Two Spindles with Whorls
Peru; Chancay (ca. 1000 – 1450)
Wood, ceramic, paint and wool (67.151a&b)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph A. Hovey
In the production of thread from fiber, a spindle and whorl were used. The whorl acted as a weight to maintain inertia when the spindle was given a strong twist. Handspinning was done using two methods, the choice of which depended on the fiber being spun and the desired quality of the thread. In “drop-spinning,” the spindle and whorl were spun from a standing position, and the fiber drawn and twisted as the spindle dropped to the ground. In “supported-spinning,” the tip of the spindle was spun in a small bowl or on a flat surface, which provided greater control over the spinning process and thus produced a finer thread. The size of the spindle shaft and whorl related to the material being spun and fineness of the resultant thread. Depending on the direction in which the yarn is spun, the thread will have either an S or Z twist. The direction of the twist can be used to help identify the cultural origin and region where some ancient Peruvian textiles were woven.