"Zuñi Spinning," from My Adventures in Zuni (all black and white images in this entry are taken from our department's Print and Picture File)
Handspinning is an ancient textile craft dating back thousands of years. Spinning is essentially the act of twisting together a number of fibers into a strong continuous thread. The majority of fibers used to spin are either plant based or from animals. Plant based fibers include flax, hemp, nettle, cotton, and more recently corn, soy and bamboo. Animal fibers include wool from sheep, hair and fur from camels, goats, rabbits, alpacas, and filaments produced by silkworms.
The earliest tool used for spinning was the spindle, which was basically a stick fitted with a disc shaped weight. Fibers were twisted by rotating the stick; the weight kept the spindle turning and the resulting thread was then wound onto the stick.
The invention of the spinning wheel allowed for increased production by an individual spinner. Spinning wheels made their appearance in China and the Islamic world during the eleventh century and then moved on into Europe during the thirteenth century. This short space does not allow for an in-depth discussion of this craft’s development, but interested readers may learn more by checking out Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning by Patricia Baines.
In the last twenty years, the rise in popularity of knitting and crochet has led to a revival of the craft of spinning yarn. For some people the desire to spin may arise from an interest in spinning wheels triggered by seeing a wheel in a museum or antique store, or by inheriting one from a family member. Formerly a material exclusive to weavers, handspun yarn has much to offer today’s knitters and crocheters. Handspinning creates yarns in colors and blends that are not widely available in stores. Buying prepared fiber is cheaper than buying commercially spun yarn, so spinning one’s own yarn can produce luxurious knitwear at a fraction of the cost.
The library has many books that will appeal to both novice and seasoned handspinners. The following is just a sampling of the many titles the library has available to check out:
The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning by Alden Amos (Interweave Press, 2001).
Color in Spinning by Deb Menz (Interweave Press, 2005).
A Fine Fleece: Knitting With Handspun Yarns by Lisa Lloyd (Potter Craft, 2008).
The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin (Interweave Press, 2009).
Spin Control: Techniques For Spinning the Yarn You Want by Amy King (Interweave Press, 2009).
Spin It! Making Yarn From Scratch by Lee Raven (Interweave Press, 2003).
Start Spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn by Maggie Casey (Interweave Press, 2008).