Thursday, 24 July 2008

Spin Span Spun

When I came back from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival I was so excited about all the yarn and spindles and such that I quite forgot some of the more offbeat things that followed me home. During my pitiful attempts at decluttering at the weekend I came across this little gem that I had quite overlooked. Therein hangs the tale, I fear, of why my decluttering wasn't the transformation of my living space that I imagined. I am easily sidetracked by the lost objects that come to the surface when a few layers are removed.

Anyway, this lovely little book came from the Society for Creative Anachronism (who else?) and contains 'Fact and Folklore for Spinners and Weavers and is by Beth Hochberg.

It contains an apparently random selection of interesting little snippets so I thought I'd share a couple that caught my eye.

' When unmarried Hungarian girls would wait for the young men to come and court them, they sat in a group and spun with the handspindle. If a girl dropped her spindle while the boys were there, one of them could demand a kiss from her'

With my performance with a drop spindle it would appear that I am in for a lot of lip action should I happen to visit Hungary.

'While a silkworm is spinning its cocoon, the nearby area should be kept free of loud noises. If there is a sudden noise, the silkworm may stop spinning, and not begin again'.

Gives a new meaning to 'Shhhh, I'm counting....'

The Roman poet Catullus (54BC) describes spinning with a distaff and spindle.

Their hands duly plied the eternal task;

The loaded distaff in the left hand placed

With spongy coils of snow white wool was graced;

From these the right hand lengthy fibres drew

Which into thread 'neath nimble fingers grew.

At intervals a gentle touch was give

By which the twirling whorl was onward driven;

Then when the sinking spindle touched the ground,

The new made thread around the spire was wound,

Until the clasp within the nipping cleft

Held fast the newly finished length of weft'

I was sitting out in my garden for an hour this evening, peacefully spinning yarn for my flutter scarf on my drop spindle and this poem really brought home to me the connection to women over thousands of years who have all made yarn to clothe their families and earn their livings, all from this simplest of all tools.

The simplest of tools can also be the most beautiful. Take a look at this.

It's a tiny, foldable niddy noddy from Sublime Spindles made to my exact specifications in apple wood. I wanted a niddy noddy that would break down and fold flat so that I could carry t around with my spindles and fibre and needles and not make an awkward parcel like my fixed one does. It's only 8 inches long so it stows away really easily. I couldn't recommend the service highly enough.

And finally, in case you think I am so busy wafting around reading poetry and playing with my new toys, allow me to introduce the latest Pick 'n' Mix sock to get its partner.Meet the Battenbergs! Its probably the most complex pattern of all the Pick 'n' Mix socks but goes pretty fast once you get into the swing of it. Its the pattern that makes me smile the most I think because its so.... cheesy.

Maybe not the right choice of word for a sock but you know what I mean...


celadon2 said...

In one of the Proverbs in the bible, number 31, there is praise for a woman who looks after her family and feeds and clothes them. It tells about her using the spindle and the distaf.

It's timeless, spinning on a spindle.

natalie said...

I always choose Battenburg cake over almost any other kind.

Claire and her husband are fabulous, their swifts are the best in the UK, IMHO. I have had mine for almost two years and sometimes wind an industrial-level 70 or 80 skeins on it.


Paula said...

Love the socks.

Rosie said...

What a brilliant book! And I adore the miniature niddy noddy: dos applewood still have a smell, as well as its lovely looks?

picperfic said...

I wish I could get to grips with spinning...I need to make the yarn thinner but I am scared to draft it out too far especially as it usually breaks! Lovely words!

Lin said...

I love Battenberg socks and battenberg! The book souds great.

Knit Nurse said...

Lovely socks, fabulous niddy noddy but Battenburg cake? You're welcome to it!

Karen said...

Perfect poetry, perfect post!

Suse-the-slow-knitta said...

what a great poem, almost a tutorial in itself!

kathryn said...

Lovely sock colours PJ!!

Alison Boon said...

Some great sayings there. I love the cheesy socks, very pretty.

Mandella said...

What a fantastic post. It made me think, and it made me laugh. What more could you want? Now where's my Battenburg recipe?