Spinning direction part 2: Poll results and physiology

In an earlier post, I started to investigate spinning direction by looking at my own spinning with my left (dominant) and right hand. The thought came up after I had had to switch hands due to a cramp in my left thumb base while learning to spin in-hand style. In this post, we take a look at poll results and the physiology of spindle spinning.

Spinning poll

I wanted more than my own experience, so last week I made a spinning poll. I want to thank all of you who answered it. I got 155 answers and quite an interesting result.

I wanted to know with which hand you spin clockwise on any kind of spindle. Here are some spinning poll results:

  • About 80 % of the spinners are righthanded. That goes roughly hand in hand with handedness in the world.
  • Of the righthanded, about three quarters spin clockwise with their right hand and one quarter with their left hand.
  • About 7 % of are lefthanded.
  • About two thirds of the lefthanded spinners spin clockwise with their left hand and one third with their right hand.
  • About 15 % answered something else. These answers were mostly about different spinning hands for different kinds of spinning and ambidexterity. Some of the answers were about spinning counter-clockwise. I had asked for spinning hand for clockwise spinning, meaning when you spin clockwise, but I wasn’t clear enough on this. I’ll be more specific next time.

The basics: Pushing and pulling

So far, we have established this:

  1. Spinning clockwise with your right hand means that the fingers pull the spindle into your hand.
  2. Spinning clockwise with your left hand means that the fingers push the spindle out of your hand.

The spinning poll results showed that

  1. three quarters of the righthanded and one third of the lefthanded spinners pull the spindle and
  2. one quarter of the righthanded and two thirds of the lefthanded spinners push the spindle.

The physiology

I used to spin clockwise with my left (dominant) hand. Lately, I have started to learn to spin with my right hand because I experienced a cramp when pushing the spindle clockwise with my left hand. I wanted to know why I got this pain.

I talked to Åsa, an occupational therapist who is also a spinner. I asked her what it is that gives me a cramp at the base of my thumb when I spin clockwise with my left hand. She explained that we have more muscles governing the movements pulling inward than pushing outward. More muscles means that the strain on each individual muscle is less than if there are fewer muscles. Evolutionarily we need more muscles to grab than to let go. This phenomenon even seems to overcome the fact that I am a leftie and probably stronger in my left hand. Let’s look at it from above:

My left hand thumb seems to move slightly more than my right hand thumb. The first and second fingers also seem to be working more – pushing – with my left hand. It looks more strained, and perhaps the movement is a bit bigger than with my right hand. Spinning with my right hand – pulling –  looks easier, despite the fact that it is my weaker hand.

What does this mean for spinning?

62 % of the spinnes who answered the poll seem to be pulling the spindle, which from a physiological perspective seems to be better for the hand than pushing. At the same time, there are different amounts of strain on the hand in different types of spinning, as I have been looking at earlier. When spinning in-hand style there is quite a lot of strain on your hand since the spinner is holding the spindle and twirling it almost all the time. In the other end of the spectrum, there is suspended spindle spinning when you need to wait quite a while between twirls, and oftentimes you roll the spindle shaft up or down your thigh instead of twirling it with your fingers.

If you do experience pain, take a look at how you are spinning. Are you pushing or pulling? Is it time to make a change of hands or spinning direction? Either way, make sure you feel comfortable when you spin.

Does this make sense to you? Have you experienced pain when you spin? If so, have you been pushing or pulling? Have you tried to change spinning hands or spinning direction? Share your thoughts in the comments section!


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18 Replies to “Spinning direction part 2: Poll results and physiology”

  1. I find that any time I experience pain or tiredness from spindle spinning it is because I have a shaft that my hand does not especially like, i.e., too thin or too thick as compared to the shafts of my favorite spindles. If I have been leg-rollling with a high-whorl spindle as opposed to a twirl of a cross-arm spindle there is a bit of discomfort at the beginning with the cross-arm spindle but it soon goes away.

    I think it is a lot about trying different styles, spindles, processes to find what works best and feels the most comfortable. I am anticipating many “carp” moments as I start to spin hand-held as opposed to suspended. I have the spindle and whorl but am still working on fiber prep. I want to have enough to get a good feel for spinning this new way before I have to stop for more fiber prep.

    Love finding your blog and learning new ways of playing with fiber! Thanks!!

  2. I think that it is important to have different spindels, so you can switch between them. And also that every new method you learn for spinning will help your spinning skills as a whole. I have found that when I spin every day, my hands get used and I can spin for longer. I often get worse pain in may hands when I take up the spinning again after a longer break.
    In short, spinning on a regular basis with different tools and trying new methods as they appear keep me from pains, And of course taking pauses!
    I really appreciate your videos and investigations.Thank you!

    1. That is so true, especially the part about improving your spinning skills as a whole by spinning with different techniques. Spin a lot, on different spinning tools, but also spin wisely.

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