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I almost forgot.

A while ago, I wrote a teaser post about a plying technique that I wanted to write about – and then I almost forgot I promised you a follow-up post. ZM15

While most of the ladies on medieval images have a long distaff that clearly holds fibres, like this:

Psalter of Fecamp. Ca. 1180. From Petzold, Andreas. Romanische Kunst, art in context. Köln: Dumont, 1995, p. 97.

and some fewer ones have a short distaff that also clearly holds fibres, like this:

Detail from Giotto: Annunciation to St. Anna. Scrovegni-Chapel, Padua. 1300-1320. From Flores d’Arcais, Francesca. Giotto. New York: Abbeville, 1995, p. 150.

something about this picture has always sort of tickled the back of my brain.

Young woman, Pseudo-Apuleius, 13th century. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Vind. 93. From Kotzur, Hans-Jürgen. Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179. Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1998, p. 336.

It’s not the usual what she’s holding; it’s clearly a shorter distaff than usual, and the form of the stuff on the distaff is very clearly defined, very spindle-shaped and not fibery-looking at all.

Let’s jump to another topic: the problem of plying. I don’t know how well you manage to spin the same amount of length on two spindles or spools – I don’t manage so very well; there’s always some of the yarn left on one side when the other side has already run out. There’s a theoretically very easy way to avoid this, though: To fold the yarn spun in half (from one single spindle, spool, or cop) and ply it with itself. When there isn’t a foulup, you end up with a neat two-ply with no singles left.

There are different instructions on the ‘Net on how to ply from a center-pull ball, and there’s also the Andean Plying Bracelet which both are means to achieve the desired end-result: a skein of single folded in half and plied up. Both involve re-winding the spun yarn from the bobbin of a spinning wheel (where it’s an absolute necessity) or from a spindle.

Me, I’m lazy. I like to be lazy. I promote winding spindles in a special way so that I can, after spinning, just slide that cop of yarn off the spindle onto a slim bit or stick of wood or so for storage. (Chopsticks, by the way, work fine.) And the way that I wind my yarn results in a stable, spindle-shaped cop of yarn that is essentially something not too unlike a center-pull ball. So I tested plying directly from the  cop (transferred to a slim stick) onto the spindle… and it works, and very very well too.

There’s me doing it…

… and a close-up with a slightly different hand position that occurs quite frequently during the process.

So… here’s a method that is efficient, easy to use, will result in no waste of yarn singles, and does not require extra tools (you can use a spindle stick to ply from). And I’m hooked on this new technique.

This entry was posted in experimental archaeology, spinning, wild speculations. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to I almost forgot.

  1. Corbie says:

    So you're using the cop as a center-pull ball, even though it's on another stick? Is the diameter of your hand-distaff stick small enough that the yarn from the center of the cop just pulls out from around the stick?

  2. Yes, that's exactly what I do. I slide the cop off the spindle, force it to do a "yarn barf" to get out the center end if necessary, then slide it back onto the spindle or a similar stick. And the center yarn just pulls out around the stick (some fiddling sometimes required), while the stick in the center keeps tangles more or less at bay.

  3. Corbie says:

    Thanks, I'll have to try that!

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