Hand Spindles: A History


Though I have been an editor for a few years, I still can’t help but think of myself as a historian. I studied history in college and beyond and spent several wonderful years working for the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum, where I spent lots of time playing with sheep and teaching children about cotton and wool and the history of textiles. In my heart of hearts I will always have a burning passion for history.

When I first learned of Judith MacKenzie’s new video Hand Spindles: A History,  I was intrigued. The idea of an entire video dedicated to teaching people about spindles got my attention. Recently I found the time to sit down with the video, and I was hooked.


I had been told that Judith MacKenzie was wonderful and a riveting teacher, but until now I didn’t really understand. Judith doesn’t just tell you about the spindles and whorls (of which she has many to show), she tells their stories. I loved hearing her talk about spinning yarn by rolling fiber on her thigh and listening to her point out all the little details on the ancient whorls.

Judith not only shows the spindles and whorls, she shows how they work. I’m looking forward to a second watch so I can pick up on the tidbits that I missed. Judith demonstrates how spinners around the world and throughout time used spindles (and even their own bodies) to produce exquisitely fine cloth.

As a very beginning sort of spindle spinner, I also enjoyed watching a master at work. Seeing how effortlessly Judith uses a Turkish spindle had me in awe.

Watching Judith’s video transported me back to my days at the museum as I watched volunteer spinners from the area create wonderful yarn while they explained to groups of awestruck children how it all was done. As I watched, felt like an awestruck child myself.

Happy Spinning!


imageplaceholder Christina Garton
Editor, Weaving Today

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