Modern Day Spinning Circle

by | Feb 20, 2019 | Uncategorized

Hand crafted spinning wheel

The spinning wheel pictured to the left is a lovely piece of craftsmanship from the turned spindles that form the wheel to the carved hearts and other embellishments.  To the man operating the spinning wheel, it is a piece of fine furniture as well as a fine instrument for creating yarn.

At any large gathering of spinners you could expect to see variety of spinning wheels in operation.  The size, position of the wheel and the treadles might vary but that large wheel shape tells you your seeing a spinning circle. 

spinning circle

Many things have changed since it was necessary to spin our own yarn.  For many of us it is now a leisure activity and we see the opportunity to join a spinning circle as a pleasure not a necessity.

The spinning group of the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners meets every Tuesday from 10 am to noon.  Members bring their wheels or knitting with the intention of working.  They also bring their problems or triumphs to share over a cup of tea.  Of course there is always a spinning circle as these just form spontaneously if there are more than two spinning wheels in the same location.  It is something to do with all that twisting that goes on.

But take a peek at the latest Tuesday spinning circle and you’ll see a modern twist.  The first hints that something is different are the  extension cords and the outlet bar.

e-spinners in cherry wood

The spinning devices in this circle are electric.  The large wheel that is romantically associated with hand spinning and history is no where to be seen.  The bobbin and flywheel are obvious but they are now being driven by a motor in the base.

So why would you want to replace that beautiful wheel in the first photograph with a far less romantic electric spinning wheel.  Well, that lovely wheel is heavy and an awkward shape that is difficult to store and transport.  In that way it really does resemble a piece of furniture.  The electric spinners are bread-box size (does anyone have a bread box anymore?).

 The traditional wheels pictured above are driven by foot power and while that gives one an excuse to knit colourful socks and booties it also means you must be able to coordinate what your feet are doing with what your hands are doing.  Getting all those parts moving in a synchronous fashion can be difficult at first and impossible if you have health issues that effect your lower limbs and feet.

blended fibres before spinning

Even with the electric motor assist, the spinner is still very much in control of the final yarn, from selecting, dyeing and blending the fibres to controlling the thickness and amount of twist.  It is still very much “hand spun” yarn when it comes off that bobbin.

Raw fibre and the final yarn

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