Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lyme Disease

If you think I am harsh on the conventional wisdom of spinners, wait until I get going on the American Medical community.

Lyme Disease has been around since the Bronze Age, but modern medicine did not really recognize it until the 1970s. Lyme disease (or very similar ailments) can be caused by a number of different species of Borrelia spirochetes around the world, but the US CDC and NIH only recognizes Borrelia burgdorferi, so that is what the standard  commercial labs in the USA test for with very specific and accurate tests. If you have essentially the same disease caused by a slightly different Borrelia spirochete, the test comes back negative and the doctor crosses Lyme Disease off his list of potential pathogens.  What the American doctor should do is cross Borrelia burgdorferi off the list, leaving  B. garinii,  B. afzelli, B. valaisiana, B. lusitaniae, B. bissettii, B. spielmanii, and others see for example

If one wants to correctly diagnose Borrelia, you need a very good case history and medical examination.  A doctor that has fallen into the habit of diagnosing from (American) lab tests, may miss-diagnose Lyme Disease.  Europe is far ahead of North America on this, and has better lab tests for Borrelia.

The CDC and NIH assume the ticks feed on deer and white footed mice with the mice acting as the reservoir for the  spirochetes.  The truth is  that a great many mammals and birds can act as host for the ticks and  reservoir for the spirochetes.  In particular, birds can transport infected ticks significant distances.  With climate change we have errant birds traveling all over the place.  There are now vultures in central Europe that carry  Borrelia burgdorferi, which was traditional found only in the North American Atlantic flyway and particularly in New England.  If our birds can fly to Europe, their birds can fly here.

Be aware that the birds at your bird feeder will carry ticks, and some of those ticks are only the size of a poppy seed.  When they have fed, the ticks will drop off.  A few of  those ticks may be infected, and a bite from one can cause Lyme Disease.  Anywhere birds congregate, (infected)  ticks are likely to be found.  On the other hand, under a bird feeder, most of the ticks on the ground will get eaten for dinner by other birds.  Over all, do not sleep on the ground under the bird feeder and the risk is likely to be low.  Anyway, be tick aware.  Wash up after herding sheep, and etc.  It is not so much the sheep, as being out in the tick's world, while you are focused on doing something else and distracted from avoiding ticks.  And, there are hints that other insects may also be able to transmit Borrelia.

The CDC and NIH recommend relatively short cycles of normal doses of tetracycline drugs to treat Lyme Disease.  This may work very well for recent infection/exposure.  However, longer term infections may require longer treatment cycles at higher doses.

Lyme Disease can stay in the body with sub-clinical symptoms, for years, and then sneak up on you with little warning. The symptoms may be very subtle, but over time they will interfere with knitting and spinning.  The symptoms may be very similar to common over-use symptoms that everyone that has gotten good at something has experienced. Keep a log and talk to your doctor.  One of my symptoms was a loss of flexibility and agility.  Another was very minor sinus congestion that I thought was related to dust from working with wool. And, I thought I was just getting old and fat. Individually, these symptoms meant nothing.  Together, they pointed to Borrelia, even when all the lab tests were normal for a healthy male of  my age.   A few weeks of antibiotics, and I feel 10 years younger.

One symptom of chronic Borrelia infection is inflammation. And, we know that Borrelia has been endemic to both Europe and Asia for thousands of years.  Some of the traditional Italian recipes using garlic, rosemary, or basil, actually contain enough natural anti-inflammatory /antibacterial agents to have a real health effect against Borrelia.  Likewise some Asian dishes contain enough clove, and ginger to have a detectable effect.  On the other hand, rosemary oil is toxic to ingest. Tetracycline is safer.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Overconfidence effect



It is very real.

It is also a double edged sword.

If one tests what one is doing every step of the way, one avoids over confidence.  Most "experts" do not test in a step wise fashion. And in fact, I would say that the mark of a true expert is that they have, in fact,  tested everything. It has been said before- "Trust but verify!" and "Always do the calculations from first principles, yourself!"

Most spinners, take treadle cadence times ratio to estimate spinning speed.  At low speed that works, but who cares about low speed?  I use a digital tachometer. I use it enough that I know all of its foibles, and it does have a few.

I make deductions from history.  If they improve my knitting and spinning, then I consider them likely correct. They work, and that is good enough for me.  It is not like somebody might die or be injured if my deductions from history are wrong.  I do not know many other folk that actually test their deductions from history.   They spout dogmas from books, but they do not test them. They just want everybody to accept them without testing.

