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Spindle Positions

Wow, I want to thank you all for the terrific responses to the question about spinning standing up vs. sitting down! I would urge anybody who hasn’t to read the comments — there’s some fantastic food for though there.

Here’s why I asked: over the past few months, I’ve heard lots of people say lots of different things about spindle spinning positions, some stated very authoritatively and completely contradicting each other. In some cases, when I’ve talked to folks about these things, they’ve told me they were told in no uncertain terms that you really couldn’t spin sitting down, or standing up, or without reaching your hands way up over your head, or without using your whole body, or all kinds of things. So I started to wonder: first of all, who’s hearing these things, and second of all, who’s telling them?

What’s interesting is that if asked, a lot of people can’t remember where they heard, say, that you can’t spin standing up; others say that it just never occurred to them that they could sit down; so there really doesn’t seem to be an elite cadre of misinformation ninjas out there telling people untruths about the spindle or anything. But things that seem obvious to some of us, it turns out, are totally not. And some of the things we assume may even be mistaken.

I, for instance, assumed it was obvious you could just sit down. Or stand up. But then someone told me she’d found a particular video helpful learning to spin (which I thought was interesting since the video didn’t actually cover what most of the world has considered to be “spinning” for thousands of years), and I asked her what she’d found helpful about it — after all, I’m always looking to improve on my toolkit for getting folks started and reducing the time it takes them to be able to be hands-on trying it in ways that lead to rapid success. “Oh!” she told me, “Mostly it’s that the lady in that video is sitting down. All the other ones, people are standing up. I want to learn a spinning method that can be used sitting down, not one that requires me to stand.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I made a mental note to add “And of course, you can sit or stand as you prefer,” to the things I make sure to say when teaching a brand-new spinner.

You can spin, or ply, standing up.

You can spin, or ply, sitting down.

You can spin, or ply, while walking around. Heck, you can do it while dancing.

Something else to remember is that when it comes to spindle ergonomics, we’re all different and spindles are largely different from each other, and this is one of the great strengths of the spindle: you can figure out what works best for you personally. With a wheel, you’re restricted to some extent by the shape and size of the equipment — but with a spindle, your range of motion can be anything at all.

So if you’ve only felt you could do it one way, how do you get to be able to do it other ways? You’ll all hate me for this, but the answer is simple: just give it a try. At first it may feel awkward, but that’s normal enough. It takes time for a new movement to feel comfortable. And if you’re just starting out, I would urge you to vary your position a lot, and try lots of different things. You might be amazed what a difference it makes to be able to spin comfortably in any position at all.

21 thoughts on “Spindle Positions

  1. Very interesting! Is the girl in the black-and-white photo a young Abby by any chance? She’s cute as hell, whoever she is!

  2. Spindle spinning while hooping.

    Double dog dare ya.

  3. Will you be teaching a Spinning While Dancing at SOAR in the future? Appropriate dress required, of course.

  4. Great post, and wonderful comments. The woman who taught me to spin sits on a high stool. That way she gets what she called “the vertical advantage” of standing, with the comfort of sitting. A million spinners, a million ways to spin.

  5. went back and read all the comments.. good stuff there.
    as for more tools in the box – what about use / non-use of a wrist distaff? reading the comments, a lot of standers prefer to stander for longer wind ons.. I dont mind that but I really dont like doing lots of joins – so I use the distaff and wind a lot of fiber onto it.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I saw the “standing or sitting” post a bit late to comment, but I do have a little personal anecdote to share that may help some of your future students.

    I’m still very much a beginning spinner, and I started on a Schacht Hi-Lo drop spindle. I also have Fibromyalgia, which means I have constant muscle and skin pain. Spinning on that thing was one of the post painful things I’ve ever done. I tried sitting, standing, starting it with a thigh roll (excruciating!) or a flick, but no matter what I did, after a very short period, my body ached like I’d run a marathon. I decided I simply wasn’t a spindle spinner, and have had much more luck using double-treadle wheels (the Majacraft Rose is my fave).

    Until last fall. I went to the Spinning Loft to check out wheels, and found myself trying some much lighter drop spindles. My husband bought me a Greensleeves Damsel Monique (around 1oz) for Christmas and lo and behold… I can spin with it! For more than 10 minutes! It’s wonderful, and now I understand why people enjoy spindles.

    All this to say… for some spinners, it may not just be a matter of finding the right position for your body, but also the right equipment! If a particular spindle doesn’t work for you, try something lighter or heavier or top whorl or bottom whorl until you find something comfortable!

  7. Beautiful, beautiful photos. Thanks for those.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Abby! It always perplexes me when people think *anything* can only be done one way. I run into that with my beadwork students too.

  9. New book idea: The Kama Sutra for spinners.

  10. Great! Just like knitting there isn’t “one” correct way. Now when the spinning while spinning (on stationary bikes) exercise classes will start is another story

  11. Speaking of spinning while dancing, can you do that thing where you kick the spindle with your foot to keep it rotating? I’ve wanted to learn that since a couple of the instructors at SOAR were doing it one year.

    I, of course, was running around organizing and giving out door prizes and only had the opportunity to notice what was going on and not to analyze it, much less try it.

  12. Last weekend I was at a Viking event in the Netherlands and lo and behold one young lady was spinning whilst lying on her back! It was a technique she taught herself during a period of severe backaches. At home she would do in lying on a couch, at this event she just laid on the ground. She had to wind her yarn more often, but made a nice thin yarn.

  13. If you take Denny up on her dare, can there please be video?

  14. Dear Abby. am dropping you a note to say thank you. I’ve watched your videos and have begun to read your blog. All this has given me courage to try spinning with a spindle. I have been spinning now for about a month and truly enjoy the process. I am looking forward to plying my new yarn and hopefully knitting socks or something for my granddaughter. keep encouraging!

  15. Okay, spinning while dancing is on the list of things to try!

    Thank you for your inclusive approach. It drives me batty when people are told they can’t do things. Especially when it is said in a way that implies it is wrong if they like doing it in the unapproved manner. I want everyone to decide for themselves what they can and cannot do.

  16. Abby,

    I have to applaud you for all your wonderful spinning lessons taught throughout all these years.

    I virtually learned from you how to spindle spin, and all I can add to your wonderful blog is to say – just keep on keeping on, we love you out here in lurkdom land! 🙂

  17. Having taught knitting and spinning for a good while, my basic motto is: if you like what you get and you like how you did it and if no one knows how you did it when it’s done, how you do it doesn’t matter. Love your blog, Abby. Thanks for the videos for my newbies.

  18. Whenever I come across someone stuck on that “one way” path, my brain gets dangerously close to ker-ploding.

  19. You can ply lying on your back with your arms in the air and the spindle over your chest. (It was one of those days when it was just too hot to sit up, and the tiles were nice and cold!) It wasn’t the most efficient or ergonomically sound position, but it produced nice even yarn in the end.

  20. I tried the spindle after wheel trick yesterday without rereading the post and it just didn’t work! Missed the part about spindling from the OTHER end of the singles! Next time!

  21. I’ve been spindle spinning for about 2 years now and I’m so helplessly and hopelessly hooked. I spin all the time. And I do it all sorts of ways (standing, sitting, and yes, sometimes lieing on my back).

    I’m so obsessed I’ve started teaching and I NEVER tell my students that there is one way to do things. I always give some primary constants (like one direction of twist for singles and then the opposite of that for plying) but then it’s open road. That’s also what I love about spindling, you can learn so much from other folks (even beginning students!!!).

    I’m so excited to be taking your class at Sock Summit! See you there. 🙂

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