Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A beginner's adventure in drop spindle spinning

I mentioned in my last post that i recently acquired a top whorl drop spindle from fellow Etsian MaineWoodsYarn. I also promised to elaborate on my newbie spinning experience.

Wool is a beautiful thing. I, like many other knitters and crocheters, can be stopped in my tracks by a well stocked wool shop. I can spend an hour or two just browsing and touching -- i have to touch almost every item in the store. As a kid, i crocheted with whatever yarn was passed my way or that i could find at a local bargain center and therefore was always playing with crappy acrylics. While acrylics are quite fun when it comes to painting and serves a certain utilitarian service in amigurumi or items you need to wash alot, it really can't shake a stick at natural fibers. Alpaca is so soft and beautiful. Bamboo has natural antibacterial properties and a lovely sheen. Wool is like a miracle material being strong and warm, water repellent and yet absorbtive as well. Cottons give you the opportunity of wearing knits even in the summer.

I have long lusted after the knowledge of spinning. I held spinners in the same category as mystic conjurers, falcon trainers or high school teachers. They must posess some magic power to do all that they do... a power that i do not posess.

After doing a little reading here and there over the course of the last couple of months a new seed began to sprout in my brain... one that had a little voice of it's own stating "spinning isn't that far away, reach out and spin!" The Eureka moment came when i discovered a web page talking about drop spindles. More research took me to this great video tutorial on Youtube. I took the plunge and bought my top whorl spindle. How fantastic to not need a whole spinning wheel! (i wouldn't however rule that out down the road though :D )

This brings us to today. I eagerly await the mail with hungry eyes wondering what Etsy treats i have coming my way. Today i recieved my package from HeartstringsbyDee... five fantastic goober buns of roving in fantastical hues. I ripped open those packages and ran for my spindle. I put on my leader line, sent the men upstairs and plonked myself down on my kiddy finger smeared couch. *note to self, rent steam cleaner* Here below you can see three of these roving bundles draped smooth prepped for my spinning endeavor.
Here i am carefully feeding and blending the rovings in to the drop spindle... well, i paused to take the pictures since i don't have three arms and it takes two to spin.
You spin the spindle down your thigh with the opposite hand while stabilizing and feeding the rovings into the top of the spindle. As you work, you gradually move your feeding hand further up the roving away from the spindle. You have to be careful not to over twist or over or under feed your spindle but other than that, it's easy peasy. When you have a nice long spun strand (i find i like to stop when my hands are spread the full arms length) you "park" the spindle between your knees or thighs and unhook your recently spun yarn. Carefully, you wrap it around the lower stick part of the spindle and then bring the last inch of it back up and under the hook and you are ready to spin some more. Take care not to wrap too much around the base right below the disc or too much near the bottom of the stick or you will run into problems, either running out of stick to spin down your leg or no room to spin at the top.
Below is the finished spun wool. I will unwind it carefully around a rectangular block of wood i use and immerse the wool in very warm water and then blot it carefully out. This "sets" the spin. This is a basic spinning technique and you can repeat the whole process on the other leg for a double ply by spinning in the opposite direction but i will not be attempting this any time soon.

I love this wool and can't wait to knit it up in something. It is a nice strong thick and thin chunky mix in various shades of pinks and reds with purple, black and aubergine accents. Fine metalic red threads and silks run through it. Lovely rovings means no dying... that'll be another project day for miss Jane.


  1. ooh, pretty! A bit over my head, I'll have to read it again to see how exactly the process works, but it's such a neat idea! Cheers for new crafting adventures!

  2. OOooohh!!! I share in your extreme love for fibers and yarn so this has me all giddy in my seat, haha. I was so excited when I first learned of drop spindles. The whole time previous to that I imagined all those lovely hand-spun-yarn sellers of etsy hovering over big spinning wheels all day and thought it was something I wouldn't get a chance to do any time soon. (those bad boys are expensive!) But when I found out about drop spindles I've wanted one so bad ever since. Just haven't gotten around to getting one just yet. Your little tutorial is actually the most helpful one I've read so far so now I'm even more excited to do this soon. And your first try is so good! I wouldn't have guessed you just started at all. That makes me even more hopeful to try it myself. Go make more yarn, I wanna see, and live through you vicariously until I get my own drop spindle! haha
    {end longest comment ever}

  3. oh wow... this is soooo cool! and gorgeous colours.. i really want to give this a go!
    linda x :)

  4. Thanks everyone! Tabmade, that was awesome! Your response is exactly why i wanted to put together this blog post. I have also just used some of my hairdressing expertise to help me with dying some wool... i will have to post that in my next blog.

    [ j ]