Your niddy-noddy – do you know its history?

The humble niddynoddy is really rather interesting

The humble niddy-noddy is really rather interesting

Some time ago I was startled to notice that there was a niddy-noddy (yarnwinder) in a long-ago painting by Leonardo. Then I was even more startled to discover that niddy-noddies have been found in a Viking burial. So I did a bit of research, and the result was this article. It was published in Creative Fibre magazine in March 2016.

This will be the last article for a little while. More will come, as I’m a compulsive scribbler, but I don’t feel it’s fair to put them on the internet (even with permission) till at least 6 months after publication.

I’ll keep blogging, though, aiming for about the 20th of each month. I’ll tell you a little about my world – a world very focussed on spinning and spinning wheels, though there are other things in it too…

The Wendy spinning wheel and her relatives

WendyPhilip Poore’s little Wendy wheels are still sought after, in New Zealand and other countries. But few people know that Wendy was part of a tradition of New Zealand flyer-frame wheels. Back in 2008 I told their story – now republished here.

Being reminded of William McDonald, maker of one of Wendy’s “ancestors”, always makes me smile remembering one of my very first spinning lessons with the formidable Miss Stace. As the leader of the Eastbourne Spinners, a group she had founded in WW2, she had a studio full of a variety of wheels that I now wish I could remember more clearly! Mr McDonald, as well as being one of her spinners and making his own little wheels, helped by maintaining the group’s wheels. One day Miss Stace told me with great amusement that he had just telephoned to say he’d “be over later to fix the loose maidens in the spinning club.” wendyandfriend

‘Flyer-Frame Spinning Wheels in New Zealand’ was originally published in The Spinning Wheel Sleuth #60 (April 2008), and I thank editor Florence Feldman-Wood for agreeing to it being reproduced here. I have added a couple of photographs and a footnote that were not in the original.

Golden Shears!

Women competing alongside the men

Competitive shearing is big in New Zealand – in fact some of us think it should be an Olympic sport!

Shearers compete at agricultural shows all over New Zealand. The season culminates in the Golden Shears, a tremendous event that attracts international competitors as well as shearers from all over New Zealand. It’s held in Masterton in early March each year. In 2015 I attended many of the sessions, and described the experience (and other Wairarapa attractions) in Yarnmaker,  an interesting UK magazine about all things fibre.

I loved “the Shears” – read about it here.

Our Spinning Wheels

A distracted spinner: detail from the Smithfield Decretals, an illuminated manuscript of about 1350 in the British Library. Creative Commons

Here is the third and final part of my attempt to put together a short history of spinning and spinning wheels, first published in Creative Fibre magazine, December 2015.

Again I owe grateful thanks to Creative Fibre and its editorial committee, for their skilled and helpful editing as well as their kind permission to reproduce these articles.

Next month I hope to have something rather different for you.

Really, really ancient spinning wheels

Here is the second article on the history of spinning wheels. There was a Chinese spinning wheel, treadle and all, that was way ahead of its time – ahead by hundreds of years. These wheels were a dead end. They must have spun innumerable miles of yarn, yet they had no influence at all on present wheels. I can’t help imagining what our spinning meet-ups might look like now, if this technology had spread from China to become mainstream in Europe.

In writing about early spinning in China, I also had to confront the question “What is spinning?” Probably most of us would agree that it starts with drafting, and then there’s twisting followed by winding the made yarn onto a storage device (spindle, bobbin). But what if there is no drafting – the fibre is already the right thickness, and it only needs twisting and winding on?

Before there was drafting, there were devices for twisting. At what point do we start calling them spinning wheels? See what you think.

The history of spinning and spinning wheels

This is a fascinating subject, and I’ve enjoyed researching it during the last year or so. I set out to write an article for Creative Fibre Magazine but the subject kept growing … it became two articles, and then three. Here is the first one, about the very beginning of spinning. I had no idea our craft could be traced back to the palaeolithic (old stone age)! Or that the resulting yarn (yes, it has to be classed as yarn) was used for creating fabric by twining, Spindles are pretty old too, but not that old.

It took a lot of reading, and often there was frustration at the barriers to accessing articles if one is no longer part of an academic institution. However, I did get hold of a lot of interesting material, and my list of the most useful is in a separate page.

I want to pay tribute to the splendid magazine of Creative Fibre (the New Zealand Spinning, Weaving and Woolcrafts Society) and its wonderful editor Jo Reeve. I am very grateful for all her encouragement, the excellent presentation of my articles and everything else in the magazine, and the generous permission to reproduce material here.