Spinning Some Yarn

This last week I have been trying to learn a new skill in my spare time:  I have been spinning some yarn.  I tried to learn how to use a spinning wheel a while back, but got very frustrated by it.  I couldn’t get the hang of drafting the yarn fast enough for the wheel.  So this time I am using a drop spindle, which, by the way, fits in an RV a lot better than a spinning wheel.

I decided to try the drop spinning because we have events coming up here at Kings Mountain where we are supposed to demonstrate skills that women during the Revolutionary War would have.  I am going to be doing cooking, spinning, and knitting demonstrations in March and April.  As I get better at drop spinning, I can even walk around and spin with the drop spindle at the same time.

drop-spindles-for-sale-300x225Drop spindles are very simple.  They have a shaft, a whorl (or wheel) and a hook on the end.  The most basic ones are made by Ashford and that is the spindle I have been practicing on.  You can find really fancy and expensive ones, but a basic drop spindle is around $20.

To spin with a drop spindle:

  1.  Attach starter yarn around the base and pull it up around the hook
  2.  Spin the wheel to get twist into the yarn
  3. “Park” it under your arm or between your knees so it doesn’t untwist
  4. Attach a line of pencil roving to the twisted yarn on the hook
  5. When you have the roving the width you want it, let go so it can twist
  6. Moving your pinched fingers up the yarn, repeat from step 2 until your string is as long as you can reach
  7. Unwind the yarn from the hook and wrap it around the shaft
  8. Keep doing this until you have the amount of single ply yarn you want or until your shaft is full or until you run out of roving.
Spindle at rest attached to roving
Start by attaching roving to starter
Spin the spindle
Park, and pull to desired thickness
Release and watch it twist
Pinch, pull, release
Spin the spindle
Park, pinch, pull, release
When it gets as long as I can reach
Then I wind it around the shaft

It is hard to capture all this with still shots but I’m not good enough to have Tom video it.  There are several good videos on YouTube.  This one is my favorite.

I’ve been spinning some yarn every evening and I like it a lot.  There is something fascinating about watching a bit of wool that pulls apart without any trouble, twist and form into a strong ply of yarn.  I like the drop spindle better than the spinning wheel because it goes much slower so I have more control.

My technique still needs some work.  It is tricky to get an even thickness of yarn with the right amount of twist.  I tend to have too much twist – the yarn twists back on itself.  I also get parts that won’t pull out to the thickness I want.  Consequently my yarn is lumpy.  But any new skill requires practice.

I have three more weeks to practice before I have to demonstrate spinning to my first group.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime I will work on getting better and have fun spinning some yarn.

  • Kristin Burkey

    So starter yarn is a pile of wool? Where do you get that?

    • revkaren54

      From sheep, silly. They have bags of wool already cleaned and carded here at the park, so I just pull some from the bag whenever I run out. You can also buy it at a store – it is called roving.