The Story of the Supported Spinning Yoke

Good morning and happy Sunday! Spinning with a supported spindle is something that I still consider myself a novice at. Sure, I have been practicing with various Russian and Tibetan style spindles for a few years now, but I still do not feel like I have developed very much proficiency with them. A huge part of that struggle is using my left hand to hold my fiber and draft from the fiber supply. It is not the struggle it used to be, and it is far easier than using my left hand to hold and flick the spindle to send it spinning.

Another struggle has been finding a comfortable position to spin, and a big part of that is where the bowl that the tip of the spindle rests in is placed. Where I place that bowl is dependent on the length of the spindle because the length of the spindle affects the position of my arm and hand that holds it. A very long spindle like my Willette Russian would require me to hold my arm up higher than is comfortable and it doesn’t take long before before I start to feel that in my shoulder. To get a more comfortable and relaxed position for my arm and shoulder, the surface that I place the bowl on has to be much lower than it it needs to be for any of my shorter spindles. For my little ebony rocket by Jim Johnson, I need a surface that sits up higher.

It takes some time for me to find the right combination of seat height and surface height and spindle to keep my shoulder from doing more work than it should have to. Lap lap bowls are handy because they allow the spinner to always have a surface no matter where you are sitting. I have both the post and keel style lap bowls and they are perfect for me to use with some of my spindles, but not all of them because my ability to also adjust the bowl’s distance from my torso in order to use other spindles becomes limited.

That is based solely on how I am built and is in no way meant as a criticism of the post or the keel style bowls. I cannot comfortably hold a post style bowl very far away from my body when I am sitting in a way that is more relaxed. The keel style, which typically holds a separate bowl, is something I found much more versatile than the post in many ways, but it can still be a problem if I need it to be farther away from my body when I sit. To keep them secure my legs must point inward from my hips and that is not a natural position. I am not saying that I need to be in a full on manspreading position to sit comfortably, but sitting with my legs coming straight from my hips still puts my knees at a good distance apart.

Woodworker Dan Tracy of Dan Tracy Designs had similar experiences with lap bowls as he began to practice supported spindle spinning before he started to turn Russian spindles. That led to the yoke style bowl that Dan introduced in his booth at fiber shows earlier this year. He says he got the idea for the yoke in a dream and then came up with an initial design. With testing and with input from a local spinner he knows, Dan made some changes and the final product is a simple but still elegant and very functional design.

 

 

 

The yoke’s span allows me (and I am sure many other spinners) the ability to sit in a more natural position because its width allows me to place it either close to my body or father away all the way out to my knees without forcing my legs inward from my hips at an uncomfortable angle. The yoke has rubber backing so that it will not slide. This is particularly handy because now I can adjust my seat height to change the angle of my legs towards the floor. This gets me more versatility in the height of the bowl as compared to the height of my chair, as well as its distance from my body, allowing me to use it with even more of my supported spindles.

I bought my yoke at the Adirondack Wool and Arts Festival in September. In between then and Rhinebeck I spun a lot of the baby camel on all of my supported spindles using the yoke. There wasn’t a single one I wasn’t able to find a comfortable position to spin using yoke. When I stopped to see Dan at Rhinebeck I told him this, and he said he has been hearing the same thing from every spinner who has tried it. It has made supported spinning so much more comfortable for me and many other spinners.

I have been spinning a lot of my baby camel on my Polonaise, but I still have a good amount set aside for my spindles. Christmas is coming and I think I’m going to ask Santa for some cashmere to spin. The camel is nice, but I enjoyed cashmere on my supported spindles much more, and with this yoke style supported spinning bowl, I am enjoying my supported spindles much more.

That’s it for this weekend. I have lots to try and get done here this morning, and then I am off to Kinderkook this afternoon with the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus to perform a selection of songs from our upcoming winter concert at a special event.

Have a great week!

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