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There and Back Again: Mirkwood Gandalf Spindle Review

I’m a Tolkien lover.  I wrote my first Hobbit fanfiction at age 8, though it was less fanfic than a chance for my mother to explain about plagarism.

When I learned about Mirkwood Arts spindles, I had to try one.  But, I was scared of the crown.  There’s an option for a more traditional tapered tip, but the crown is a big part of the design- & more importantly IT HAS A CROWN!

or to quote Amy Farrah Fowler from the Big Band Theory  “I’m a princess, and this is my tiara!”

Here’s a little video of the spindle in action with a 50/50 merino silk blend.

The Ordering:
The etsy listing is clear and easy to understand.  Selecting the gem color did lead to some paralysis because Grey for Gandalf the Grey?  White for Gandalf the White?  Green for the Shire?  Fire Red for the Peter Jackson “Fly, you fools” Balrog scene in the movie which almost made up for the roller coaster through the mines scene?  I spent way too much time waffling.  In the end, I went for luminous green which had the white sparkle for Gandalf the White and the green tones for the shire.

To say that I had unreasonable expectations for this spindle is an understatement.

The Wait: 
This was a custom spindle, and the expected fulfillment time was 1 month.  At 4 weeks, I was getting excited, so I emailed to see where I stood in the queue. Instead of the email I deserved (hey, lady, at least wait for the month to be up to contact me)  I got a very friendly email letting me know it was just about ready to go.  A few days later, I had the spindle in hand.  There was a minor mix up in which I received the plying version of the spindle.  This gave me a chance to see excellent customer service in action.  The maker sent the replacement within a few days.  I sent the one I had back and received an immediate refund for the shipping.  Overall, the entire ordering and receiving experience was excellent.

The Specs:
Whorl: Black Walnut
Shaft: Maple
Crown: luminous green gem
Weight 39.2g
Height: 10 3/4″
Ball bearing tip

The Crown:
The crown is a lightly flared area at the top of the shaft that holds a crystal gem.  I was concerned that the crown would make the drafting a bit clunky.  It doesn’t.  The angle of the flare is the same as the angle I hold for drafting, so it all comes together nicely!  (yay for good design!)

The Flicking Area:
Where do you flick if it has a crown?  I was worried, but I didn’t need to be.  Below the crown, right where I would usually flick, is a lovely narrow space that is just the right size for flicking.  I expected there would be an adjustment period, but there wasn’t.  It flicks just like any other support spindle. I do wrap the secondary cop a bit lower than I usually do, but that was a non-event.  It also spins nicely without the secondary cop.

The Spin:
The ball bearing is very efficient.  So efficient that I needed to back off the flick a bit.  (watch me overflick in the video!) The spindle has beautiful balance as long as I don’t overpower it.  And it spins and spins and spins!

The Support Bowl:
I used it with a maple spinning bowl, and it matched up beautifully.  Most of my bowls & supports tend to be wood, so that’s a good thing for me. I also tested it on a table with no bowl.  A placemat on the the table with no bowl.  A china cereal bowl.  A glass spinning bowl.  A Corian bowl.  It was fine on all of them, but the wooden bowl- or the tabletop- seemed to match my spinning style best.  My super low friction bowls are cupped to send the spindle back to the center, and I needed to be careful not to overflick on those and get that loft/annoying click from overpowering/lifting the spindle.   I could see that the spindle could walk if overflicked or held offcenter on a flat, low-friction surface.

The Cop: 
The spindle has a ridge partway up the shaft which makes an excellent space to start a cop.  I tend to build football cops, so the placement of the ridge is exactly where I need it.  The shaft is smoothly finished but not slick. The cop stays in place even with the 50% silk blend.

The Aesthetics, Presence, and Hand feel:
Aesthetics is a huge part of spindle selection for me.  I’m going to spend hundreds of hours with a spindle, so I like to feel a connection to the design.

This is a gorgeous spindle- esp. when it is in motion.  The light reflects off of the gem.  While spinning, the shape and color of the whorl contrast nicely with the lighter shaft and make a nice dark background for the cop.  The wood is nicely finished so that it feels warm and smooth to the hand without being slippery.  It’s a friendly spindle that makes me feel like spinning by a campfire.  It’s beautiful without being fussy.  I suspect it’s a workhorse in disguise because yarn appears very quickly without hand fatigue or frustration.   It’s all there-  form, function, and a little bit of treasure!

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Spindles in the Wild

Thanks for joining me!

I take my spinning out into the world whenever I can.  People are incredibly enthusiastic seeing fiber arts in progress, and I’m always moved by the stories of grannies who knit or aunts who weave.  I wanted to create a space online to help feed that enthusiasm, to offer companionship to fellow fiber lovers, and to provide a window to what daily spinning and fiber processing looks like.

When I look online, I see lots of beautiful spindle and wheel shots.  Something along the lines of this:

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The reality is much more fun.   Yes, those are alpaca batts wrapped on paper towel tubes.  And when the suns out, I’ll use any available surface to dry fleece!  The pictures won’t always be pretty, but they will show the many different aspects of taking fiber to finished project.

Discoveries happen when knowledge and theory meet in practice.