I've been a spinner for over ten years now, and one of the pieces of equipment I've been interested in mastering has been the supported spindle. A couple of years ago I bought a small tahkli on a whim while in the fiber supply store, but realized that it probably wouldn't be something I'd use that often since it's designed for spinning fibers like cotton.
I then began eyeing the Supported Spindle on The Woolery -- its machined look was really appealing to the techie in me. My husband bought it for me as a gift, and so I began trying to spin some fine Merino on it. I find that it has a very smooth spin to it, but actually getting it going seems to require a lot of heft, and so I feel like I still haven't quite mastered it.
Since then, I've eyed a few very pretty Russian and Tibetan spindles, but only decided to buy one after the holidays this year. I went searching on Etsy and found what I wanted at Maine Fiber Tools, which makes beautiful wooden spinning equipment that is way too attractive to pass up. I bought the Siberian lace spindle and matching bowl, and decided to use some holiday time to figure out this whole supported spindle thing.
When the tools arrived, I was really happy to see how high quality they were. They felt so good in the hand and seemed to have the perfect weight. I couldn't wait to get spinning with them. I can already tell that I'll be bookmarking most of the tools in the Maine Fiber Tools store.
I somehow found a huge bag of 80/20 Merino/tussah silk sitting around my fiber studio doing nothing (how that happened I have no idea), and so I figured this would be the perfect fiber for a new supported spindle. Supported spindles are best for spinning fine, laceweight fibers, and Merino/silk is the perfect blend for that. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube and away I went.
Now I can say that I'm addicted to using this spindle. While it won't be my go-to spindle for anything bigger than laceweight yarn, there are so many great things about using a supported spindle like this that a drop spindle just doesn't offer. First, I love having the bowl in my lap and being able to lean back into the couch or chair and just casually spin. With a drop spindle, even sitting down feels like a more "active" kind of spin. Spinning with the Russian spindle, however, feels a bit more relaxing.
It took me a little while to get the flow going. I'm pretty fast with a drop spindle, but it didn't take too long for me to get up to speed (literally) and be about as fast or even faster on the Russian spindle than my favorite drop spindle. Within an hour or so I had a decent-sized cop going, and my hands fell into a nice rhythm of spinning, drafting, and winding on.
My method of drafting with a drop spindle is almost a woolen-style long draw; with the Russian spindle, I was able to do a true long draw once I got past the initial park-and-draft phase of getting used to it. Because I was using carded roving and not rolags, my initial attempts weren't proving very successful and I soon realized that the spindle really wanted me to use a long draw with a rolag-like fiber preperation. So I took my carded roving and prepped it a little bit. First, I pre-drafted it quite a bit. Second, I spun over-the-fold. Once I did this, my ability to do a really fast long draw dramatically improved. Next time I spin a yarn on this spindle, I intend to hand-card rolags, which I feel is going to be the most successful way to use this spindle.
The first test yarn that I spun was just a two-ply fingering weight. And for a first yarn on a type of spindle I never use, I consider it a pretty nice success.
I kept working with it through most of my holiday break and now have about 150 yards in two cops of singles ready for plying into a 2-ply yarn. I'm already planning my first "real" project on it, and I'm realizing that this spindle might displace my current favorite spindle, the Golding laceweight. Still, different tools make different yarn, and I'm sure my Golding will still get plenty of love. In the meantime, I'm going to park it on the couch with some comfy cushions and do some nice relaxation-spinning.