The Art of Handspinning
“Everyday I'm up here, taking our animals to grass. Walking and spinning feels like a meditation, being surrounded by the animals who give us the wool. It's like a perfect cycle. ”
–Dikir Dolma, July 2016
Already 20 000 years back people have been handspinning to create ropes, clothing and accessories. The style of handspinning and the yarn varies from the raw material used and it can be spun in many ways, the only tool necessary is a spindle.
For the traditional spinning techniques the spindle that is used can be as simple as a single pointed piece of wood which is twisted in a bowl while the spinner is seated. Another type is a drop down spindle with a weight which is mostly used for mobile spinning - the spinner can walk and move around freely while spinning yarn, an incredible sight to see.
The traditional weight is made from animals horns, bone, wood, and exotic things such as turtle shells!
In the rural areas of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Assam where we work, handspinning remains a source of income for people, especially women. In most cases, it is people who are not qualified by education and have difficulty finding other ways of income generation.
Working with handspun yarn has great opportunities: keeping alive the art of handspinning, ensuring an income for people who otherwise would have to struggle for a job and creating beautiful, unique yarns and products.
Of course, there is no doubt about the greater and more efficient output of machine spinning: in 4 hours which is a usual day for spinners in the rural area, a spinner can reach up to 400m of yarn. In comparison, a machine can produce 600km in the same time. (this length varies from spinner and machine)
For companies who are interested in high output in a short time, machine spinning is certainly the preferred method. As a consequence of the pace, the price per kilo is also significantly cheaper.
However, we believe “that handspinning, a meditative activity, represents a culture and lifestyle which should be nurtured. The attention to the detail in the moment of spinning, the community feeling of gathering together for spinning, the opportunity for home-based income and its unique look and feel are arguments which are convincing to continue this craft.”
All over the world, spinners innovate the craft by creating different styles of yarns and mélanges of various fibers, which of course, adds an extra to the feel and usability of the yarn. It's encouraging to see the development of the slow art of handspinning in our increasingly fast-paced world.