Saturday, May 23, 2009

Navajo Way collides with high tech

(click picture for larger image)
I've been reading Noel Bennett's "Navajo Weaving Way" about Navajo weaving and all the work that goes into their weaving. Bennett describes how the wool is spun on a Navajo spindle made from a dowel and piece of wood.

Wonderfully low tech.

I wanted to try out the long spindle style. So I have some 36 inch by 3/8 inch diameter oak dowels that I was using to make compact disc or CD drop spindles. I take a rubber grommet that is used by electricians to run wires through the side of a metal box. I used a grommet with 3/8" ID x 5/8" OD, which fits inside the CD hole and over the 3/8" dowel. I can put two CDs in the groove around the grommet. So usually I cut the dowel to 10 or 12 inch for a drop spindle. A cup hook in the end finishes the drop spindle.

This time I did not cut the dowel, but left it 36" long, and I did not put a cup hook.

Sitting in the chair, I rolled the spindle along my thigh, just like described in the book. After a little practice of the spin and scoop move, I started a fold of carded wool on it. It started to twist and I was spinning. In a fairly short time, I had a few yards of spun wool on the spindle. Because I did not have a hook on the spindle, I used to half hitch to fix the yarn near the spindle tip.

I asked my lovely wife to snap a picture.

The spindle is imperfect. The top needs a point and the bottom needs to be rounded to spin smoother. I think 3/8 inch is very thin for this kind of spinde. The two CDs are perfectly balanced discs, but they do not have a lot of mass to keep the spindle turning.

On the other hand, the Navajo style of spinning Bennett describes is much like park and draft. I put spin into the wool and stop the spindle. Then, using my fingers I kind of follow the twist up into the fiber one inch at a time.

I have absolute control of the spin so I have no one else to blame if I don't like the yarn. I kind of like my yarn.

(edited 5/24 to include)
Please check out Rosemary Knits blog to see her Navajo spindle made from arrows and a stroller wheel.

And this link to how to use the spindle

It has also been suggested to cut down the length to 30 or 32 inch or just a few inches above the knee.

Have a good day!


SewMamaLady said...

So is this spindle working as a bottom whorl? Also, do you think you would have better weight if you added one more CD? I've been using 3 CDs on my spindles and it really seems to make a difference. Thanks for sharing your experiment. I hope to hear about lots and lots more. :)

Emma said...

Hi Franco!

You might try to move the bottom end of the spindle farther away from you - I sit mine in a bowl. It seems to make it easier to spin. Of course, you have to adjust the location of the whorl so that it doesn't hit the bowl and so on.

Also, you don't need any knots or anything - See this post, for more information. You spin and draft, then you just spin, to add more twist, then you wind on. VERY rhythmic and relaxing.

I made mine from an old arrow (cedar, I suspect) and a baby-stroller wheel. The wheel is heavy and strongly rim weighted, so it works very well. Of course, the arrow is "straight as an arrow" and this helps, too. The point of the arrow is smooth metal, so it rotates quite freely in a glassy bowl, and makes a soothing purring sound.

Rosemary said...

whoops. I didn't realize that I was posting under someone else's profile. Sorry about that.

Franco Rios said...

Thank you SewMamaLady, Yes, the spindle is setup for bottom whorl. I think I will try adding another cd on the spindle.

And Rosemary (AKA Emma) I put up a link to your blog about the stroller wheel/arrow spindle. I would have never thought of that combination.

My hat is off to you!

Thank you also for the link to

I did move the whorl up so I could spin at more of a 45 degree angle.

Have a good day!