Simple DIY Wrist Distaff

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It was Saturday and I was following my usual springtime routine of staying inside to avoid as much foul pollen as possible while also enjoying the internet. My routine may be simple but it works for me. During one of the many internet enjoyment portions of the day, I was catching up on Twitter when someone linked to a blog post about basic spinning vocabulary from Clean Cup, Move Down. Reading through the post, which is solid and worth reading if you’re new to spinning or need a refresher, inspired me to pull out a neglected spinning project

I had no problem with the single, the spindle, or the wool except that I put them away and promptly forgot about them. The spinning was wonderful and kept me inside and away from the pollen which is always a bonus. Also, I like to pace while I’m spinning and the roving was still long enough that I had to be careful not to step on it. I know I could torn off a chunk but I don’t want to join any more than I have too. It was at this point that I remembered such a thing called a distaff exists and I went back to the internet to figure out how to make one work for me. Distaffs, at least in relation to spinning, are cleft staffs which hold large quantities of wool or flax ready for spinning with a spindle. Not quite what I needed. Turns out that what I was looking for was a variation, called the wrist distaff, which is worn on the arm opposite the drafting hand. Most wrist distaffs hold just a few grams of fiber though and I wanted to have room for much more. The solution was simple.

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All you need for a simple wrist distaff is a drawstring bag with ties long enough to fit around your arm. The bag should be large enough to hold a few ounces of fiber and the spindle. I’m using a Pretty Cheep project bag but any drawstring bag will work. Just put the roving or top into the bag so that it can easily feed out a little at a time. When it’s time to spin, take the fiber and spindle out of the bag, hang said bag from your arm, and get spinning.

Now you can pace to your heart’s content or go spinning in public. Plus, when you’re finished spinning, just put the spindle in the bag are you’re good to go. 

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Getting To Know Each Other

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Now that the commission yarn is finished, I’m taking the time for a little selfish spinning. I raided the stash and pitted the fiber against each other until there was a clear winner. I pulled them apart just short of felting. What came out on top was a lovely polworth/silk blend from Gale’s Art appropriately named Indian Corn. I had the loose idea of spinning a worsted weight 2-ply yarn. The colors get to do their own thing since the real purpose of this yarn is for me and my Jenkins Swan spindle to get to know each other. I’ve only spun a tiny little mini skein so far and it’s time that changed.

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When I started spinning this single, my hands were still in lace weight mode and it took me a while to reset my fingers, so to speak. The spindle kept dropping but at least the singles were getting a decent thickness. As I was working and adding more singles to the arms, the spindle started to spin differently. It would still spin for a long time but at a much slower speed than when the cop (Is the collected yarn on a turkish drop spindle still called a cop or is that just on whorled drop spindles?) was smaller. I’m going to chalk this phenomenon up to the extra weight on the spindle from the singles and physics. Blast you, you increasing moment of inertia!

I really need to figure out how to build a cop upward on a turkish spindle instead of just outward. Any pointers?

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A turkish spindle is comprised of 3 separate parts: the shaft and 2 arms. I knew this and, yet, didn’t expect the arms to get stuck on the shaft because of how many times I dropped it. A high number that. Anyway, when I was unwrapping the spindle for the first time, there was a little slip of paper from Jenkins Woodworking that came to my rescue:

Ed’s Unique Compression Fit Shaft: Vertical slits for releasing pressure if the shaft becomes stuck when dropped. If the shaft seems impossible to remove, place the entire spindle in a plastic bag and place in freezer about 30 minutes. 

So, that’s what I did except I was distracted by the internet and left if in for another 15 minutes. The spindle still popped apart without any difficulty and none the worse for wear. 

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Compression slits, you are both gentlemen and scholars.

I’ve only just started spinning the second half of my fiber but I’ve already learned so much. How building a cop affects rotation and speed. How much fiber I can comfortably pack on. How to rescue my singles if the spindle ever acts stubborn. What might be most important is that the pair of us will be spinning yarn together for a long time. Hmm, I think he needs a name now. 

The Jenkins Turkish Swan Spindle

I’m not going to lie. Once I decided that turkish drop spindles were amazing things and, having repeatedly heard good things about Jenkins Spindles, I frequented yarntools.com. Once I decided I wanted one for my birthday, I stalked that site. I compared the different models, weights, and woods. There was always a tab open in my browser. I was constantly refreshing the page whenever there was the slightest chance of an update. So, when a spindle popped up that met all my requirements, I wasted no time clicking “Buy Now”.

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Check out what arrived in the mail yesterday: a Jenkins Swan Spindle made from cherry and weighing in at 33g. When I first got a look at the pieces, I could tell the spindle was something special.  It was obvious that everything was made my skilled hands. The spindle had spirit and energy and power. Sounds silly, I know, but it’s true.

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I was content to wait until I crossed a few things off my to-do list and finished another spinning project before settling down try this handsome devil out; however, included in the package was a few grams of BFL and some already started yarn. Who am I to resist such an invitation? The yarn was just tied right to the shaft. Why have I never thought about tying a leader on to a turkish spindle like that? I’ve usually settled for making a big loop and setting it underneath two of the arms before making a half hitch at the top. Just tying a knot at the bottom seems so much simpler and balanced.

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So, I paced back and forth across my back porch and spun up every last bit of fiber. The spindle was balanced, long spinning, and acted as a single unit instead of three. It spun like a pro.

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When the fiber was yarn, I pulled out the shaft and the arms. I didn’t have to push or pull to free the single which is a massive improvement over my last turkish spindle. Then there was plying after I let the twist set and briefly got back to my to-do list.  12 yard mini skeins are insufferably cute. I’ll knit you up one day. 

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I could sum up everything I’ve written and do a formal conclusion but I’m going to keep things simple. Never before have I used a tool, spindle or otherwise, that felt like it was made just for me and me alone. Looking forward to spinning lots of yarn together.