What Is a Hackle?

In the 1959 Disney movie Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent prods Rose to “touch the spindle” of a spinning wheel, fulfilling her prophecy. But watch closely and you’ll see that Rose pricks her finger on a distaff. We spinners recognize that her “distaff accident” is highly unlikely. There are far more hazardous spinning tools Maleficent could have used—such as a hackle.

hackle: Great for blending fibers. Photo Joe Coca.

Great for blending fibers. Photo Joe Coca.

What is a hackle?

A rectangular piece of wood with very sharp, long tines embedded in the surface that clamps to a work surface. Hackles come in two types: a flax hackle has square tines clustered in several rows, and a wool hackle has cylindrical tines in only one or two rows. More commonly seen, the wool hackle is used for blending and aligning fibers for spinning on the worsted spectrum.

Aligns fiber for semi-worsted yarn. Photo Joe Coca.

Aligns fiber for semi-worsted yarn. Photo Joe Coca.

One of the less common tools used by most spinners, hackles are handy for fiber prep. “You can comb wool locks on hackles. You can use them for color blending, and they do a superb job of blending different fibers, especially fine fibers like cashmere, qiviut, and silk,” explains Roberta Murray in her Spin Off Spring 2007 article, “Get Your Hackles Up! Blending fibers and colors on the hackle.” Blending colors or exotic fibers on a hackle is supremely satisfying. Roberta recommends starting with commercial top for the least amount of waste.

Safety Tip: When you’re working with any sharp metal tools, make sure that your tetanus shot is up to date. Also, be sure to keep these tools out of reach of small children.


Featured Image: Blending colors on a hackle. Photo Joe Coca.

Learn more about color blending!


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