One of the things I love about the SCA is that there are handspinners everywhere! Every event I have been to include people that are spinning away on a variety of drop spindles with all kinds of fibres. As with every craft in the SCA there are purists who strive to replicate medieval times as closely as possible. This is a laudable goal and I love seeing someone spinning with a handmade spindle using fibre processed in a traditional manner. These people are to be admired. Unfortunately, some people frown upon those who use more modern methods for creating their yarns. It's not hard to miss a snide comment to or about someone endeavouring to learn a new skill or trying to create something beautiful.
In this post I would like to do the opposite. I want to encourage anyone interested in spinning (or any other craft or skill) to learn as much as they can and to enjoy what they are doing in order to please themselves, not to please others. Spinning, to me, is a wonderful act. I enjoy the choosing of colours and fibres and combining them with a particular style of spinning to create a yarn. I love taking that yarn and creating something out of it. What could be more satisfying than taking a pile of fluff and turning it into a garment? I spin using multiple tools with as many different kinds of fibres as I can find. I have several spinning wheels, spindles and even have a charkha. I love experimenting with fibres. I have spun with the wool of at least 20 different kinds of sheep, hemp, flax (linen), silk (mugah, tussah and bombyx), cotton, cashmere, camel, bison, milk (yes, like milk that comes from a cow), ramie (from china grass), nylon, soy, bamboo, mohair, chitin (from crustacean shells), seacell (made from algae), tencel (made from trees), and possibly other types of fibres that I can't remember at this moment! I have spun low whorl, top whorl, supported and on a turkish spindle. I can do short and long draw both with a regular flyer and with a quill spindle. I can spin art yarn, coils, and boucle. I love all of it! I truly enjoy experimenting and absolutely love learning new things.
Because of all the different fibres I have learned to spin, using different tools, and learning different techniques along the way-I have become a much better spinner overall.
In addition I see nothing wrong with using a spinning wheel for your SCA projects. Spinning wheels using a quill spindle were in use as early as the 13th century-they were used even earlier in China. These would have been hand powered wheels, but since hand powered wheels are exceptionally difficult to find (I plan on making one and doing a tutorial in the future on how to make and use one.) a modern treadle wheel should be considered an acceptable subsititute-much in the way that a stainless needle and steel thimble are acceptable substitutes for an iron needle and piece of heavy leather. Feel no guilt for desiring that sleek contraption that can increase your yarn output tenfold! People that clothed their families in yarn from drop spindles spent hundreds of hours a year spinning. They learned to spin as early as 4 or 5 years old. There was no down time-if you weren' t doing something else, you were spinning. People didn't have huge wardrobes (Except perhaps the upper classes and for most groups they too spent large amounts of time spinning), they didn't get new clothes every season, and usually not every year. So keeping in mind the small number of clothes in a wardrobe, how rarely the wardrobe was replenished, and how most people spent every waking moment spinning-it's not unreasonable to seek a more practical method for creating your period wardrobe.
Plus learning all that other stuff is pretty fun...