In particular, the naalbinding of Coptic socks was not a test.  Any knit object can be produced by naalbinding. The test would have been to make socks via naalbinding and via knitting (with a knitting sheath) and test to see which was more like the original.  

Rhine Gold

When I was young, I loved Wagner, but was always unhappy that he mixed up German mythology.

Looking at the recent PBS special on the architecture of Ludwig II, I realized that Wagner was writing in German, but not about "Germans".

In the beginning, the gold of the Rhine, guarded by the Rhine Maidens was the flax/linen grown on the flood plain below the Rhine. Dwarfs, gods, giants, and men could steal, build cities, become monsters, and die, but in end, the greatest wealth in Europe would come from the flax/linen grown on the flood plain below the Rhine. Skill developed in spinning that linen, brought more wealth when applied to wool.  The Rhine Gold made Flanders the richest and most industrialized people of Europe, regardless of who ruled them. 

Centuries later Harrlem was still a rich city based on its skill for bleaching linen.

acrylic failure

A sock knit from worsted weight acrylic yarn that is knit too tight to be useful.
Knit from wool (which has more stretch), it would be a good sock.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Success and Failure

The contemporaneous accounts of  fisherman's garments tend to describe them as "rough' or "coarse". Warm, durable, and inexpensive, but not "pretty".

Thus, if I spin yarns for traditional fisherman's sweaters, and they are warm, durable, and inexpensively, and I can get them spun on the required schedule, then I have succeed.

Those who want me to make "pretty" yarns, want me to take a giant step in the wrong direction.

If they spin yarns that are not warm, durable, and inexpensively, then they are not spinning yarns for fishermen.  Fisherman do not need pretty yarn.  Fishermen need warm, durable, and inexpensive.

Professionals must meet the needs of their clients.  Client's needs include function, durability, price, schedule, and only sometimes appearance.

I do not not respect those who cherish superficial appearance over functionality.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The screamers

I said flat ended needles work, and work faster, and are easier to make.

A bunch of folk screamed!

Did any of them get out their knitting sheaths and knit a few objects with gansey yarn and flat ended needles before they screamed?  Are the screamers folks that have made and used many knitting sheaths?  Are the screamers folks that have made many of their own needles?  Are the screamers folks that can knit a very serviceable seaman's kit (hat, socks, sweater, mittens) in 6 weeks?

Anybody that has made steel needles by hand, knows that the description of making a needle in Rural England is problematic. It takes a while to grind a nice taper point on a whet stone. Grind stones are faster, but he was using a stone in the walk.  On the other side, that description works very well if he was grinding a flat end on a needle.

And, flat ended wooden needles work so much better with a knitting sheath that flat ended needles might very well revise my views toward wooden needles   I have not tried it yet, but I suspect that flat ended needles would resolve some of my objections toward bone knitting needles.

In any case, flat ended needles are faster and easier to make with hand tools than tapered tip needles. What is required is a knitting sheath and a different technique. And that different knitting technique requires less flex of the needles making it more practical for bronze and brass needles.   

Visualize:  you have the flat end of the needle against the shaft of the needle, and slide the edge of the end of the needle into the working stitch. It works and it is fast.

Thus, if you know about knitting sheaths; and, if you need to knit fast;  you use flat ended needles. They knew about knitting sheaths and  they had a need to knit fast. The only people that would object are folks that do not understand knitting sheath techniques.

The other thing it means is that any dowel or rod in the archaeological record may have been a knitting needle (depending on wear marks) and not only those with neat tapered tips.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The truth

The truth is that once I have posed a pix to show that I am spinning a particular weight, I do not need to prove it over and over by posting pix of every hank of that weight that I spin.

A current bin of my miscellaneous spinning;

Some of it is poor spinning, but there are miles of 5,600 ypp and 11,200 ypp singles in that bin.  The bin is a little empty just now because I recently used a couple miles of singles from it to make 5-ply yarn for a couple of sweaters.  5-ply is in another bin.

If someone wants to be critical, they should also post pixs of how many miles of fine singles they have spun recently.

Nothing I do will be believed by most modern spinners, but nothing I do, or say, is likely to raise the eyebrows of a good hand spinner.  

