like the yellowbox burl, I’ve had this ninja a while but somehow it has not been previously showcased on this blog.
But I needed a sixth spindle.
Luckily, I know a guy.
A guy who was very, very unhappy about making a ninja that heavy. See, most of these spindles were crafted years ago. Over the past year, Mike has refined his technique to the point where a ninja rarely weighs 28 grams, much less 30. The lighter they are, the faster they spin, and that’s what most customers (myself included) seem to want.
When I asked him whether he could make me a new ninja that weighed 28 – 30 grams, I thought he was having a heart attack.
Not just because we’ve got so much capital to raise for Cedar Springs—and a spindle gifted to me is a spindle not helping our cause.
But also because 30 grams is, well, ponderous compared to the supported spindles The Spanish Peacock now offers. (On a related note I need to update the Field Guide to include the current stats for how SP spindles are now made!)
At last, my prayers were answered. Meet the “New Guy”. (You can guess what the “F” stands for.)
The resin-infused spalted holly whorl is stunning. The weight perfectly matches the other five (despite the maker’s protests). The shaft is also resin-infused, a laminated birch concoction called Dymalux, resulting in a spinning tip that will hold up longer than the other five. Maybe I’ll even take the time to sharpen their tips before the spinalong starts… nah, probably not.
Now that I have the last member of my ninja army, I can move on to my next big idea for choosing my project for the Spintentional Spinalong: sampling.
Yes, you read right. Sampling.
If I can narrow down the pattern to a few choices, and the fiber to one choice, I have enough time between now and the official February 1st spinalong kickoff to spin samples to see if I can actually hit my target WPI and length goals. Crazy, right? I can do this “spintentional” thing!
In a perfect world, I would spin samples long enough to knit swatches. Maybe I’ll plan that for a future spinning project where I have more fiber and more time!
Why do you own so many spindles?
OK, no one actually asked this question this time. Most people reading this blog are other spinners, after all.
But I this hear quite often, especially when I confess that I have almost one hundred supported spindles. (Excluding the pieces only used for teaching.) Now the count is at “almost one hundred, plus one.”
If you’ve read this far, you now understand that yes, I really need that many spindles. Between spindles with resting singles (cough, plycrastination, cough), several different spins-in-progress, and spare spindles to either a) match fiber for new projects or now b) match each other for new projects, “almost one hundred, plus one” still might not be enough!
And for the record, that’s a low number compared to many other spinners I know. Just saying.