Spindle Spin Your Own Yarn

"SPINDLE SPINNING: From Novice to Expert"

by Connie Delaney

  Published by Kokovoko Press ISBN 0-9660952-0-0 1988

Available for $12 + $3 shipping and handling
 from SpinCraft Patterns

THE sourcebook for learning to spin your own yarn on the many drop spindles of the world. Covers how to make your own spindles, choosing fibers, top whorl spindle, bottom whorl spindle, supported cotton spindles, Navajo spindles.

What is spindling?

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Easy Knitting Patterns: A great new way to knit with our Knit to Fit Patterns
Learn to Knit: illustrations teach basic stitches for right and left hand knitting.
Knitting abbreviations and terms: Knitting site with instructions, tips and history
Spinning and Knitting: Learn about knitting and spinning your own yarn
Free Knitting Pattern: Free knitting patterns and stitches.



How do I keep the spindle spinning, and why is my yarn so hard and tight?

These questions often come from the same person, even though they are apparently caused by opposite problems. If your yarn is hard and tight, it is because you have too much twist in it, which is caused by spinning the spindle too much. The real problem is that you are not able to draft the fibers fast enough to keep up with the spinning of the spindle. This causes the yarn to get tight like a spring, which then stops the spindle and starts it turning in the opposite direction. You then try to compensate by spinning the spindle more.

Remember: It is not the spinning of the spindle that matters, it is the spinning of the yarn. The first thing to do is to put the spindle down on the floor, or hold it between your knees, use the twist that is already accumulated in the yarn to draft out more yarn until it is not so hard. Wind on and try again. You will find that the spindle spins more freely. You may have to stop regularly, especially in your first day. Donít get frustrated, your hands will eventually learn the rhythm. When the yarn is balanced the spindle will spin freely.

Think of your hands as a little child, learning how to walk. You would never expect a child to just stand up one day and walk. Give your hands the same respect. This is something new for them. Let them play and stumble for a few days. This is the best way to learn.

You'll encounter this problem again when you are trying to shoot the spindle up your leg and get some speed. Start with about a foot of leader when spinning the spindle on your leg. This will hold all the extra twist of the spin until your hands can start drafting and the spindle will keep spinning.

My roving is all hard and stuck-I canít pull it out.

Youíve squished and matted your roving by holding it too hard, probably you've let some spin get into it. Loosen your grip as you spin. Think of the unspun roving in your hand as a live bird. Donít hold it so hard that you kill it, but hold it firm enough it canít get away. This is lump prevention.

Another cause of lumpy roving is you have too much twist. You are spinning the spindle more than you are drafting the yarn, and you are letting the twist get up into the body of the roving. You can fix this kind of problem by spinning the spindle counterclockwise to remove excess twist, then loosen, release and smooth the wool with your fingers. You can also fix this problem by laying the spindle down and, working with the unspun end of roving, pull back to add length and relieve the twist.

My yarn looks terrible - Iím getting big lumps

This is a very common problem. Experience is the cure. Perfect yarn is created when an exact number of fiber hairs enters an exact amount of twist per inch throughout the whole yarn. There is a certain rhythm to creating perfect yarn, but you canít be rhythmic when you are starting - you are just trying to stay alive!

Move slowly, donít be in a hurry. Speed will come with skill.

Meanwhile youíve got to loosen up your lumpy yarn. With your two hands pinch off the yarn at the top and the bottom of the lump. Twist your hands in opposite directions to loosen the twist from the lump and gently pull it apart. Feather and smooth the fibers and youíll find you can twist it into yarn.

The yarn keeps breaking.

Another common problem. The yarn is getting too thin to support the weight of the spindle. This is especially common when using the long draw.

Donít be afraid of spinning thick yarn as a beginner. The true test of a good spinner is versatility: the ability to spin yarn of any weight. Let more fibers into the twist as you spin. It helps if you hold your tongue just right.

How do I join it when it breaks?

Joining broken yarn is much more difficult than joining on new roving. This is because you are joining two pieces that already have twist in them. The first step is to untwist both the ends so there are loose fibers to catch and seal into the twist. Feather both ends out, kind-of weave them together with your fingers, and then twist them together with the spindle.

If they still donít hold, youíll have to give up on joining the broken ends. Pull the extra twisted yarn out of the roving and throw it away. Feather out the end that is on the spindle and work it into the new roving catching at least several inches until you are spinning all new roving.

My loose wool keeps getting caught in the spindle.

 Make a wrist distaff. It will hold the roving up out of the way so it doesnít get caught. If you havenít made a distaff yet, you have two options: throw the roving up over your shoulder to keep it out of the way: or use short pieces of roving and make lots of joins.

Can I use my right hand to draft?

