antique textiles spindle whorls

Sheep Hoard… I mean Herd

Sheep Pen, Luttrell Psalter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Following  Old English Word Hord  @OEWordHoard on Twitter, this Word Of The Day post caught my eye the other day:



scēap-heord, f.n: a flock of sheep.


Which I misread as “sheep hoard” – an idea so cool, I wanted to keep it.  But “sheep hoard” would be “scēap-hord”, and sadly, that doesn’t appear to be A Thing.

Talking of hoards, I’ve been starting to sift through and think about, our large collection of spindle whorls which date anything from Roman through to Tudor-ish.  And although most of them are British, I do have the occasional more exotic whorl.  We are having some repro not-lead medieval whorls made, which we’ll bring out in our Etsy shop when we have them, so keep an eye out.

Here’s some recent whorls we acquired – Karelian, mainly, but the first one on the right, which looks identical to some British whorls,  is French:


karelian etc


And these are a fairly typical detectorist/field-walking find from England which, without context, could date anything from Anglo Saxon through to late medieval:

Now with added dog hairs!


Lead whorls tend to be over-represented (in my collection, anyway) – because they are detectorists’ finds.  But archaeologists believe stone whorls were more common in medieval times – it’s just the lead are more findable.

When we do our talks, farmers often mention they have found lots of whorls – do feel free to send me photos, if you have found a stray whorl – and I’ll give you any information I can.


Bone and soapstone whorl undersides.  Ring and dot is often – but by no means always – Anglo-Saxon


I fully intend to do a more detailed post, going into various styles and shapes of whorls, weights, decorations, and what is broadly dateable and how or if.  But that is for some point next year, dear and Gentle Reader.

I’ve been collecting whorls, on and mainly off, since the 1980s, and the only holy grail left for me would be something with a runic inscription.

In keeping with the Old English theme, I spent some of yesterday making some charts for inkle weaving, of the Futhorc (runic alphabet). I don’t see why these couldn’t also be knitted.  But I can’t guarantee you they’d work as I haven’t tried either weaving or knitting with them yet.

It was an angular alphabet as probably designed to be carved, so it lends itself to being charted. For the weavers, these average around 5 picks (because you’d be weaving sideways) but some are a pick more or less than 5. Totally don’t know if this would work for knitting and won’t til I try it.  Which may not be soon.

Here they are anyway.  I’m guessing if you want to weave runes (and there’s probably more than one Northumbrian rune missing, this was just a quicky) then you already know what they stand for or can use the search engine du jour, to find them, so I put them here as a Yuletide gift – for anyone who wants to play with runes.  Not downloadable but feel free to do whatever.






futh y - s

fut t - l

futh ng - ae

futh yr - k


For now, I bid you adieu with a glimpse of my (16th century?)  clay (Tudor-ish?) what I call ‘Bellarmine’ whorls.  In fact, they’re possibly something else entirely, but I like to think of them as “Bellarmine” as the glaze looks, for all the world, like the glaze on Bellarmine jugs.











2 replies on “Sheep Hoard… I mean Herd”

i am seized with the impulse to knit a gansey, put the initials on it in runes, and bury it in a peat bog, then cackle (in a restrained, genteel fashion) with delight at what archaeologists will think of it should it ever be found.


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