The drop spindle is one of the oldest tools known to mankind – it has been in use since an estimated 25,000 – 35,000 years ago. But what on earth is it, and why would anyone want to use one? (And why is Ingebretsen’s having a demo/drop-in participation day for it?)
In its most simple form, a drop spindle is a stick stuck through the center of a weight, which aids a spinner in making thread or yarn. What that weight does is provide momentum to allow a single movement to keep the spindle turning and adding twist to the fibers, which is necessary to hold them together and allow them to become a thinner, stronger form of fiber. It’s up to the spinner to draft out (pull apart) the fibers consistently to make a yarn that is good for knitting or weaving.
Why would anyone go to that kind of trouble to make yarn? For most spinners, the act of spinning itself is appealing. I personally find it to be almost meditative – a morning that starts with 15 or 20 minutes of spinning is often a much calmer day than one that starts with checking my e-mail. Handspun yarn is often described as “livelier” than commercially spun yarn is, and you can often find more interesting fibers and colors at a price that is less expensive than mill spun yarn. Of course, it comes “some assembly required”.
–Laurie Olson Williams