I was spinning samples on my spindle yesterday and paused to think what a wonderful thing a spindle is. It’s one of the simplest machines imaginable–a disc and a rod–but it turns fiber into thread. It has a lovely elegance.
In mathematical circles, elegance is greatly desired. A proof is elegant if it is short and simple: nothing wasted, no unnecessary flourishes or details, simply a spare, elegant laying-out of principles. Spindles are magnificently simple, yet effective.
I personally enjoy spindles more than wheels, although I was originally a wheel person. I was out yesterday, spinning as I went; and spun standing in the kitchen this morning, waiting for the water to boil. The cats wanted out; I walked over and let them out. The water boiled. I put the spindle on the countertop, set the tea brewing, put some soup in the microwave, then waited–contentedly spinning–while breakfast got ready. I tucked the spindle in my pocket as I went out.
Spindles are friendly: they accompany you as you do your little household chores, they come with you when you travel, they keep you company in the doctor’s office or on walks. I went to the Poppy Reserve to admire the beautiful wildflowers; the spindle came along. I went down to Santa Cruz and went walking on the beach; the spindle came along. The spindle is a continuous presence, a friend, a meditation tool. Anywhere I go, if I want to slow down and appreciate the scenery, pull myself out of the flow of thought, I pull out my spindle and spin, walking slowly along, settling my mind with the rhythmic motion. When I am settled, and fully in the moment, I stop spinning, and take in the place.
I love how I can make bobbins out of nothing. One index card gave me four bobbins this morning. It’s easy to stop and swap them–no muss, no fuss–and that’s nice, when I’m sampling. I can make more as I need them, and dispose of them without guilt when I’m done. I travel light; no drawers full of bobbins to weigh me down. Anywhere in the world that I go, I can put my spindle in my pocket, roll up an index card or an old receipt, and I’m ready.
I love the way a spindle talks to me. It’s not fast; it’s not meant to be fast. It reminds me that the world is not about productivity; it’s about enjoying the moment, not endlessly running towards a goal. It doesn’t rush me; it doesn’t ask to wind on as soon as I’m done; I have time to sit back, check the thread, spin a little more, and then wind on. It’s a slower beast, one that relates to me; one that is about elegance and the moment, rather than production.
I love spindles because they’re all about patience. I spin ring shawls, impossibly fine threads; an entire shawl might weigh three ounces. I create as I go, designing the shawl to reflect something about me, a process from my life. The slow speed of the spinning gives me time to reflect, to meditate, to make the shawl a part of my life, a natural part of myself. If I spun faster, I’d be designing on the fly, pushing myself to stay ahead of the yarn; and I think that would detract from the finished work. My work is not just a finished piece, but a piece of my life, and you cannot live your life unless you spend time with it, bring it with you, nurture it. A spindle gives me that time; it’s a companion, it doesn’t rush me.
Spindles are ancient; spindles are modern. Spindles take fibers, and magically turn them into thread. Spindles are walking companions, meditation aids, capable tools. They are endlessly adaptable, and easy travelers. Wherever I go, I can make new bobbins, find a spindle, or carve one for myself: I am independent, free as the air. They are works of art, as in my silver spindles, or works of pure practicality; they are anything they want to be. One disc, one rod: perfection.