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Akha Spindles: What Is the “Right” Way to Spin?

Mid-whorl spindles commonly called Akha spindles can be used as supported spindles, suspended spindles, or a bit of both. Let’s take a closer look!

Kate Larson Jul 28, 2023 - 6 min read

Akha Spindles: What Is the “Right” Way to Spin? Primary Image

Kate has been walking in summer pastures and getting to know her Akha spindle. So far, Indian cotton punis are her favorite fiber pairing. Photo by Kate Larson

As I was reading Devin Helmen’s post about spindles that are great for spinning cotton a few weeks ago, I got the urge to pull out my Akha spindles. These sweet mid-whorl spindles are a style associated with the Akha peoples of Southeast Asia. I was delighted to purchase a well-worn spindle from Laos several years ago, and while I admire it each day as it sits on my desk, I’d not spent much time working with it. Inspired to do just that, I gathered several cotton preparations and set to spinning.

Support Spindle, Suspended Spindle . . . or Both?

I started looking for tips on using this spindle style, and—as is so often the case in the wide world of fiber—I found several approaches. With the whorl placed near the middle of the spindle’s shaft, there is room to comfortably hold and turn the slim shaft to create twist. This can allow the spinner to draft fiber without the full weight of the spindle tugging against the short cotton fibers. That whorl placement also leaves plenty of space to comfortably roll the spindle on one’s leg to get it spinning quite fast. These techniques can be combined to create two very different spinning methods that I’ll share with you here.

As I was spindle sleuthing online and in my fiber library, I found two great resources explaining these distinct methods for using an Akha spindle: a video from Amelia Garripoli and an article from Connie Delaney. I’m excited to excerpt both the video and article for this month’s subscriber-only bonus!

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Hybrid Support and Suspended Techniques

The most common method I found on using an Akha spindle is beautifully demonstrated by Amelia Garripoli in her video Supported Spindle Spinning. This is the method that is working best for me right now, and I’m able to create a very fine, consistent, high-twist single—ideal for the stitching threads I had on my to-do list! The added bonus is that, like the Akha spinners in hill tribe communities of Laos, Thailand, and beyond, I can walk and move as I spin.

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