Most modern spinners arparochial. And, Ravelry has become as parochial as any village church. There is the gospel handed down from on high, comments about her ladyship's roses, and local gossip that would make Jane Austin blush.  None of this teaches me to spin better.

when I made that 5-ply, moved some of the singles down to the garage.

Good thing I looked because there was some more 5-ply down there also.

No I do not take pix of everything I spin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


One thing that many of my critics miss about me is that I do keep going back and rethinking the obvious.  If I get it wrong the first time, I may get it correct when I return to the topic.

Now, I am back to the nature of warm fabrics.

Let use divide the kingdom of knitting yarns into 1) singles; 2) 2-ply and 3-ply, and 3) 5-ply and  greater.  Note that 4-ply got lost somewhere.

Both Rutt and Alden Amos dismiss 5-ply and greater yarns as over hyped and not worth the effort. Here, I suggest that 5-ply and greater yarns produce a knit fabric with an inherently different structure, that the knitter can sometimes use to their advantage.

Two-ply and 3-ply yarns tend to bed together as they are knit to form a relatively flat fabric.  Any gaps or needle holes allow air (and water) to pass freely through the fabric, carrying heat with them.  If you want a warmer fabric, the yarns have to be packed very closely together, and likely fulled.

Five-ply and greater yarns tend not to bed as freely, and thus each stitch gets "bent" by the stitch above it. This bending adds some twist to one leg of the stitch and removes some twist from the other leg of the stitch, resulting in that characteristic bumps-between-lines pattern that one sees in fabrics knit from hi-ply yarns. Thick singles can act as a hi-ply yarn to give the same appearance, but "out of bias", I do not talk about singles.

Thus, a very warm fabric knit from low-ply yarns will be tighter and firmer than a fabric of the same warmth knit from a hi-ply yarn that tends not to bed.  And, a hi-ply yarn of higher grist can produce a thicker fabric than low-ply yarn of lower grist.  Thus, knit at the same gauge, 5-ply 1,000 ypp yarn (gansey yarn) will produce a warmer fabric than 2-ply 880 ypp yarn (woolen spun, worsted weight yarn).  And we have the reason why I had to knit the 2 and 3-ply MacAusland so tight to make warm fabrics.  If I had been using higher ply yarns, I would not have had to knit so tight.

And knitting is more effort than spinning.  Thus, a bit of extra spinning effort will save a lot of knitting effort.

Now, this is certainly not the whole story, as low ply twist 5-ply yarns can be knit into flat fabrics with great fill, density, and warmth.  Four-ply can be worked double to do the same thing.

The bottom line is that yarns with more plies in them is the easier path toward warmer fabrics.  Conversely, 2-ply yarns are the easier path toward cool fabrics. (I mean really!  You do not want to be seen in church sweating in your new sweater as the minister gets to the Fire, Brimstone, and Wrath of God part of his sermon.)

You want really warm fabrics? Get some of that Alaskan Fisherman 12-ply. ( , and scroll down)  Not going to be crabbing on the Bearing Sea, then try Frangipani 5-ply ( )
Christmas is coming.  Get knitting.  Knit for yourself, have a test fitting about the time snow flies, and wear it all winter.

What about sock yarn?  Do you want a flat fabric to fit in your shoe?  Or does one want a 3-dimensional fabric that can provide a lot of cushioning because it is constructed of many, very fine plies? As I look through my socks, all my favorite socks are many, very fine plies, knit on very fine needles.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Back to needles with flat ends

A few pairs of socks later, I have worked out how to do decreases with a (knitting sheath) and needles with flat ends.

Flat ends are not for hand held knitting. but they can make knitting with a knitting sheath much faster and produce a higher quality fabric.

The difference is particularly noticeable using needles in the 9" to 12" range. While the shorter (than long gansey needles) were always very convenient (to carry), the actual knitting (with a knitting sheath) was a bit awkward, and  I resorted to texturing the taper of the needle tips to keep the yarn from falling off.  Flat  needle ends greatly changes my perspective on the Scotch and Dutch use of short needles with knitting sheaths.  Flat needle tips turn these  methods in to much more powerful techniques. I should have known they would have a better technology.

With flat needle ends  the tendency for the wrap of yarn to fall off the needle tip disappears and the arc of the needle squarely pulls the wrap though the working stitch.  I do not know why I did not see this before.  ( I must have thought that modern long needles called "gansey needles" must be like the old gansey needles.)

Careful review of old photos professional knitters convinces me that they did in fact use very blunt or flat ended needles with their knitting sheaths.

