New Spinning Tool: The Nøstepinne

We’ve been spinning for a couple of months now. Having produced a few hundred yards of plied yarn, we began to fall prey to a plague of twisted hanks hanging around our home. In case you’re reading this and you don’t know a hank from a ball from a skein (knitters, bear with me), a hank looks like this:

A “ball” can be shaped like, well a ball, or like a round flat-topped cake:

and skein refers to the sausage-like blob of yarn that you’ll get if you buy yarn in a department store or a big craft store like Jo-Ann’s. Ball-shaped balls tend to roll around, to the great amusement of cats and the great frustration of knitters. So I like the cake shape, which doesn’t roll, and also has the advantage of stackability.

Hanks serve well to “set the twist” in your newly plied yarn, and the hank making process also presents an opportunity to count yardage. However,  hanks are nearly impossible to knit from. I would never try. We realized that we needed of a tool for turning our hanks into nice, center-pull balls, like the green cake above. The (cheap) answer: a nøstepinne. This tool’s name comes from Norwegian, and literally means something like “nest stick.” Makes sense. (Spinning tools have the best names in general: distaff, scutching knife, heckles, niddy noddy, weasel. Sounds like midæval torture arsenal to me, and some of these things look like torture implements, too.)

One night Beth and I were talking about what to do about all our nice looking  but inconvenient hanks. Ball winders work great, but they also cost quite a bit, and we’d just dropped a fair bit of coin on our wheel and hand carders. So I said, “We need a nøstepinne!” I don’t know where I learned what a nostepinne is, but I’d heard of them, and I knew they could be used to wind a center pull ball.

I went to work the next day, and when I was eating lunch in the cafeteria, I heard harpsichord and recorder music. We are never treated to early music performances at lunch, so I followed the sound to investigate. Turned out the harpsichord was being played by the man who built it, and he was stationed at the entrance of a craft fair. I wandered through the craft fair, and discovered that one booth sold wood turnings: bowls, rolling pins, and…NØSTEPINNES! I couldn’t believe it. I went into the booth and said, “I’d like that black walnut nøstepinne.”

They seemed surprised that anyone knew was the nøstepinnes were for, let alone a little bearded dude. I asked the man and woman in the booth if they were spinners or knitters, but neither one was. Apparently, the turner had had some requests for the winding sticks at a fair in Maine. So he started turning and selling them.

Check out the excellent ball that Beth spun and wound:

I learned to wind flat stackable yarn balls via some youtube videos and showed Beth the technique, but she is definitely the master now.

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