These three spindles were collected in 2011 in Aksum, Ethiopia. They were not offered for sale, but the women spinning in the marketplace were willing to sell their own spindles. The shafts are strong reeds, and all three whorls are made from different materials.
This spindle was being used by a woman in the market. She was spinning cotton with an S twist. The cop is a perfect cone shape. The whorl seems to be made of hard rubber, and the hook is metal.
Specs: length 23cm, whorl 3.5cm, weight 11g including cotton.
This spindle has an interesting whorl that looks like recycled linoleum, or some kind of shoe/sandal part. Each of these three whorls seems to be repurposed material that was found and cut or carved to shape.
The spindle had no hook, so the vendor rummaged in a bag of dried chickpeas until she found a proper hook-shaped twig. Now that I own the spindle, the hook is prized, and has been secured with a drop of glue.
Specs: length 25cm, whorl 3.5cm, weight 6g
The third spindle has a heavier whorl, which appears to be some kind of composite wood like masonite, as if it was part of a table top. There is a laminated white surface layer. The hook seems to be chickpea twig again, but broken off. Cotton is used to assist the friction grip of the shaft in the whorl.
This one also has a thinner shaft than the others: about 3mm, as opposed to 4mm diameter.
Specs: length 22cm, whorl 3cm, weight 9g
When I use these, I try to imitate the woman shown in this video from Ethiopia in 2007 (at about 1:30, for 20 short seconds). She taught me a lot about spinning cotton, as did Abby Franquemont. I am more often standing than sitting while spinning, so my technique combines these two teachers' methods.
I have another two Ethiopian spindles, of slightly different size and materials. I believe both of these come from Addis Ababa, acquired since 2009, and they both have whorls of a natural gourd-like material. The reed shafts are very similar to the ones above, but larger.