This fall I have been teaching a Fiber Explorations class through an Adult Education program at a local High School. It has been a small but passionate group of women coming together to learn about some of the amazing things you can do with wool.
Our first mini project was to build drop spindles out of wood dowels and toy wheels in order to make yarn. There are a lot of beautiful artisan made spindles out on the market. You can get them made out of wood, plastic, and even stone! However, for the beginner just figuring out the process of making yarn, a homemade spindle is a great choice. Once you get bitten by the spinning bug then you can start building your stash of spindles, wool, fibers, and even spinning wheels. I have spinning friends who have six or seven spinning wheels.
We begin with the simple spindle, a stick with a wheel on it, known as the shaft and whorl if we want to get somewhat technical. Top whorl spindles will have a hook to hold the yarn at the top of the shaft. There is also the option of having a low whorl spindle. Each type spins a bit differently, the low whorl is usually a bit slower but it is truly a personal preference as to what kind you might like to spin with. I have both and spin with either and my yarn comes out pretty much the same.
A spindle is a great tool to carry around with you plus a bit of fiber, you can always have your spinning with you!
For our DIY spindle we take the wheel and insert the shaft. If I need a hook for a top whorl I will pre-drill a small hole at the end of the dowel making sure to use the end with the pre-drilled hole for the top of the spindle. Sometimes you may need to sand the dowel a bit to get it to fit properly into the wheel. Every spindle I have made on my own has had a very tight fit, no worries about the shaft falling out!
Screw on the hook and you are ready to spin. For large groups who are worried about getting spindles mixed up we often decorate our spindles or add initials so we don’t take someone else’s spindle home.
Add Fiber and you are ready to spin! Prepared fiber is probably the best option for a beginner. However, be prepared, after I spun my first eight ounces of dyed roving I bought two fleeces and have never looked back. You too could be buried in more fleece than you could ever spin, the drop spindle is like the gateway drug of fiber fanatics.
A great resource for those interested in learning more about drop spindles is Abby Franquemont’s Respect The Spindle. This is a great book with lots of history and tips on how to perfect your spinning on the drop spindle. It has a companion DVD that really can help your technique and get you spinning for the rest of your life!