They are east London drop spindles and they represent why it is such a privilege to be part of the local creative community. They were made by Tom Hepworth, one of the green wood workers who rent a space in the Rural Arts Centre at Stepney City Farm to a design developed in collaboration with Nic Walker and me, who regular blog readers will know are the resident textile artists at the Farm. Amongst other things we host the weekly Thursday lunchtime fibre crafts group in the Cafe and spin the fleeces of the farm's small flock of Jacob sheep.
It gives me great pleasure to work in this way with other craftspeople on the Farm as it shows that whilst our skills may be very different, our motivation to create useful things with our hands is very similar and it's wonderful when these skills can compliment each other so directly.
They are top whorl spindles, made with an ash shaft for strength and flexibly, and a horse chestnut whorl. All the wood is sourced in east London, mainly from local tree surgeons. One of the things that I particularly love about these spindles, and what sets them apart from many of the other chiefly lathe turned spindles that I have used is that they have been made by a green wood carver with very simple tools so that you can see every cut that his blade has made. A drop spindle is a very simple tool itself and this quality lends a real intimacy to the object as you turn it in your hands.
When I met Tom in his workshop yesterday I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with him about his work. He has been an apprentice in the workshop for approximately a year developing his skills as a green wood carver. His particular passion is for carving spoons and his first range will soon be available for sale. He likes the way that small objects add character to a home and the way that a carved spoon can combine beauty and function in its form. I would say that the same is true of his spindles. Follow him on Twitter at @Hepworth_Tom to see more of his work.
It would have been good to spend longer talking to Tom as it is encouraging to talk to another craftsperson whose values and motivation really resonate with your own but these spindles were on a journey. Much as I would love to say that they are all mine it was my privilege to deliver them to the person who commissioned them, Anna from Wild and Woolly whose shop is a most welcome new addition to the community for east London knitters and crocheters.
I am, of course leaving the best news until last. If you have always wanted to learn how to make your own yarn, one of these beautiful spindles could be yours as I will be teaching an Introduction to Drop Spindling workshop at Wild and Woolly on Wednesday 29th October and Wednesday 5th November between 7.00pm and 9.00pm. The price of the workshop is £50 which includes an east London spindle and fibre. When I spoke to Anna yesterday she told me that there were still one or two places left on the course but they were going fast!