Friday, 27 March 2009

Spin like a Viking

I got a new toy in the post this morning and I am very excited about it.

Yup, it's a spindle, complete with four blobs (rovings? tops? I'm not quite on board with all the jargon yet) of natural wool and an instruction leaflet. A start-to-spin kit, if you will, thanks to the nice people at .

The spindle is a pure indulgence on my part. Yes, I would love, love to be able to spin my own wool. Of course I would. There is a passage in my lovely Stitch 'n' Bitch book describing one of their designers, who taught herself to knit from a book, then learnt to spin and 'is now trying to work out how she can smuggle sheep into her Manhattan Apartment'. I don't have a single friend who hasn't read that and not immediately gone, 'hah. Sounds like you'. I would love to spin, but I really don't have the time to learn. Even at the moment, when I'm reliably knitting every night, I usually don't get a chance to start until 9pm, or even later. This is why my long knitted eco-wool waistcoat is only now approaching completion around a year since I started it, and why I still haven't made my dream skirt, even though I've had the material and the pattern for over six months.

I know all this, but I still couldn't resist the spindle. It actually never occured to me to get a spindle, even though as a good medieval historian I am very well aware that it is perfectly possible to spin on one, since spinning wheels were only invented around 1500 or so. It took another knitting medievalist to point this out to me, when I was sitting have coffee with a her and talking about spinning, knitting, crochet and many other forms of craft, just like 20-something students do, right? She was being extremely nice to me after I had heard that I didn't get a job I had really wanted, and was happy to listen to me ramble on about how much I would like a spinning wheel, except that our flat is already bursting at the seams (the spindle is going to be a bit of a squeeze). 'Why not spin with a spindle?', was the helpful suggestion. Immediately, visions of strapping medieval housewives wielding spindles and distaffs while happily waving goodbye to their viking husbands sprung fully formed into my mind. If generations of medieval women could do it, why not me? (I suspect I am about to find out, since rumour has it that spinning is not as easy as this 14th century lady makes it look. At the very least, I think it will be a while before I can spin and feed chickens at the same time.)

I'll let you know how I get on. Once I've cracked this, the next step is the sheep.

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