Have Spindle, Will Travel: How a Drop Spindle Is the Perfect Traveling Companion

A drop spindle is the perfect traveling companion.

As I write this, I’m getting ready to travel to Tinkuy, an international gathering of weavers in Peru. My packing list grows longer by the minute: rain ponchos, audiobooks, hand sanitizer. Speaking with Maggie Casey today, she reminded me, “Don’t forget to pack a drop spindle.” I hear that I’ll receive a spindle as part of the gathering, but that’s not what Maggie had in mind.

Introduce Yourself with a Spindle

Maggie explained that when she traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico, one of her companions brought a Turkish spindle that transfixed the village women. Plenty of tourists had come to visit, it seems, but none had shown that they could use a drop spindle. “She had some wool/silk blend, and she passed it around so they could feel it,” Maggie added. “One woman put it in her shirt—she didn’t mean to pass it any further!”

Since I dropped one of my favorite spindles and chipped it, my spindles have largely stayed at home, sitting on a shelf. I realized, though, that an already chipped drop spindle is the perfect thing to take along. The heartbreak is done; now I can use it to spin while strolling, offer to strangers as a handshake, and generally make a spectacle of myself in front of spinners who have used a pushka since before they could read.

How to Pack a Drop Spindle

A spindle is an odd three-dimensional object with several points of weakness that need to be protected. (This is one reason why Turkish spindles are so popular: when disassembled, they have fewer sticky-outy bits to break.)

Drop Spindle

Put aside the bottle of wine and store a spindle and fiber in a wine gift box. Photo by Joe Coca from Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont

1. Protective tube or box

The perfect container for a drop spindle is reasonably crushproof, long enough to accommodate the full shaft, wide enough for the whorl . . . but not too big. Whiskey or wine boxes are excellent candidates.

2. Plenty of fiber

The fiber serves not only as spinning material but also packing material. A generous cushion of fiber keeps a spindle from knocking around. Remember that what you spin is no longer available for padding—so pack more.

3. Optional: straws

When you fill your spindle sufficiently, you will want to remove the cop. Depending on your preference, you can pull the cop off as it is (if the shaft is smooth), slip a straw over the shaft and slide the cop onto it, or wind a new ball.

—Anne Merrow

Featured Image: Photo by Joe Coca from Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont

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