Spinning and Weaving

Photo: Dylan Roles

I thought I would write a blog post about spinning and weaving as this is what I seem to be doing most of at the moment.


I taught myself to spin about three years ago now with the help of a beautiful turkish spindle gifted to me by my sister and brother in law for my birthday.  When researching how to spin I loved the shape of the Turkish spindles and waited for a long time for mine to be made by hand by a wonderful maker. It spins as if it’s dancing with the beautiful tiny brass weights helping to keep the spindle balanced. I was also gifted a beautiful purple 3d printed one at the same time so I had plenty to work with. It took a while to learn to spin on these and many hours of watching YouTube; it took even longer to make the yarn I wanted to work with and to even know what I wanted or how I was going to use it. I also need to know what kind of a spinner I wanted to be. Not a lumpy one which is what I was getting at this time

My dancing Turkish Spindle

In 2020 the world went into lockdown and I remembered that I had a spinning wheel in my loft that had virtually never been used. I had bought it 25 years ago but after having a class on how to use it I don’t think I ever used it again.  Was this a lockdown project?

My daughter retrieved it from the loft and I soon realised that parts of it were missing and parts were perished and broken; this wheel is not made any more so I needed to see if I could repair it.  I found a small company (Weft Blown) that did replacement parts for a later wheel and they found out that I could use some of the later parts to repair my old wheel. I needed the help of the family again and my brother-in-law repaired the wheel for me.

Now I needed to learn how to spin again.  

My Old Spinning Wheel

This was a challenge, not knowing and not evening knowing what I needed to know was  indeed frustrating. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, not a great place to be.  I had many hours of trying, parts of the wheel flying across the floor, bobbins and the drive band coming off all at once and if I could get anything going, the result was the lumpiest yarn ever and the tension band was a complete unknown.  Not knowing how these things worked together didn’t help. At this point there was no chance of finding out what yarn I wanted or what type of spinner I wanted to be. Eventually progress happened and I could spin and understand what was happening and what relationships were made between maker and materials with the equipment helping along. I still have much to learn but that’s the exciting part.

I love that I can spin on my old wheel but I always return to my spindles; they connect me to the earth through the materials and to early cultures that spun in this way and I am a much better spinner on my spindles. It’s a slow way of working but one that suits me.I still have a lot to learn about hand spinning but look forward to the challenges it brings.  After a lot of research I have purchased a Tibetan support spindle that you spin using a small bowl for support and so the learning goes on.


My first weavings were on a tapestry frame loom and I often return to this for a particular way of working because of the simplicity of methodology and equipment.  For inspiration I looked to abstract weavers, I knew that I didn’t want to be a pictorial weaver so I looked towards Jilly Edwards, Fiona Hutchinson and others.

When I finished my PhD I promised myself that I would learn to weave, so in February 2020 I was gifted by my family a day of learning to weave on a rigid heddle loom for my birthday at the Handweavers Studio in London. 

This was an exciting day and of course I came home with a loom. As my background is in creative hand stitching, I naturally broke the rules of weaving as soon as I started and when the teacher asked if I wanted all the ends cut off and I said no, then she was sure to just let me do what I wanted instead of the scarf everyone else was making, which was great.  I came home with a piece of cloth that I had created myself, I found this hugely exciting.

I began by weaving small pieces and then progressed to four meter pieces but still only a narrow width but this was fine as I could experiment freely. I looked at the American idea of ‘art weaving’ and came to the conclusion it was too ‘lumpy’ for me but do enjoy some aspects of Saori weaving.  Like learning anything I have to find out what I want my work to be and the only way to do that was to ‘make’ the work. 

Photo: Dylan Roles

I seem to have found a place I want to be with the weaving for now and am concentrating on explorations between materials and process with a foray into some colour

I have bought a larger loom that was delivered in the last few days, this awaits the warping up which I love.  It looks a little scary to me as really I only make small pieces usually. A friend has caused me to question why I want to make bigger pieces.

We should always be questioning but also be satisfied with where we are ‘now’ with the work – so I spin and weave on.

Kay Swancutt

Published by kayswancutt

Hand Stitcher, weaver, spinner using plant dyes

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