Now he starts revolving the spindle. He rolls it forward along his leg, with the palm of his hand which lies over its longer portion above the whorl. When it reaches his knee, he pulls it lightly back with thumb and middle finger and rolls it down again. More and more cotton is pulled away from his left hand and wraps itself around the spindle while the revolving motion twists the loose streamer into a fluffy cotton yarn. Meantime the left hand holds the cotton taut for it is this pull between hands and spindle that makes the twist firm.
Finally the laps of cotton are all off the left hand and it is time to pull more from the mass. Before doing this, the Hopi spinner evens the twist in the yarn he is already holding. He places the spindle under his foot as in 111-6. Then he grasps the taut yarn with his right hand and reaches with his left as far as he can along the unspun thread. Then his right hand pushes the twist up along this thread. The old Hopi in the photograph has just finished this operation and has brought his right hand up to his left along an uneven twist of black wool yarn. The picture shows that a first spinning, even with these precautions, gives very irregular results. The old man may spin his wool two or three times more before using it. Meantime, to complete the first spinning, he will pull more material from the pile at his left side, wind it around his left hand and roll the spindle as before.
Hopi spinners use this method still and, as the pictures show, they generally sit on a stool or bench. In really early days, a spinner sat on the floor, with one leg doubled under him. He rolled the spindle down his other leg until it hit the floor, where it went on spinning. Then he brought it back in the way already described. Navaho women, who learned their spinning from the pueblos, use this old position still. But, say pueblo weavers, you would never mistake their thread for the thread spun by a Hopi man. They spin backward! This means that, instead of starting the spindle rolling away from them, from thigh to knee, they start it toward them, from knee to thigh.
Plate 111-4. Hopi spinner, rolling the spindle on his thigh.
Plate 111-5. Pueblo spinner with spindle Hp in pottery bowl.
Plate 111-6. a Hopi spinner evening the twist in his yarn.
The result is a thread with a left-handed twist. Hopi thread, on the contrary, has a right-handed twist, like that of white man's string.
The Navaho use other spinning methods, also, and so do some of the eastern Pueblos, though Hopi and Zuni keep to the old fashioned "leg rolling" just described. One of these variations is to place the spindle tip on the floor, as in 111-5. This is a method used by many Mexican and Peruvian Indians. Perhaps it came into use after the spindle was invented, for, as can be seen, the spindle is a necessary part of it. Leg rolling, on the other hand, could be done with the fingers, without any spindle at all.
The spinner in the sketch 111-5 has made a further improvement common in the eastern pueblos. He has rested his spindle tip, not on the floor but in a small pottery bowl. That keeps it in position while it spins. The upper end of the spindle rests against his right leg. When he starts spinning, he pushes this upper end gently away from him. The spindle revolves as it moves and its lower tip moves forward along the floor or round and round in the bowl. The upper tip moves along his leg, then away, so that the spindle stands free, held in a slanting position by the fingers of his right hand and the pull on the yarn. When it has stopped spinning he brings it back and starts it again. In this case, too, there is a right-handed twist whereas the Navaho woman would start the spindle toward her and make a left-handed one.
All these directions apply also to second or third spinning and to the re-spinning of commercial yarn, which is never twisted tight enough for fine belts and blankets. Pueblos and Navaho unravelled red cloth or bayeta to get red yarn but they always had to spin it again before using it. The Hopi spun it again in the same direction, the Navaho in the opposite direction. It would be interesting to know what the other pueblos did and Indian students have an interesting subject for study here. Did the use of bayeta cause a change from left-handed to right-handed twist?
Pueblo yarn, even when finished, was often rough and knobby. It was smoothed by passing it over a corncob, like the one in 111-3 f. Or, it might be drawn over a block of smooth sandstone. The ruins show many such blocks, grooved where the string has been drawn back and forth. Finally, the weaver sometimes singed it to remove loose ends.
Wool, when the pueblo finally got it, was spun just like cotton. It is hard to find out, at this late date, how they sheared and cleaned it. They certainly hacked it off the sheep without much system, using any sharp pieces of metal they could get from the Spaniards. Nor do we know how they carded it. Carding means pulling the curly wool fibres so that they all lie in one direction. There is some tradition that the pueblos combed them out with thistles, but since they can remember they have used white man's cards. These are flat pieces of wood, a little larger than the palm of the hand, with a handle on one flat side and the other side studded with steel points like a wire brush. The worker holds one card in each hand, with a pad of wool between them, and moves the cards across one another and away in opposite directions, drawing out the fibres. Ultimately these lie lengthwise in a fluffy hank. The process might be hard if the wool were curly but the hardy Merino sheep which the Spaniards gave the pueblos had long wool, loosely curled. Hand carding was enough and the wool had so little grease that it could even be handled for weaving without washing. Whether the sheep made good mutton was another matter.
The Navaho, who had so little water, often did not wash their wool. The pueblos say that they always did. They waited until after the carding was over, picking out burrs and dirt during the carding process. Then they soaked the wool over night in a jar of water or in a stream if this were the wet season. Next day they washed it in cold water and yucca root. If they wanted really white yarn, they boiled it a little. Then they bleached and dried it in the sun. Yarn from this type of wool could be washed after spinning if that was more convenient.