Day 80


Do you know what one of the worst parts of having depression and anxiety is? It’s not the way people think you’re being lazy or flaky. It’s not how hard it is to do everyday things as simple as getting out of bed and getting dressed. It’s not how getting good treatment is so difficult. It’s being unable to control something as simple as your emotions.

I was watching tv and knitting earlier today and quite suddenly and without any prompting I was sobbing. I still don’t know why. And before you suggest it might have been prompted by whatever was on the tv, I was in the middle of 2 hours of Scooby-Doo cartoons so there was nothing even vaguely emotional happening on the screen. I’m sure that I can point to a dozen things going on in my life that are misery making but this was so abstract.

Anyway, it’s ridiculous. I’ll be 36 next month and I respond to emotional situations like an angry and frustrated toddler, crying at the stupidest of things. I still don’t handle change well. I don’t handle being on my own well but I don’t want people breathing my air. And my poor husband is inundated with demands for his undivided attention. I am fully aware of all of these things and no matter how much effort I put in, there are times I have absolutely no control over any of it… of course, this all just makes it worse.

So I’m feeling drained and wobbly headed but I did the finishing on a friends cowl, got more of the tablecloth done and did today’s square. I even cleaned the floors, and washed my hair.

Then cheered myself up with some more Horrible Histories songs. This is one I have yet to learn and you’ll see why. You’ll also learn all the English monarchs since William the Conqueror. You’ll be humming this one too. Not sorry :p

Orange/lime/yellow rectangle!

day 80

Day 78


Firstly, a purple-ish rectangle. This blanket is going to be enormous if I do all 365 pieces as a single blanket….

day 78

So, hand spindles. There are 2 main types of hand spindle – supported and unsupported – and most spindles will fit into one of these categories. Many of the differences are because of the unique qualities of different fibres but all handspindles are based on the same principle – using a weighted stick to twist strands of fibre into a thread. I almost exclusively spin wool so I can only speak about some of these spindles from what I’ve read.

Just to clarify, I am speaking exclusively of spindles that are not attached to a wheel-based machine.

We’ll talk about unsupported handspindles today (because they’re the type I use). These are often called ‘Drop Spindles’ and generally fall into 2 categories – top whorl or bottom whorl.

The handspindle is a very simple machine that can be made with as few as 2 parts – a shaft and a whorl.

If you take a straight piece of wood, like dowelling or a chopstick, attach a length of thread to it and try to make it spin, you will notice that it will twist in the direction you turned it maybe twice before turning back on itself without making any difference to the length of thread. To make this shaft continue to turn, it needs a weight on it. It doesn’t have to be a heavy weight but the weight, or whorl, will give the spinning shaft momentum and keep it going for long enough to make a change to the fibre or thread you are trying to spin.

Where you put the whorl can make a difference. If you put it in the middle, it won’t spin. This has to do with the shaft’s centre of gravity. If it is placed toward the top or bottom of the shaft, it will work as a spinning device.

I have never noticed any difference to how the two function and consider it a matter of personal preference but we know that the bottom whorl spindle has long been used in Europe (seriously, it’s depicted in use on Greek pottery) and is better suited to spin thicker yarns that need less twist.

The top whorl spindle is thought to come from the Middle East and produces thinner yarns more easily.

Whichever you choose, the weight of the whorl will make a big difference to what you produce. A heavy weight will snap thin yarns, a light weight won’t twist thick strands so keep that in mind when choosing the spindle for a project.

A variation on the bottom whorl spindle is the Turkish spindle.

spindle-turkish2This spindle is made of three interlocking pieces – a shaft and 2 arms, where one arm fits through the other spindle-turkish1then the shaft through both to hold them in place. The clever part is that you can wrap your spun yarn around the arms to make a ball of yarn. When you are finished, you remove the shaft, then the arms and there you are, a ball of yarn all ready for use. I confess that it always feels a bit magic when I finish spinning with mine, take it all apart and have a ball of yarn.

There are many styles of whorl and as long as it’s balanced with the shaft running through the centre, it doesn’t really matter what you use.

spindle - lilianpar

The most elaborate spindle I have has a whorl made of layers of plastic and beads. (made by Tilt A Whorl on Etsy. go and look!)




spindle - rainbow whorl


I have one with a whorl made by AYarnLovinMama from baked modelling clay.






I made this one with an old knitting needle, some beads and some wire (based on something I saw online).




handspindle - chopstick


I even made one with a chopstick and a small plug, which I made when I needed a light-weight spindle and didn’t want to wait for an order to be delivered.


As you can see, all of them except the Turkish spindle are top whorl. The technique I have unconsciously developed for making the spindle spin works best with top whorl spindles so that is what I use.

The Joy of Handspinning website has videos and more information.

And now for the history lesson…. sort of. I was going to share a boyband type ballad by Kings George 1- 4 but my friend J suggested this one…

Now compare that with Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’….

Yes, the dancing confuses me…

Day 76


I had nearly forgotten you today, InterWebs, so it’s a short post. The handspindles will be tomorrow. Sorry. (And then I forgot to click ‘Publish’, so much later than it ought to have been and backdated.)

Since I started coordinating a knitting group at our local Waterstones bookshop, I can’t get the hang of Thursdays. This is exacerbated by some confusion on where I’m supposed to start the next row of the tablecloth. The pattern shifts the starting point on several rows and I thought I’d got it right but the pattern looked wrong so now I’m graphing the last and next few rows of the pattern to try to make sense of it. Wish me luck.

Another Horrible Histories song. This one is Charles II in a style not dissimilar to Eminem.

Accompanied by a small square…

day 76

Day 75


Another Meccano device – this one is based on the charka wheel used predominantly in India and is similar to the type the Gandhi made famous as part of his peaceful resistance.

charka - meccano

Another charka, this one made of pvc pipe and a wheel off one of my son’s old bicycles. charka - pvc

Both of the charka wheels are hand operated and use spindles (made of knitting needles) instead of flyer units, as does my Meccano electric spinner. This means that I have to wind the yarn onto the spindle instead of it being automatically wound onto a bobbin like with a flyer.

The spinning wheel and charka wheels use a system of ratio’d pulleys to convert minimal effort (at the large wheel) into high-spin (at the spindle). An incredibly simple system that exemplifies the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. These are still in use across the world.

Tomorrow I’ll show you my handspindles – some that I’ve made and some that I’ve bought – to show some different styles that all rely on the same principles of weight to prolong motion.

But now, as promised, some video of the Meccano electric spindle.


day 75


A denim blue rectangle attached itself to the blanket today. 75 pieces! I’ll take a photo of the full blanket tomorrow but for now, here is today’s extension.



Horrible Histories is an educational programme on the BBC’s children’s channel. It’s a sort of sketch show that teaches history. It includes the requisite over abundance of poo and fart facts, and an on-going series of segments titled ‘Stupid Deaths’. It’s brilliant! It also has a lot of pretty terrific music, much of it in the style of popular music. For example, compare Adam & the Ants ‘Stand and Deliver’ with the Horrible Histories song about Dick Turpin.

Adam and the Ants….

Horrible Histories….

There are *so many* I want to share with you but I’ll restrain myself today and share a few more over the next few days.