I'm sitting around waiting to hear when my shoulder replacement surgery's going to be booked. Hopefully, I'll hear next week. In the interest of keeping my mind busy I went through our boxes and dragged out my spinning wheel, my hand spindles, and an entire toy chest of fiber and spinning supplies. I'm missing a whole box from this move, which held other fiber that was precious to me (and preciously expensive!), but maybe it'll still turn up.
Hand spinning on drop spindles has been done for over 6000 years. The spinning wheel didn't come in to being until the industrial revolution in England/Europe when wool/linen/flax had to be produced quicker and sent off to the textile factories to be woven up for cloth.
Hand spindling takes some practice - I used to be very good at it but am now clumsy and a bit frustrated. I'm blaming it on my shoulder, although it's possible to use a hand spindle by holding it horizontally and spinning the fiber out that way, or by rolling the spindle against your thigh.
Spinning is very soothing and relaxing - you get in to a "zone" where the rhythmn of what your hands are doing becomes so automatic your thoughts can run free, or, if you're so inclined, can shut down. I think it's a perfect hobby for writers because of the stress-relief factor. If you're blocked and frustrated with a scene, plot point, or characters talking back at you, you can sit or stand for ten or fifteen minutes and spin. It'll put things on the back-burner as well as let you do something creative and artistic in another way.
Just going for a walk to relax from writing has never done it for me, although I know walking, running, going to the gym, etc. work for others. I'm recommending the following drop spindle makers/spinning wheel makers so you can browse some websites and check in to this wonderful hobby.
The Journey Wheel: Sheila and Jonathon Bosworth have been in the business for nearly twenty years. Jonathon does everything by hand, using exotic woods in all his products. He invented his own folding spinning wheel, and I personally knew a woman in my old spinning Guild back east who owned one. She loved it. I've also known people who own their drop spindles, which spin wonderfully and put out lovely yarn. They also offer specialy spindles from mammoth tusks, and mammoth teeth. I've got my name on their waiting list for a mammoth tusk spindle - it's about a three year wait! I also have my name on their waiting list for a "Moosie" spindle, which are made from moose antlers. That list is only a year long. :)
Grafton Fibers: another husband and wife team, they make the most beautiful spindles, accessories, and knitting and crochet hooks. Linda Diak used to have a new drop spindle per month which was hand-painted. She featured a different sheep breed a month, allowing sheep breeders to pick their own breed, or a favourite breed, and have it on a spindle. She's bringing back that series soon. In the meantime, you can feast your eyes on the lovely things they have available.
Golding Fiber Tools: another hand-craftsman, his custom and vintage drop spindles are amazing to behold. They are true works of art.
Jenkins Woodworking: this is another husband and wife team. Mr. Jenkins hand-tools beautiful crochet hooks, knitting needles, tapestry supplies, among other accessories. If you're a knitter or crochet-lover, you'll enjoy checking out this website as well.
Next week I'll post some sites where you can find videos on how to drop spindle. It's much easier to see it done, than to explain doing it! Meanwhile, everyone have a great weekend, and enjoy "web-shopping" if this ancient art appeals to you.