Monday, November 14, 2011

Hearthwise Spindle Review

The Hearthwise Spindle: Incredibly beautiful, pleasingly functional
I had occasion at the Fiber Festival of New England to come into possession of one of the breathtakingly beautiful spindles made by Charles Arnold, owner of Hearthwise in Morrisville, PA. The Hearthwise slogan is “Tools for a simpler life” and that fits their product line perfectly. An amiable and apparently very practical man, Charlie makes hand turned drop and supported spindles that are decidedly eye catching and quite affordable. Made of laminated wood, turned on the lathe to smooth and sensuous curves, and finished to perfection, each spindle is an individual work of art. These babies look and feel fabulous.
Still, I confess it took me some time to warm up to spinning on mine. My first impression was that it was a bit too light and I had some difficulty getting the fiber back into the hook between drops. However, you have to consider that I’d spent most of the day standing up and demonstrating DK spinning on heavier, large whorled and notched spindles for beginners at the festival. I simply wasn’t prepared for this little beauty. It really is something radically different. Now that I’ve used it a bit, and gotten to know it better, I’ve come to see it in a much more favorable light. This is a relatively small, close whorl, high speed spindle. It’s definitely made for spinning fine yarns rather than the heavy stuff. It’s also perfectly tuned for spinning in a sitting position. Heavier spindles, like my large Golding, are designed to keep on spinning for five or six feet of draft and to handle yarns up to worsted and bulky weights. They’re a bit heavy for lace weight or “frogs hair” yarns and you really have to be standing to take full advantage of their weight and symmetry.
This particular Hearthwise, in contrast, is very lightweight. It doesn’t have the power to spin heavy or bulky yarns. That’s what put me off at first, but it’s also what makes it ideal for fine and very fine spinning. Because it’s so light, it won’t break fine singles. It also uses up its momentum in three or four feet of draft. That’s too short if you’re standing up, but it’s just about right for spinning in a chair, a car seat, on a bus, or even on an airplane. That’s where this spindle can really shine. In addition, the smooth shiny finish on the bulb, while spectacular, made it difficult to get the yarn into the hook between drafts at first. I finally solved that problem by starting a draft on the hook without a leader and then pulling the first bit of single down from the hook to wrap it around the shaft. Keeping a standing loop on the side of the bulb provides a stopping point for spun single and makes it much easier to hook up between drafts.
After working with it for awhile, I’ve become quite fond of this spindle and come to regard it as an important adjunct to my collection. I’m not sure I’d recommend this particular model to beginners, but then it doesn’t seem to have been designed for them. Instead, it’s a carefully crafted tool designed to optimize performance for the experienced spinner who wants to make fine yarn from a comfortably seated position. Viewed from that perspective, it’s actually quite a masterful design. That also could be why Charlie decided this particular model would be right for me. I’m sure other Hearthwise models are designed for different purposes and, now that I understand a little more about them, I look forward to the opportunity to try some of them as well.
You can check Hearthwise drop spindles out on Facebook at: Charlie will also be at Coggeshall Farm this spring for the Rhode Island Wool and Fiber festival with a full collection of these drop spindles, supported spindles, and his nostepinnes, along with a line of Brittany American made birch knitting needles, magazines and other publications. Look for him there, introduce yourself, and try out a few spindles to see if there isn’t one that might be just right for your collection!

1 comment:

Iris said...

HEARTHWISE SPINDLES responded: Thank you so very much for your kind words. I'm really glad that you like the spindle, it took me a few minutes to pick one that I thought would be right for you. Normally my spindles are heavier than yours weighing to to more than two ounces. I just thought that after two solid days of standing there doing an truly excellent job of teaching spinning to dozens upon dozens of people you might appreciate something a little lighter.

And I really look forward the the Rhode Island Festival and seeing you and everyone from the Rhode Island Guild once again, a truly warm and welcoming bunch of people.

If you or anyone else would like to see other spindles all that has to be done is send me an email at and I sent photos from New England, North Jersey, Garden State and/or Waynesburg.

Again, thank you for a wonderful review.

Charles Arnold
Tools for a simpler life