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The Coast Salish Spindle Whorl

February 25, 2021
Coast Salish Spindle Whorl made from stone

One of the most frequent motifs in Coast Salish art was also a tool of high cultural importance. The spindle whorl allowed Salish women to weave beautiful textiles of spiritual and social significance.

The spindle whorl was used to spin fleece into a thick yarn. It consisted of a small disk (whorl) with a shaft, inserted through a hole in the middle. The shaft was up to four feet long, or 120 cm, while the whorl was up to eight inches across, or 20 cm. The whorl was intricately carved from wood or stone with geometric, animal, or human designs. As the disk spun, the design would mesmerize the spinner, thereby bestowing special powers on the woven material.

The Coast Salish had a steady supply of materials for the wool. It consisted of down, various plant fibers, and the fur of the Salish Wool Dog, a dog that was bred solely for its hair. The blankets made from wool ensured prosperity and symbolized Salish ingenuity during pre-contact times.

See Swan Dance, New Territory (Sea), or Beyond The Edge, for examples of spindle whorls featured in Coast Salish art.