On the other hand, the technique of knitting with a knitting sheath and flat ended needles is more different from knitting with  pointed hand held needles than knitting with a knitting sheath and pointed needles  is different from knitting with knitting with pointed hand held needles.  I am not at all sure that if I had put flat ended needles into my first knitting sheath, I would ever have been able to make knitting sheaths work at all.  If I had started with blunt ended needles, I would likely have given up before I understood the glory of  knitting sheaths,

And certainly, the objects that I knit with knitting sheaths and pointed needles were knit much better and much faster than I would ever have been able to knit them with only hand held needles.  I do not regret the use of pointed needles to learn the concepts of knitting sheaths.  Pointed needles were my training wheels.

I knit about 20 hours per week, (most of a very good boot sock yesterday) and it has been weeks since I knit  with  pointed needles.  Knitting sheaths are better then hand held needles, and flat ended needles work better with knitting sheaths. I still keep a pair of fine pointed needles handy for picking up stitches ( or crossing cables) and a crochet hook handy for fixing mistakes. Otherwise, I am done with pointed knitting needles.  I might pick them up again for lace (there are still lace WIP), but for knitting gansey style fabric (sweaters, boot socks, hats, and  etc), I am done with pointed needles.  

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Flat stitches

A recent swatch:
5x2 strand cabled sport weight

Note that half the stitch column forms a vertical line of bumps like rope, and the other half of the stitch twists to form a narrow vertical line of twisted fiber.  That is a warm fabric. Most of my knitting has that pattern in the areas of plain knit, particularly, items knit in the round.

Much of the knitting in Gladys Thompson, Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans has that pattern.  For example, it is used to great advantage in the Filey Pattern IV, and the Whitby Pattern V.  It even shows up in the very finely knit Norfolk I.  Thus, we have this pattern in Thompson's knitting and fine older pieces.

It requires a firm yarn and tight knitting with needles that are small by today's standards.

You may not like it, but it makes for a warm and durable fabric.  The commercially knit socks that I am wearing right now show it.

Most of my knitting is actually right on the boundary of  laying flat and having the  narrow vertical lines of twisted fiber:

A commercial 3x2 6-strand 850 ypp wool yarn, as a well worn boot sock.

Winghams 5-ply gansey yarn as a well worn gansey. 

Winghams was one of the oldest producers of the traditional style gansey yarns, but a while back they stopped making that yarn.  

In that range, the fabric is very warm, but still has some drape and hand.

Other modern fabrics knit to this gauge:

oops, I seem to be reapeating myself.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Numbers 3

See :

Note that there is no treadle, but the drive wheel is driven by a crank in the right hand.  Note that the date on this painting is 1894 - long after mill spun had put professional spinners out of business.

Compare the above wheel to:

Note that the date on this painting is the second half of 17th century. If you look carefully you can see the crank on spinning wheel just like that in the Millet painting.  Thus, we have two paintings separated by 230+ years that show the same spinning technology even when it is clear that professional spinners had dramatically changed their technology from hand spinning to spinning frames. From the sequence of paintings we have no confidence that the design of the wheel in Dou's painting is not 250 years old and thus, the design of the wheel in Millet's painting some 500 years old.  In fact, we do know that foot treadle wheels were available in Flanders in the mid 1500s, and thus Dou's wheel is at least a hundred years out of date.

Either wheel would be an almost exact miniaturization of room sized silk throwing equipment in use in Italy at the end of the 13th century. And, either wheel would be somewhat faster than a drop spindle for spinning worsted warp. 

Let us allow 7 yards of fabric for all of Dou's spinner's clothing, a yard for the cloth on the table and 2 yards for the cloth in the basket, for a total of 10 yd^2 of rather coarse cloth woven from  ~5,600 ypp singles. That comes to about 800 hours of spinning with that wheel. Then, we have what appears to be a few yards of a much finer blue cloth in her lap.  Let's assume that it is a couple of yards of shirting weight.  That is another 800 hours to spin the required yarn with the visible wheel.  Thus, the yarn for the cloth in the picture would require almost a year to spin with the spinning wheel depicted.  Add in weaving, and the cloth depicted represents more than a year's work with the technology of that wheel.

