You don’t need much to give spinning a try so it’s easy to give it a go and see if you enjoy it. To try spinning 15th century style you need four things; a distaff, some fibre to spin, a spindle and a whorl. If you purchased one of my spinning started kits at the Abbey Medieval Festival then you already have the last three.
Of all these the distaff is the easiest to procure if you set your mind to being creative. If you haven’t read the page on distaffs then you might wish to read it now. A distaff can be as simple as a wooden stick or broom stick you have lying around. It could also be a chair back or a ballistae or anything else you can secure fibre to. I find it best if the fibre is secured just above my left shoulder, so if you use a chair back then you may find it easier to sit on the ground. If you wish to spin flax stricks then you’ll need something to make a cone on the top of your distaff. A cone made of card and stuffed with newspaper works fine to start.
A simple spindle is a stick. For the method of spinning I’ll be teaching you it’s best to have one which is tapered at the top. I also recommend sharpening it or tapering it at the bottom also. If you haven’t already, have a look at my page on spindles to get an idea of the overall shape. My first spindle was a small craftshop dowel that I whittled down with a box cutter. A wooden knitting needle works well to.Whorls can also be very easily found or made. Some clay that’s been shaped and left to harden is good, but so does plasticine, bluetack, or anything similar you have lying around if you’re just giving it a try. My first whorl was made out of hairties. Yes, really.
Above is my first spindle and distaff. Not fancy, but it worked!
Fibre is probably the only thing you’ll have to buy specifically for spinning. Different people say you should start with different fibres or to stay away from something because it’s ‘hard’. I started on flax, both stricks and the tow combed into sliver. I then moved onto wool which I found so much easier. It almost drafted itself. Later I found the wool I’d taken to so well was merino which is meant to be ‘hard’ and not recommended for beginners.
The spinning instruction on my pages covers spinning flax stricks or wool so I recommend you purchase one of these. When purchasing wool you’re looking for wool tops or wool rovings will do as well. tops and rovings describes the way the wool has been prepared for spinning. You’ll only need a small amount. One flax strick or 50 grams of wool is plenty to start on.