For our second-to-last adventure into the everyday processes of prehistoric times, we were taught the ancient art of drop spindle spinning. Not really anything like the fairytale spinning wheels of Sleeping Beauty, this method of spinning is far more practical in that it is portable – one can walk around and do other things at the same time as they are spinning. Therefore, while one is walking to market, or walking to fetch water, or walking to the next village, one can keep spinning and keep spinning, preventing a loss of valuable time.
At first we were all taught the same method using the white, pre-carded and pre-washed wool, I decided I wanted to try something different, something to add to my long, lumpy, uneven strand of yarn I had spun. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m not Rumpelstiltskin – there were no strands of gold following from my spindle. The second project I attempted, however, was started by carding untreated, unwashed wool. The process was very rhythmic, pulling the combs against each other in order to untangle and clean the wool, and slowly the messy wad of wool between the combs became smooth to the touch; it was ready for spinning. As I ran the wool between my fingers, pulling and thinning it in preparation for spinning, I could feel the lanolin coating my fingers, and I could smell the sheep in the wool – the smell of livestock, and hay, and dusty barns and wide open grassy pastures. I decided then that I didn’t want to spindle-spin the wool, but that I wanted to hand spin it. Which is just what I did; I carefully twisted again and again the rope between my fingers, until all the wool was spun into a thread as long as my first. Oddly enough, this second hand-spun thread turned out far better then my spindle-spun thread had.