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Archive for August, 2013

I have been struggling for a while with two separate but related challenges. I want to make a hair strainer for milk or hops (an item that can also be used as a pot scrubber). I also want to make fishing line. The common element in these two projects is horsehair or cow hair.

Fortunately, I am an enthusiastic horse person, and so I have been collecting tail combings for some time. Unfortunately, I hadn’t figured out a good way to turn them into either a line or a strainer. Naalbinding a single hair was too thin for a strainer, and the only instructions I could find for twisting a fishing line were very late period, and I was looking for something early medieval.

Odd Norland had a line his book on knotless netting about spinning a coarse line for the naalbinding (and he also mentioned spinning horsehair for fishing lines). While this was late 19thC or early 20thC, the technology was right: it had been done with a drop spindle.

This aha! moment didn’t go anywhere because spinning hairs seemed so impossible. I don’t even like spinning hairy sheep wool, and horse tail is far smoother. Tonight, though, I was messing about in my tack box sorting riding gloves and realized they were covered in hair. It was time to do something with the hair, so I pulled out a drop spindle and gave it a whirl.

Spinning horsehair is nasty. The new ends don’t blend in easily to the work that is already spun, and the spindle is constantly trying to spring back to unwind the twist. Still, I managed to get several feet spun, and it seems to be holding together. For the naalbinding, at least, I think I will spin only as much as I can use on a needle, do the stitching, and then spin more at the join. I may also try soaking the hairs to see if they will be a little easier to work when soft (that did help when I was playing with cow’s tail hair in the summer).

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