A frieze on the Forum Palladium in Rome features a series of bas-reliefs of women spinning thread using the spindle whorl. This goes to show that spinning was a common activity for Roman women, girls and female slaves. Although the spindle whorl was used in creating thread for clothes and textiles, it was also used as a sacrifice to the gods and would sometimes be carried in bridal processions. The act of spinning was also associated to women coming of age and, in the myth of the 3 Fates, each thread spun by the women hold the life of every man’s past, present and future. Interestingly, in rural districts of Italy, the women were forbidden to spin when travelling on foot because it was considered an evil omen.
So, how do you use this object? Here is a fun step by step guide;
The spindle whorl normally consists of a stick of 10 or 12 inches long (spindle) and a circular weight (whorl). Spindle whorls are made from various materials - wood, stone, ceramics or metal.
Imagine if you have the spindle whorl…
1) With your two hands, take a piece of wool and rub it together to form a long strand. Tie one end near the whorl and the other on the top of the staff (there should be a slit or catch). The weight of the whorl should help spinning.
2) Hold the wool in your left hand and, with your right hand, spin the spindle whorl. Let the spindle whorl weight draw the spindle down, drawing out the thread.
3) Once reaching the ground, take it out of the slit and wind onto the spindle. Replace the thread in the slit and twist out another length. Repeat.