Great Scot! The Return of the Scottish Spindle

I look for unusual spinning tools at every festival, and Scott Snyder had a table full at Convergence 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Beside his impressive array of Turkish spindles, stood a tool I’d never seen before: a Scottish spindle. Shaped like an electric toothbrush with grooves in the bottom, the Scottish spindle is the first drop spindle I’ve seen without a whorl.

Since meeting Scott, I’ve learned more about the spindle and its use in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in Canada, and I’ve come across more Scottish spindles. (It took a while to click that the Scot in “Scotia” is for Scotland.) The Scottish spindle has a long and distinguished history, but I was curious how Scott Snyder came to offer them now.

Spin Off (SO): Where did you first come across the Scottish spindle or dealgan shape?
Scott Snyder (SS): I remember seeing old photographs quite some time ago but didn’t really didn’t think about making them until I started getting a lot of requests from Facebook groups and emails to make them in mid-2016.

scottish spindle

The flared base paired with deep grooves makes it easy to anchor the yarn when spinning on one of Scott Snyder’s Scottish spindles. Photos by George Boe

(SO): Are your spindles replicas of the original shape or are they reinterpretations?
They are definitely reinterpretations. I made quite a few different shapes and sizes in the testing phase and started focusing on a smaller size with spinning singles in mind. The biggest change was adding the flared bell on the bottom. The bell exposes the notches, makes [the cross] much easier to locate, and prevents the yarn from popping out when you’re putting the half hitch in.

(SO): You’re a spinner; what do you like about them?
I love the simplicity of them, not from a production aspect—they take longer to make than most of my other spindles—but from a visual aspect. They offer a new challenge to spinners. I also love winding a center pull ball that just pulls off the spindle.

(SO): Why do they take longer?
It’s just a different process than my other spindles. There is a lot of material to remove.

Want to learn to spin on a Scottish spindle? Check out Kiersten Flannery’s article “Rediscovering the Scottish Spindle” from Spin Off Winter 2018 and “You Need to Try Spinning on a Scottish Spindle.” Then pick up one of Scott Snyder’s Scottish spindles for yourself.

—Anne Merrow

Explore the Scottish Spindle

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