What are lap spindles?

By Amelia © November 22, 2009

There have been several mentions on spindlitis lately of a particular variety of spindle -- a supported spindle that's supported by continuous twisting in the hand. They sound similar to me to what I've read about lap spindles in A Handspindle Treasury which are described there for spinning Icelandic yarn.

But these references are coming up about French spindles (I'm told that quenouille is actually French for distaff ... "spindle" in French is usually fuseau, on blogs I've looked at like this one), Portuguese, and traditional Serbian spindles, with accompanying YouTube videos, and they involve twirling the spindle continuously in the hand, rather than on the leg.

First, the French spindle, demonstrated by sergeantMajorette, who spins on a wide variety of support spindles and happily shares her knowledge and experience with those who ask:

I've seen this type of spindle offered on Etsy (and have one), antiques rather than new manufacture. So I wonder if they are still actively in use there. However, there's a modern Portuguese lady in this video spinning on one, with an assortment on the stool next to her:

Now, hers all look like they may be historical as well, very simple hand-carved spindles, not the polished turned woodwork that is common in modern American-made and Canadian-made spindles.

And finally, showing the global nature of spinning, a group of Serbian spinners re-enact traditional spinning (the spindle spinning starts at 2:40):

Though the traditional Icelandic lap spindles are described as being rolled on the leg, I can't help but wonder how similar in speed, and perhaps style, they might be to these support spindles. Both are uniquely different from the other sorts of support spindles, perhaps most closely similar to the Akha, which is also supported with the body rather than a dish like the Navajo, Takli, Russian, or Tibetan spindles.

I'd welcome any insights readers have on these spindles, as when there is a support spindling follow-on to Productive Spindling, I'd like to include information on these as well. I see some fun spinning explorations of these new-to-me support spindles in my future.

I have in the past pointed people to Connie Delaney's Spindle Spinning: From Novice to Expert as a good discussion of support spindles, covering Navajo spindles and Taklis as well as top and bottom whorl spindles. I'm happy to now also be able to point people to Abby Franquemont's newly released Respect the Spindle, which overviews not only those support spindles, but also Akha and Russian spindles, with wonderful photographs accompanying the overviews.

For an A-to-Z glossary of spindle spinning terms, see the ispindle glossary. ispindle is a great online resource with many helpful tutorials available.

© 22 November 2009 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/


Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

Ahh, spindlitis to the rescue again; the ever-clever Faina translated quenouille for me, and provided a pointer to several videos of the Himalayan phang spindle, another variant of this theme:

Here is spinning on Ladakhi phang

and more

And here is this fantastic lady from Himachal, India:

As she said, "Enjoy!"

lea-ann said...

My friend makes a unique spindle at HTTP://Www.Knittinganyway.com. all lower case. Sorry. Still trying to figure out my Droid

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@lee-ann: thanks for pointing them out -- the Spindolyns are another class of support spindle deserving a mention. They are similar to the Royal Hare and the Peasant spindle, with the spindle rotating in a base designed to fit the spindle, instead of in a cup. This lets the spinner concentrate on keeping the spindle going, rather than keeping it upright.

Emma in Brittany said...

This is great info for me as I have picked up a couple of spindles locally in 'vide greniers' for pennies that are a lot like the ones in the video of the Portuguese lady.

I haven't actually tried using them yet but will definitely have a go soon.

I have one with a well developed patina and another that is very raw wood otherwise identical to the first.

Ruth said...

A book on supported spindles around the world would be great! I hope you tackle this subject.

Davasdu said...

the lap spindles i have encountered (see handspindles by hochberg and spin off handspindle treasury) are shaped like a largeish high whorl and rolled along the thigh to generate twist. ive found the one i have very comfortable to use and are great for thick bulky soft spun yarns. though i did discover that i definetly need to roll it away from myself to spin and towards myslef to ply as you can build up greater speed on the spinning by catching it as it goes off my knee and allowing it to continue to spin in my cupped fingers.
good fun

Laura said...

A lap spindle is a stick. Just a straight spindle without a whorl. You just hold onto it and twist it. They are also called "twisty twigs", "knotty spindles", and "twirly sticks". You can make one by peeling a thin branch, and putting a point on each end, and a groove on the bottom end, and optionally on the top end. They are different than a drop spindle, in that the SIZE of the spindle (the width of the stick) needs to be in proportion to your spinning output. Thinner threads and yarns need a very thin spindle, and thicker yarns do better with a thicker spindle. This is due to the roll ratio (how many times the stick will roll up your thumb - thinner twigs spin MORE with less effort), and just for comfort and ease of use (thick yarns don't spin well on a small spindle, they don't roll up your thumb very well as you twist it). This kind of spindle is used for people who want to RECLINE while they spin, but it WILL cause cramping and nerve pain in the base of the thumb until you work into it. I use these for everything, and I make most of my own. This is THE trick for economy and for keeping the cost of spinning equipment low.