Crazy big spinning wheel & backstrap weaving

Updated: not a surprise and a risk of using embedded images, the first group of images has been pulled from Getty Images (“This image is no longer available for use.”) This pictures can all be seen on the photographer’s site. I will include links there.

Earlier this week, Getty announced many of its pictures could be embedded on non-commercial sites, so I looked around to see if I could find something fun.  I found this crazy big spinning wheel. Correction: as my friend M pointed out, I should have said a pair of crazy big spinning wheels. The wheels in other pictures don’t look as large in diameter (it looks huge because of the angle of the photo), but the rim is quite wide and the overall length is quite long.

It (and the others below) is titled “Man weaving yarn, Otavalo, Imbabura Province, Ecuador”—clearly he isn’t weaving, but presumably the location is correct. The pictures share the same caption “Weaver Jose Carlos de la Torre spinning and weaving yarn using centuries old techniques of carding, backstrap loom weaving with natural sheep wool, and final combing with natural thorny plant.” A few more photos from this photographer are here.

Another angle – winding what he spun onto the spindle

And another angle

And one with the unidentified woman carding (based on other information, I think it is his wife, but it would be really nice if she was given a name)

Another of the spinning wheel, “Man spinning wool, Imbabura, Ecuador” by Margie Politzer in Lonely Planet images collection, with the caption “Jose Carlos de la Torre and his wife are both in their eighties, and continue to use centuries-old methods to process sheep wool.”

Searching for the man’s name brings up four different pictures (but not the ones above), by a different photographer, giving a different location, a village outside of Otavalo.

“Jose Carlos de la Torre sits carding alpaca wool inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006. Carding is the last step in preparing the wool for spinning which cleans, separates, and straightens the wool fibers. The finished batt or rolag of soft, fluffy wool makes spinning easier.”

“Jose Carlos de la Torre pieces together rolag made of wool that has been carded inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006. The soft rolag is pieced together in long strands to prepare it for spinning into yarn.”

“Jose Carlos de la Torre weaves a scarf on a backstrap loom inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006. The backstrap loom is made up of sticks, rope, and a strap that is worn around the weaver’s waist which is how the loom received its name. The one that Jose uses is made out of leather from the face of a bull.”

“Jose Carlos de la Torre uses a brush made up of teasel to smooth an alpaca wool scarf inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006.”

There is also a nice photo of the spinning wheel on a couple’s travel blog.

DPLA and Basque Spinning

Yesterday the Digital Public Library of America launched. It is a great collection of freely accessible images and texts from all over the country. Hopefully more collections (including ours) will be added soon. Of course, I had to do some searches right away. One of my default searches is “spinning” so I tried that and found a picture of a type of wheel I hadn’t seen before.

There are two pictures of a Basque woman seated at a wheel, which she is turning by hand. There is little information about the pictures, which come from University of Nevada, Reno, by way of the Mountain West Digital Library. There is very little information about these pictures, so I don’t know when or where they were taken.

A woman spinning wool into yarn, Basque Library, University of Nevada, Reno,,2428

The pictures are the same, but flipped. I wonder which is the correct orientation – the black & white or the color one? I am guessing the color photo where she is cranking with her left hand and holding the wool with her right. However, I could be quite wrong since I think when woolen wheels are typically operated with the right hand (as was the spindle), so that one could continue to draft the fibers with the left hand. I have now changed my mind. I think the color one has been flipped, in part because the UNR collection gives this the title “Basque Slide Show: Sheep raising is important. The wool is collected each spring. A woman spinning wool” which makes me think the color one comes from an online exhibit where someone flipped the image to look better. Although the black and white picture is cropped (and of course it would be easy to convert a color picture to b/w with an image editor), which makes me flip my decision. Hmmmm.

Basque Slide Show: Sheep raising is important. The wool is collected each spring. A woman spinning wool, Basque Library, University of Nevada, Reno,,3308