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Spinning Yarn Under the Boulder Skies: Debi’s Unique Solar Eclipse Spindling and Stargazing


Prepped Fiber Can Be Spun on a Spinning Wheel, taken up on a Bobbin

Looking directly at the sun through  a telescope, even from the Oz that we call Boulder and call Home, especially during a total solar eclipse can cause blindness. UNLESS you have a custom-made sun-viewing filter. The special filter consists of three layers of Mylar. It looks like the filter is really layers of aluminum foil.  Totally opaque. Looking at sunspots , eclipses and the like becomes safe and magical.   The “magical” is taken to a new level when Debi truly multi-tasks, viewing and spinning at the same time. She’s spinning fiber she’s already prepared for spinning, and is using a “drop spindle” or “hand spindle.”

Before actually spinning fiber into yarn, the fiber must be prepared. Here it is being made into “rolags” using a pair of carders. After the fiber is carded it is rolled off, with the fibers having been lined up.  Carders come in a WIDE variety of sizes and in a wide variety of hardwoods. The coloring of the final yarn is in part controlled by how the fiber is placed onto the combs. The fiber can be laid on the combs differently for color control, and the more it is carded, the more the color becomes uniform.

Fiber preparation for spinning. This is silk, already dyed.

Fiber preparation can start with giving your dog a bath. Then, as you politely pet your pet pooch, with a little effort you will have  a brush full of the freshly-washed  undercoat. If the dog has only a single coat, it is possibly not a candidate for spinning. Debi spins everything from “smooth and even” to designer yarns. She was called upon by NCAR to spin glass fiber into an insulator for a space mission. That was difficult. The designer yarns may incorporate beads, variations in thickness and more.  After Debi won three consecutive silver medallions (the highest award given at the famous Taos Wool Festival, for her designer yarns, a new category was started. “Designer Yarns”was given a classification and medallion of its own. Designer Yarns are limited only by the limits of the spinner’s imagination.

Hand spindling, an ancient craft integral to the production of yarn and thread, traces its origins back thousands of years. This simple yet ingenious tool revolutionized the creation of textiles, paving the way for the development of complex fabrics and clothing.

Debi Dodge Designer Yarn

The earliest evidence of spindle use dates back to the Neolithic period, around 5000 BCE. These primitive spindles, discovered in archaeological sites across Europe and the Middle East, were typically made from wood, stone, or clay. The basic design consisted of a shaft with a whorl (a weight) attached near the bottom to maintain momentum when spinning.

As civilizations progressed, so did the spindle’s design. The Egyptians, renowned for their linen, utilized spindles to spin flax fibers. Similarly, in ancient India and China, spindling was essential for producing cotton and silk threads. This technology spread across the ancient world, becoming a cornerstone in textile production.

The drop spindle, a variant, emerged as a more portable and efficient version. Unlike the traditional spindle, which required a stationary setup, the drop spindle allowed spinners to work the fibers while the spindle dangled freely, using gravity to assist in the spinning process. This innovation made it easier for people to spin yarn as they moved about, integrating the craft into their daily lives.

Throughout the Middle Ages, hand spindling remained prevalent despite the advent of the spinning wheel in the 14th century. It continued to be a vital skill in rural communities, where access to more complex machinery was limited.

Today, hand and drop spindling have experienced a resurgence as part of the broader revival of traditional crafts. They are cherished for their simplicity, portability, and the unique, homespun quality they impart to yarns. This age-old technique, once a necessity, now serves as a creative and meditative pastime, connecting modern artisans with their ancestral roots.

Photo Lenny Lensworth Frieling                   Various Designer Yarns


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