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Survivor Skills for an Apocalyptic Age: Part 1 by stick, hook and wheel yarn is born.

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As this is my fortieth blog, I felt it was a milestone for me and I wanted to do something special. I’ve invited two of my dearest friends on this forum 7oddisdead and Reaper239 to join me in starting a series we’ll call for now Survivor skills for an Apocalyptic Age. (Subject to their input)

I’ll start the ball rolling with one of my unique hobbies which in the end of modern civilization will become very useful. I can spin. No I’m not talking about spinning in a circle I’m talking about the ancient art form of spinning wool or other animal fiber into yarn as well as processing it in its raw form from the beginning which is right off the animal to the end product which is useable yarn.

I know many of you would scoff and find it a useless craft but think about it, machine made socks are thin and wear out rather rapidly and are also not easy to repair. In time you will run out of socks it’s going to happen there is nothing anyone can do about it. So what will you do? Wrap your feet in strips of cloth and or animal hide and hope for the best?

Napoleon Bonaparte said “An army marches on its stomach.” I always found this quote to be bullshit. An army marches on its feet and if a solder doesn’t change his socks every day or sometimes more depending on how wet his feet become. He succumbs to foot rot and your army no longer marches.

The very best material to make socks from is wool yarn. It will wick away moisture from skin as well as hold in heat if it gets wet. Wool yarn is made by spinning the processed fleece from a sheep.



This is a sheep with an ok growth of wool but she’s not quite ready to be sheered.


This lady really needs a haircut.


To understand wool you must understand sheep as not all sheep are created equal. There are many different breeds of sheep, a thousand total in the world with forty breeds here in the United States. Sheep are classified primarily by their use meat, wool, or milk with sub classifications within each classification. For simplification of this blog I’ll deal only with wool sheep and specifically fine wool sheep. For my own hand spinning I prefer the Merino breed of sheep. The second sheep picture in this blog is of a full coated Merino sheep.

Sheep’s wool is classified by its diameter of hair. The finer the diameter of the micron of hair, the finer the end result of the spinning. My preferred wool is from the Cormo which is a hybrid of Merino and Corriedale or pure Merino. Most hand spinners prefer a longer length of sheep wool as the fiber is easier to spin. I do not, as the longer the wool fiber the rougher and more itchy the end product. I prefer my wool yarn soft and non-itchy.

The art of spinning wool or animal fiber into a yarn for the creation of garments is an ancient craft. There are documented “twisted” fiber garments dating as far back 10,000 years. For the purposes of this blog I’ll be talking about a drop spindle and the techniques used to produce yarn with it.
There are two types of common drop spindles, a bottom or low whorl and a top or high whorl.

A bottom or low whorl drop spindle is used to make heavier or thicker yarn. A top of high whorl drop spindle is used to make a finer yarn.



You can also see the parts that make up each of the spindles. The shaft is what is used to spin the drop spindle as well as a holder for the yarn that is created in the process. The whorl is a weight used to help the shaft spin and pull the yarn from the fiber or roving that you are using. The hook at the top is merely a place to secure your yarn during the spinning process. In history before the hook a notch was cut into the shaft to be used in its place. The last part is the leader thread, which is a piece of yarn used to wrap and hold your newly spun yarn

A drop spindle can be made of anything you can find you need a weight and a stick and a hook. The weight or whorl can be anything from a lump of claw to a cd disk or even something as ornate as a disk of carved wood. My very first drop spindles were made of a wooden rod, a hook, and a wooden wheel from the craft store, like the picture below.


As you can see a drop spindle can be made of almost anything. The one above is a clever use of junk mail and a good example of recycling.
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