We can assume that most (all?) of the yarn for the cloth depicted in the Dou's painting was woven from yarn spun else where by others - using different equipment.  Given the cloth depicted, we can deduce that the spinning wheel is a prop, just like the spinning wheel as a prop in the Millet painting above and the photo below:

Princess Louise,
Daughter of Queen Victoria and a Spinster.

How many years would it take her to spin the yarn for the clothing she is wearing?


Note the tapestry in the background, and that spinning studio is not set up to prepare gold, silver and silk wrapped tapestry yarns. The spinning for the cloth in the picture is again being done elsewhere.


Here we see the same artist (Millet) present different spinning technologies in the same time period. Art is not a reliable indicator of the spinning technology in use by professional spinners at the time of the painting.

Not even multiple images of the same spinning technology by different artists is an accurate indication that the technology is being used by professional spinners.

Here we have a lady in silk dress spinning linen at a time when linen was actually hand spun:

At that time and region, professional linen spinners used 2- thread wheels. We know this because 150 years earlier parliament past a law requiring spinning schools to teach spinning on 2-thread wheels  Again, the spinning wheel in the painting is not an indicator of the technology then used by professional spinners.

Depictions in art are very poor indicators of the then current professional spinning technology!

Numbers 2

Twist defines the grist for a given feed of fiber.

Add a little more fiber to the feed and the grist goes down a bit and the yarn is firmer.

Allow fiber to feed more freely, and the grist goes up, and the yarn is softer.

Allow the spool of roving to sit on its side for a while and where the fiber is compressed, the fiber will feed faster, and single will be firmer, and where the fiber is less compressed, the fiber will feed faster, the grist will be less, and the yarn will be softer.

Nothing about DRS reduces the need for skill and artistry in the spinner.

DRS simply simply requires more planning, better fiber prep.,  and faster artistry.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Once again, somebody complains about all the "unhelpful" numbers that I spew out.  I do admit that I like numbers.

Actually, the numbers would help, if she knew how to use them.  I do not use unhelpful numbers. However, I sometimes allow people who do not know how to use a number to see it.

The fastest way I know how to spin is double drive - without slip.  That means differential rotation speed (DRS) between the bobbin and flyer. DRS doubles or triples the speed of my spinning wheel. It is the difference between spinning 150 or 200 yards per hour and spinning a full hank of 560 yards all skeined per hour.   The math is in Alden Amos's Big Blue Book.  It is pages and pages, so I am not going to repeat it here.

To make the bobbin and flyer whorls, I must do the math.   A few minutes of math and wood turning to save hours and hours of spinning.

To do the math, I need to plan the kind of yarn, its grist, and calculate the twist.  See Alden Amos BBB pg 383.  I calculate DRS and make the whorls.  Grist. Twist. Yarn Construction (woolen/ worsted).  Give me 2 of the 3,  and I can tell you the third. The Bradford spin count system and DRS makes spinning specific yarns easy.  DRS defines the twist.  Each twist defines the grist of two yarns -- one worsted and one woolen.

Once I have the whorls, I can spin fine and fast for a long, long time. The whorls will last for millions of yards of singles.   A few hours of math and wood turning, and in a month I can spin what would take others 3 months to spin.  Of course, if you are the fastest spinner at the fair, it will take you 3 only 3 months and the others will take much longer.  It is a matter that DRS can control drafting at higher speeds than you can.

Now, you show me a pile of fleece, and tell me that you want as much yarn as possible spun from it.

I take out my "twisty stick" estimate the spin count, and given the weight of the fleece, I can easily calculate how much yarn can be spun from the pile (spinning at the spin count), and how long it will take.  Every contract spinner needed to be able to make these calculations.  Likewise, every factor needed to be able to make these calculations.  It was by getting such calculations correct that the Medici family made their fortune.

Or, if you want a particular grist of yarn, I can tell you if that grist can be reasonably spun from that wool, and if it can, how long it will take. Or, I take my twisty stick to the fair, and estimate how much effort it will be to spin THAT sack into THE yarn that I want.  Or, I can order 56 count long wool and know how it will spin. The Bradford system tells me what I need to know.

In spinning, time is money. The Bradford Spin Count system was the conversion factor for:
 pounds of wool <=> yards of yarn,
from which twist and time could be easily calculated.
It worked for many hundreds of years.  It still works.

I spent 50 years in the metric system. I loved it.  I still love it, but for spinning, the Bradford Spin Count System is easier.  It was developed and refined by generations of professionals.  For spinning wool, it is more helpful than metric.

I do not waste my time with unhelpful numbers.

