The spindle used by women in Ladakh, India is called a phang (the P is hard and the vowel sound is 'ah'.) This hand-carved, whorl-less spindle is seen throughout the TIbetan plateau, as one of several styles. It is a supported spindle, often turned in a small cup or the bowl of a large spoon.
This man is carving phang for sale in the market in Leh, Ladakh in 2006. He is also selling dried apricots and walnuts. The traditional bowl used to support the phang is made from the pulp of apricot seeds, after they have been pounded and squeezed to remove the high-quality oil.
The shape varies, but the important bits are a pointy tip for supported spinning, a very narrow, tapered upper end for flicking between the fingers, and a nice, substantial bulge with a low center of gravity, to give momentum to the spin. Among the four shown above, the two on the right are the best spinners.
Specs: average weight 32g, length 28-30cm
A different kind of spindle is used for plying yarns, which is done in a suspended manner on a tall frame.
The two spindles at right were given to me by Abi Sonam of Skurbuchan Village. They are worn and old and smell of incense and butter, like a Ladakhi monastery.
Specs: larger 63g, 42cm long, whorl 2.5 x 6cm
smaller 43g (shaft 21g, whorl 22g), 35 cm long, whorl 1.5 x 6cm
The handspun yarn, in a two-stranded ball, is wound onto the plying spindle. Whorls are stored separately, strung together as in the foreground.
One more spindle common to Ladakh and Tibet is the men's spindle, a suspended spindle with a crossbar whorl. This is called skuru in Ladakhi and kuru in Tibetan, meaning 'cross'.
The men spin goat hair into thick yarns, to make sturdy bags and blankets. Apo Tankar demonstrates spinning on the skuru, even though this one is already full.
It is common to see images of men on the Tibetan plateau, and further west into Central Asia, using this kind of spindle.
This man's felted garments indicate he may be in Iran, Kurdistan or Turkey, but there is no information on the location.
And an old image from Kohistan district, Pakistan, that I saw in a book - the biggest crossbar whorl I've seen yet: