From Russia with Love

Okay, so they’re not actually from Russia.

My first Russian spindle is from Carney’s Turnings, which I picked up at Fibres West about a month ago. And then I became so enamoured with it, I hunted down other spindle makers, finally discovering the amazing Lisa Chan at Gripping Yarn. She’s turned over 1,000 spindles and hosts an Etsy shop here. But of course, due to the popularity of her spindles, the shop is empty. So I convo’d her to ask about having a couple spindles made.

Lisa came back with a HUGE list of exotic woods that she has in stock and ready to make into spindles. She makes recommendations about what woods produce the most balanced spindles and even lists the density of each wood, so that you can make better decisions about what kind of spindle you want. Initially, I was hoping for one in East Indian Rosewood, but it wasn’t available… so I chose Purpleheart (dark red/purple colour), Bloodwood (warm orangey/red colour) and White African Pear (blond). Galina Khmeleva of “Gossamer Threads” spinning-fame, notes that traditional Russian spindles are made from birch which is quite a light wood, so I opted for the White African Pear because it was closest to this. The two darker woods are heavier, but so gorgeous. Each spindle is approximately 33g (just over 1 oz). The shape of each spindle is the same and looks like a large, full paintbrush with a tapered tip.

Lisa’s custom spindle process runs like clockwork from my customer perspective. She is prompt with the emails, turns the spindles, invoices and then ships all in a matter of days (of course, depends on her workload). She also makes French supported spindles as well as an original design called the “Rose” which is a French/Russian hybrid spindle (can be used either supported or suspended). Here’s a drool-worthy collection of her spindle photos.

Armed with Lisa’s spindles and the new spinning video by Galina (from Interweave), I’ve been spinning nearly every night before bed while watching tv. It’s been remarkably productive. I can spin nearly soundlessly and not disturb anyone, and I can spin in bed. It’s awesome.

Supported spindles don’t get along with commercial top fibre preparations… unless you get a short-stapled one and spin from the fold (or something like that). So I’ve been spinning up the batts I carded back at the 2009 SOAR with Abby Franquemont. I sort of wish I had written down what was in these batts, but I think the red one is a combination of merino, camel and sparkle… and the grey one is a mix of alpaca and silk. I think.

I’m hoping to try the crazy Russian plying technique from Galina’s video when I finish filling these spindles. You basically ply your handspun single with a commercially spun silk and wind the freshly plied yarn directly onto a round disc-shaped cardboard bobbin. The bobbins are then steamed to set the yarn and are ready to knit from right away. Hope to be sharing some plied yarn with you in the next several weeks!

  • nook

    ohmygoodness… i totally wish i knew how to spin! that’s gorgeous!! xo

  • islandspindler

    Gorgeous! I have a spanish peacock Russian spindle ( lovely cocobolo) but no success spinning yet. Very inspiring seeing your success!

  • June

    I have tried on and off to spin supported and have never gotten yarn that satisfied me. I even bought (and later sold) a Bosworth charkha because the process was stressful and the yarn  unattractive. In retrospect, I wonder if it was the fiber that I used. 

    • SweetGeorgia

      Oh, I know that feeling of stressful spinning… I have this cashmere and silk blend that I thought would be perfect for supported spinning, but in fact it was terrible. The cashmere is super short and the silk is about 4 inches long, so I was just getting sticky, huge sections of pure silk followed by weaker sections of cashmere. It was a disaster. Actually, I don’t think this blend was good for wheel spinning either. 

      But as soon as I switched to long draw and carded rolags with the support spindle, it seemed to work like magic. 

  • Jean

    Felicia,  I ordered a couple of spindles from Lisa at Gripping Yarn before I checked out your photos.  Apparently you and I have the same taste as I ordered the African Pear and the Purpleheart Russian spindles.  Can hardly wait to get mine!!!  I have some pure cashmere I want to try at some point but I think a nice merino top will be used for my first attempt.