Guest post by Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten
Spinning on a drop spindle is a great way to start making yarn. All you need to get started is a spindle, some fiber and an interest in making your own yarn exactly the way you would like!
There are many types of drop spindles, however, the top whorl spindle is, in my opinion, the easiest to start your fiber journey. There are three main parts to the top-whorl spindle: the shaft, called the spindle, the round disk, called the whorl and the hook.
Before You Begin
Before you start spinning, I recommend just getting used to spinning the spindle. Attached to the spindle is the leader string. This is what you attached the fiber to when first starting to spin the fiber. A typical leader string is between 12 and 18 inches. I also recommend placing a cloth napkin across your lap to help keep your fiber organized and not attach to you like pet hair.
Sit comfortably in a chair or on a couch. With both feet on the floor, lay the spindle alongside your left leg. Wrap the leader string up through the hook and hold the string with your right hand. With your left hand roll the spindle forward quickly on your left leg and as it begins to spin, hold it in front of you. Practice this motion a few times before adding fiber to your spindle. If you find that your spindle is wobbling, adjust the speed you are spinning the spindle. You should have a smooth, even spin from your spindle. This clockwise spin is called the Z-Twist. It is important to remain consistent in the direction of your spinning, otherwise you will “unspin” your yarn and it will fall apart.
Getting Started: Park and Draft
To get started making your own yarn, pull off a small bit of fiber and pull it into long strips (about six to eight inches long). This is called drafting. Make sure not to make the strips too thin, otherwise your fiber may break off when you start spinning.
The easiest way to get started is to use the “park and draft” method of spinning. The drafting is the pulling out of the fiber for spinning (mentioned above). The “park” is catching the spindle between your knees as it slows, which will avoid having the spindle begin to spin in the opposite direction and unspin when you just did. While the spindle is parked, you can then draft out more fiber to spin. This method slows down the spinning process as you become more comfortable with spinning on your spindle.
So now you are ready to put all these steps together. Overlap your drafted fiber with the leader string and hold it with your right hand. Again, place the spindle alongside your left leg and with your left hand roll the spindle forward quickly on your left leg and as it begins to spin, hold it in front of you. The spinning motion of the spindle will begin to twist the fiber into yarn. As the spindle begins to slow, park it between your knees and add more fiber.
As the fiber twists into yarn you will eventually need to wind your yarn onto your spindle. It is important to keep tension throughout your spinning process. Then wrap your yarn up through the hook and continue to add fiber and park and draft.
Most importantly, stay relaxed and have fun! Be gentle in your spinning. It will take some practice to get comfortable with spinning on your spindle.
Wobble: As mentioned above, if your spindle starts to wobble, you may be spinning your spindle too fast. Slow down a bit.
Overspinning: If your spun fiber begins to double-up on itself, move your hands up the fiber and the spin will continue to move off the fiber and the overspun spots will loosen up.
Breakage: It is not uncommon when first learning to spin on a spindle that the spindle will drop and the fiber will break. Chances are you have drafted the fiber too thin. Join more fiber and park and draft again. It can also be helpful to first start to spin over a carpet, incase you do drop the spindle.
Once you have filled up your spindle with your hand-made yarn, you will need to do a few more steps to prepare it for use. Wind the yarn around the back of a char, or you can purchase a niddy noddy and wind the yarn around it.
Fill a plastic tub with hot water and a tiny bit of soap (Dawn dish liquid is fine). Let the yarn soak for about 15 minutes. This sets the twist in the yarn. Be careful not to agitate the yarn (especially if using wool) because it can felt.
Gently lift the yarn out of the tub and squeeze out the excess water. Dump out the soapy water and fill the tub again with plain water of the same temperature. Let it soak again for 15 minutes, which will get the soap out of the yarn. Lift the yarn out of the water and gently squeeze out the excess water. Let it dry completely before using. It is best to hang your yarn to dry.