Yes. But it seems that most people who spin on a spindle use the left hand for drafting. The reason for this is that you need your smartest hand for spinning the spindle. You may be thinking that drafting is the most complicated thing you are doing, but guiding that spindle is really the most important task here.

Most people who learn to spin on a spinning wheel use the right hand for drafting, that because the feet are turning the spindle. Left handed people will probably find it easiest to use the left hand for drafting. The controversy of which hand to use rages on. My best suggestion is: do what feels right.

I donít understand the long draw?

Everything is about twist and how it moves and holds the yarn. If you take a good look at your yarn you will discover that there are more twists per inch in the thin spots, than there are in the thick spots. This holds the thin spots firmer and stronger than the thick spots. So, if you pull back on the yarn the thick parts will come loose, the thin spots will remain firm. The twist from the thin spots will move into the thick spots as the thick spots thin out, creating an even yarn the whole length.

This works pretty regularly unless there is too much twist in the thick spots, or the thin spots are too thin, in which case the yarn wonít pull at all, or it pulls and breaks. Oops. You can relieve the twist in the yarn by pulling back with the roving hand, adding more fibers into the twist, until the yarn comes loose and can be pulled into an even strand. Play with it in slow motion, it is amazing how slick it works!

How much twist should I put in the yarn?

This is a design point. It depends on the type of fiber you are using, and what you are going to be using the yarn for. Creating a balanced yarn is your goal. If it has too much twist in one direction it will also twist the finished product making a strange looking sweater or blanket.

If you are going to be making a single yarn, just one strand without plying, then you will want to make a thicker yarn with less twist. Single yarns are great from a spindle because they can be made three times as fast as a plied yarn. For a balanced single, insert only enough twist to hold the yarn together.

For a plied yarn you want exactly twice as much twist in the singles as you want in the final yarn. To tell if you have the right amount of twist, hold up a few inches of yarn and let it curl and twist back on itself. This is what the plied yarn will look like. If it is too tight, donít put in so much twist. If it is too loose, put in more twist.

How much twist do I use to ply?

Here again, your goal is a balanced yarn. You should ply the singles back on each other so all the extra twist is relieved. You can tell if youíve succeeded very easily. Hold up a few inches of yarn without any tension. If it is kinky, youíve gone too far. If the singles are hanging there, kind of limp and wilted, then you havenít twisted enough.

Why do we spin clockwise for singles and counterclockwise to ply?

 First some terminology: experienced spinners walk around talking about things like S-twist and Z-twist. Z-twist is created when you spin clockwise and S-twist is created when you spin counterclockwise.

Different cultures, throughout history, have traditionally spun in both ways; but the clockwise twist (Z) has been used most often and is the norm today. I believe that each culture chose their direction of twist by the type of spindle used. The cotton spindle, which is spun in a bowl, is very easy to spin clockwise with the right hand because of the way the human opposable thumb goes against the fingers. Most humans are right handed. Cultures that began spinning with this type of spindle naturally chose the Z-twist as their norm and even created cultural myths around the twist. Yarn spun the wrong way was often attributed with magical properties.

If you sit in a chair and roll a spindle on the leg it makes the most sense to spin it down the leg, from the thigh to the knee, therefore creating an S-twist in the singles: for many cultures this was the norm. But the Navajo Indians sit cross-legged when they spin their spindles on their legs. When you sit cross-legged you get a downhill slope from the knee to the thigh. It makes sense to spin clockwise: for the Navajo the Z-twist is the norm.

Truth be told: you can spin any olí way you want. It just makes it easier to write the instructions by always considering a Z-twist for a single strand and an S-twist for plying. It will also make you fit in with your local spinning guild and not be an oddball who spins backwards unwittingly creating magic spells.

Iím just to stupid to spin.

Okay! Down and give me fifty push-ups! Negative attitudes are not allowed when I am teaching spinning! You are definitely smart enough to spin. You are a well educated person; you can read and write, you can operate a car. You can operate a VCR ó well maybe thatís stretching it; but you probably have a kid who can operate a VCR... Five year old children, who lived in caves, thousands of years ago could spin. It doesnít take a lot of brains to do it. In fact, your brains, and your education, are probably the things getting in the way of your spinning. This is not a mental activity. Turn your criticisms off and let your fingers discover their own wisdom. Be a child again, play with the yarn. This is a good thing. You donít get many opportunities to turn the critical mind off and just be.

Maybe you arenít making terrible yarn, maybe you are just making designer yarn. Go to a yarn store some day and take a look. Youíll find that the lumpy strange stuff is twice as expensive as the perfectly spun yarn. Treasure your beginnerís yarn, because someday, all the sudden, you will be good, and youíll never be able to make yarn like this again, no matter how hard you try.

Slow down. Enjoy yourself. Give your family a chance to have a good laugh at you. This sort of opportunity doesnít present itself every day.

What do I do with all this yarn I've spun?

Make stuff. 


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