Spinnerside: A spindle is broken & the yarn we make

This post has a happy ending, I promise.

Bent out of shape

One morning in mid-June, I left the house quickly. It was a good decision to leave the spindle bag & take knitting, a book instead. I would be sat in waiting rooms all day. Sadly the adored spindle in question, a Butternut wood cross-arm Ray Thomson was left on the kitchen table. A busy place for busy people.

Three items in a spinning project rest on a cloth cotton drawstring bag with black accents and stylized red tulips, foliage, and a yellow butterfly.  The yarn is white Coopworth wool handspun by irieknit.  Items are back to front a Ray cross-arm spindle in butternut wood, a twisted skein of 2-ply and a Peruvian turned pushka with plied yarn.
Ray spindle behind & medium Peruvian pushka forward

It had carried me through 4 skeins of white Coopworth for around 490 yards from mill-combed top. Then I was enjoying this “What Happens If” Staghorn Sumac natural dye question.

A cross-arm spindle in butternut wood by Ray Thomson has a full cop of handspun Coopworth wool naturally dyed in a light khaki colour by irieknit.  She holds the spindle in her left hand in front of potted yellow pansies on a plant stand.
Last spin-in-progress picture of the Ray’s Turkish-style spindle

To be clear, I like this spindle so much that I was using it to spin a whole pound of Coopworth wool top one day at a time. That is to say, I LOVE the spindle.

While my day was trying in waiting rooms, procedures (all is well) something happened to this spindle on the table top. I could hazard a guess but here is the damage to the thinner of the 2 cross arms. There was a sickening wobble, and I had to unwind to find this.

A spindle cross-arm from a butternut wood Ray's Turkish spindle is broken near the shaft hole of the flat arm.  It rests on a cotton cloth bag printed with a large stylized red tulip motif with white flower accents on a bright yellow ground with green stems and leaves outlined in white.  The intact shaft and second arm are below and above the broken piece respectively.
When unwinding a cop of yarn hurts not a little but a lot.

Here is the sting: Ray Thomson is a Canadian spindle maker; they are no longer in production. Until Amelia Garripoli of “the Bellwether” listed hers for sale, I had seen exactly one in around 10 years of looking.

Eventually, I could deal

While I keep the arms, shaft the project has moved forward with a carved vintage Andean pushka. It moved forward a little but is essentially quiet now. I may change the plan again.

A carved Andean low-whorl wood drop spindle with a small cop of handspun Coopworth yarn by irieknit is resting on a white tablecloth with pastel coloured embroidered welts.  The yarn is natural dyed a khaki colour with Staghorn Sumac.
Giving thanks for good spindle options

With the Ray spindle break, I had just 1 working cross-arm spindle, a Jenkins Lark in tulipwood. It was time to act. A replacement shaft for the Jenkins Delight in carob was the obvious choice. As you can see it went well.

Both the Delight (far right spindle, above) & Lark had been purchased on destash. Buying direct from Jenkins Yarn Tools was a treat! Wanda made the process easy & exciting.

New spin & getting back to the Zwartables-in-progress

The brand new 2021 spindles are both Aegeans. Deborah Held describes this spindle model as:

This spindle differs from other modern Turkish-style spindles in that the smaller arm slides in and out of the larger arm in only one direction, unlike the more typical design of one arm sliding through a keyhole inside its mate

Spin-off magazine, Summer 2019, p. 27 “ed jenkins sees the forest through his trees”
A Jenkins Aegean spindle in plum wood with a cop of blue Targhee wool handspun by irieknit is held in front of a potted Morning Glory vine with blue-purple blooms.
Targhee wool is a breeze!

The sample of Targhee from Aurora Colony Fiber Arts inspired me to keep the happy test spinning going with my own Natural Obsessions dyed top of the same breed. The Aegeans are both rattle-free, and the straighter arms hold a good amount of yarn. This plum version is 0.709 oz/ 20.12 g. It is lighter than both the Delight (by 8 g) & the Lark (by 3 g).

Returning to the Zwartables wool project

Let’s frame the state of this spin first. It is 6 skeins deep into 8 oz of Zwartables mill-combed wool top. This is what 672 yards of the 2-ply yarn looks like:

Six twisted skeins of Zwartables wool handspun as 2-ply yarn is laid in a bamboo box.  The yarn is a dark brown-black and is set out in front of a bed of Black Eyed Susan plants.
Back to basics: Zwartables from 2 Jenkins cross-arm spindles

In the time that the spindle package took from Oregon to Ontario, I congratulated my good judgement by bringing the Lark in tulipwood back to action.

Jenkins Delight spindle in Carob wood has a cop of Zwartables handspun wool yarn and the working fibre is laid to the front on a cast aluminum black faux lattice table.  A white coffee mug with yellow interior has cursive words on the front that read "Good Morning Sunshine."

Dating back to winter 2018, I had been alternating spindles and simply spinning this interesting wool. There is some wiry kemp fibre in the top that is easy to spot. This top is fairly open, and I enjoy the crisp feel in my hands as I spin singles.

A yarn bowl with 2-strand plying ball also holds turned Andean pushka with cop of plied yarn by irieknit.  A Jenkins Lark spindle with a cop of the same Zwartables yarn rests on rocks from Lake Ontario on a kitchen table.
The easygoing Zwartables spin

Having the Delight back in the game is great. I am not sure what the yarn will become. First thoughts were for colourwork knit mittens; second thoughts are for weaving. We shall see!

Lesson of the spindle break

For years, I have held back from acquiring more spindles. This experience has shown me that total backing-out can have this downside.

My spinning preferences have shifted towards low-whorl spindles. I had long admired Ed Jenkins’ Aegeans, and am glad they are still available for a Canadian spinner in this pandemic.

Lark (Zwartables wool); Aegean (in waiting); Aegean (Targhee wool)

Yesterday morning the plum version was at this point. The ever-so slightly heavier sister Aegean in holly (0.720 oz/ 20.39 g) will step into the new Targhee project next.

In the future, I hope to be able to purchase again from current makers. I will let go of what does not serve the work by finding homes for spindles that are no longer in use. A friend’s offer of their Tabacheks years ago will help me make that mindset shift. They explained simply that I would use the 2 Tabacheks more, and so I have. It helped spark an awakening, thank you, friend.

Blogging forward

A square crystal vase with sunflowers is on a mercerized cotton table runner handwoven by irieknit in black, green, gold as an 8-shaft crepe weave.  A Louet Erica table loom on stand is in front of the bookcase with the runner.

Welcome new readers! It is very exciting to see my posts featured again in Handspinning News and to receive your new replies, following notices.

Weaving, knitting, cotton spinning continue to be queued-up. Our family is in the midst of shifting-up our new homeschool life. This is new, frankly overwhelming work to formalize after unschooling last winter.

We also are watching Jamaica’s new wave of COVID-19 infections with deep concern. In the last week my extended family has suffered a second major loss. Our thoughts, sympathy are with all in these heart-wrenching times.

As I navigate going forward, I will be taking a step from social media. In this past week, I was better able to reach out, research, implement & show-up with this post. Best case that continues!

Be well.

Posted by

Lara is a spinner, knitter, natural dyer, parent abandoning a certain fear of weaving. Jamaican-Canadian; she/her in the Greater Toronto Area; we have a Jellicle cat, Melvin & a Double Doodle, Spark. A spindle is usually close to hand!

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