Friday, May 01, 2015

The drop spindle as a baseline.

By the early medieval period, it was common for spinsters (professional spinners) to rent spinning wheels.  Spinsters were paid by the length of yarn they produced, and a spinning wheel allowed them to produce more yarn, so even after paying the rent on the spinning wheel, the spinner could have a higher net income.  (The large number of spinsters kept wagers down, so many spinsters did not have the capital to own their own wheel.)

I can spin yarns in the range of 3,000 to 8,000 ypp about a third faster (e.g., 1,300 rpm) with a spindle than I can with a typical modern wheel (1,000 rpm).  Since I am not terribly proficient with a drop spindle, I assume that professional spinners could spin with a drop spindle much faster than I can (e.g., more than 2,000 rpm for some grists.) Therefor, I assume that the spinning wheels of the early medieval period were much, much faster than the typical modern wheel.  My spinning wheel spins 2 or 3 times faster than I can spin with a spindle.  I think that spinning wheels circa 1400 likely inserted twist at ~2,500 rpm or more.   This is faster than contemplated by Alden Amos.

Just prior to 1,400 ce, there were just under 400,000 textile workers in Florence, but Flanders was actually a larger producer of woolen textiles, and there were significant textile production centers in France, and England. Thus, there was a significant market for spinning wheels.  This would have justified shops where groups of craftsmen specialized in making and repairing spinning wheels. These were spinning wheels for full time professional spinners.  Some of these spinners supported tapestry weavers. These wheels were not for hobby spinners or part-time subsistence spinners or cottage craft spinners.  Regardless of their skill, cottage craft spinners did not produce the tons of  gold, silver, and silk wrapped yarns that the better tapestry weavers demanded.  A cottage cannot provide the security required for handling large amounts of precious metals on a regular basis..

And time was money.  Professional spinners were paid by the yard of yarn produced, and wanted the fastest possible equipment.  This was not a matter of bragging rights for hobbyists, but of income to support the family.

All in all, I have no doubt that Florentine spinning wheels, and even more likely, wheels made in Flanders, could run at 2,500 rpm by about 1380. Metal workers and wood workers of the time could have make all the elements of my wheel that can spin at 4,000 rpm. As a one off object it would have been very expensive, but a shop that produced dozens of wheels per year could reduce costs. Yes, they would use boxwood where I use Delrin, but with plenty of lard oil, the boxwood bearing works -- it just splatters oil, and needs to be replaced after every 2,000 or 3,000 hours of use.

Such wheels do not show up in paintings of time.  The wheels in the paintings are more symbolic, than functional. Add up how long it would take for the depicted wheel to spin the yarn required to weave all the cloth painting. Even in paintings of "spinners", someone else is doing the bulk of the spinning to produce all the cloth shown in the painting.  The culmination of this symbolism:
 Vicky wearing clothing woven from 
finer yarns than what she is spinning!

The clothing worn by Queen Victoria was mill spun, but she shown with a replica of an old technology. I expect that the same thing also happened in earlier times.

Today, we have photographs of  people spinning, and they still have not spun the yarn for all the cloth in photograph.  Even people who claim that they can spin and weave all the clothing needed by their family.

The best you are likely to find is somebody that spins and uses that yarn for knitting their own socks and sweaters.  

Why was the art of earlier times so different? The simple answer is that human nature has not changed.  Old spinning technology symbolizes traditional values.  What would people have thought if QV was shown in the mill where the yarn for her dress was actually spun? As a setting for a portrait, a spinning factory in 1480 would have been just as jarring as photographing Q.V. in a spinning mill in 1880. And yet, such a mill would have been a better place, and a better way for Q. V. and her ladies to develop an understanding of the tasks and roles of the common women of England, than spinning a few yards of yarn at Buckingham, Osborne, or Balmoral

Certainly any yarn can be spun with a spindle.  Finer yarns are more easily spun with a supported spindle than with a drop spindle, but it is very possible to spin wool, at it's spin count, with a drop spindle. However, it is much, much easier if the spindle has a hook, rather then trying to use a half - hitch.  Some teachers have made fun of me of me when I first made this assertion, but I note when they spin yarns finer than about 11,000 ypp they tend to use a spindle with a (metal) hook,  I have yet to see them spin wool at it's spin count using a half-hitch.  In fact, I have yet to see them demonstrating spinning wool at its spin count with a spindle.