Drop spindles were one of the first basic tools of spinning yarn by many different cultures around the world. To this day, it's still the most simple and budget friendly tool to use to spin your own unique yarns. Drop spindling is a very slow and methodical craft which I would encourage all yarn enthusiasts to try. Being able to make your own yarn is a really honourable skill and trust me, it makes your woven/knitted/crocheted projects that much more unique and special.
I designed my own Drop Spindle back in 2016 which has been loved by many makers over the years. The scalloped edge was an ingenious idea at the time, as the only other spindles on the market had a flat edge, making the yarn slip every time I tried to spin, which I found tricky to overcome while I was learning.
My favourite online tutorials for drop spindling are from Ashley Martineau's How To Spin Yarn YouTube channel.
Here is a great video to get you spinning your own unique yarns in no time!
LET’S GET OUR SPIN ON!
Drop spindles have been used for centuries to make yarn. It is the oldest known form of spinning yarn and is still used today. The Unusual Pear spindle is a “top whorl” drop spindle. It has a long dowel, which is used to spin the spindle and also wind the spun yarn onto. The flower disc (as I like to call it) is known as the “whorl” which adds weight and balances the spindle as it spins; as it sits close to the top where the hook is, it is known as a top whorl. The hook on the top end of the spindle is used to catch the yarn.
There are many different fibres you can use for spinning including, wool, cotton, angora, flax, bamboo and many, many more. In my opinion, the easiest fibre to use when you are learning to spin is wool roving. Roving is fibre that has been washed, then either carded or combed which creates a long length of fibre.
STEP 1: Gently break off a section by holding the roving in your hands with about 20cm distance between each hand. The fibres run in the same direction, which makes it really easy to just pull it apart. If your hands are too close together, there wont be enough give in the fibres to
STEP 2: Now you have your length of roving, gently pull the fibre without breaking it apart. You are thinning out the roving and giving it more length by doing this.
STEP 3: At one end of your roving, tease out the fibres until you have a rather whispy end, then felt this end by gently rubbing it between your index finger and your thumb.
STEP 4: Hook this felted end around your hook so the fibre overlaps each other on the hook (tie it into a knot if it helps).
WE’RE READY TO SPIN, GET EXCITED!
Just a few helpful hints first:
- You might find it easier to sit on a chair the first few times you spin as you can rest the spindle between your knees while you draft your fibre; commonly known as the “park and draft” method. When you get a bit more used to the process, you can try standing up and letting your spindle hang, suspended in the air as it spins.
- You can spin in whichever direction you feel most comfortable with but just remember to always spin in the same direction, which in this case, I have suggested clockwise. When you want to experiment with plying your hand spun yarns, you would spin anti-clockwise.
- You might also feel more comfortable switching hands, opposite to the way I have suggested below, it’s all about personal preference!
STEP 1: Holding the fibre in your right hand, use your left hand to give your spindle a clockwise spin from the base of the spindle stick. Let the spindle spin until it begins to kink and spin in the opposite direction – with your left hand again, stop the spindle and park it between your knees.
The fibre between your hands is called the “drafting triangle”. The amount of fibre you draft will determine how thick or thin your yarn will be – draft longer for a thinner yarn or draft shorter for a thicker yarn.
STEP 3: Create the drafting triangle: pinch the fibre closest to the spindle with your left hand, so to not let the twist too far into the fibre. With your right hand, draft the fibres out and then gently move your left hand up to meet your right hand and pinch again.
STEP 4: Continue this method until it seems there is no more twist left in the yarn. I say yarn now instead of fibre because you just spun YARN!!
STEP 5: Add more twist to the yarn by pinching the fibre at the bottom of the drafting triangle, where the fibre turns into yarn and spin the spindle again. Keep going until you have a good length of yarn – I usually keep going until the spindle touches the floor.
TIP: If you feel that the yarn could be pulled apart easily, you might need to add more spin into the yarn. Don’t be too concerned if the yarn seems too twisted.
WINDING ON TIME
STEP 1: With your right hand, unhook your freshly spun yarn and use your left hand to roll that yarn onto your spindle – in any direction, it doesn’t matter.
STEP 2: Don’t leave yourself too short a length of yarn, you still want to have at least 10-15cm of yarn you can add more twist to before you start drafting again.
STEP 3: Continue with the park and draft method!
FIXING BROKEN FIBRE & ADDING NEW FIBRE
Uh-oh! Did your fibre break off? It happens, don’t worry, we can make a join!
STEP 1: Tease out a few fibres from the broken end of spun yarn and also of the new fibre you are adding to it.
STEP 2: Hold them together in your right hand. Spin the spindle with your left hand and let the twist glue the fibres together.
STEP 4: That’s it! Get back to spinning.
LET’S GET REAL
Okay so now you feel totally comfortable with the park and draft method, you could try spinning without parking the spindle between your knees. You may end up with your yarn breaking and spindle flying away from you a few times so try it in a safe, carpeted space until you get the hang of it.
SETTING THE TWIST
Your finished yarn needs to be removed from the spindle for washing, also called "blocking” which will set the twist in the yarn.
STEP 1: Wind the yarn off of the spindle and into a series of loops around your thumb and elbow. Tie the ends together, and use scrap yarn to make one or two ties around the hank, which will keep the yarn from getting tangled.
STEP 2: Submerse the hank in lukewarm water, gently squeeze out the excess water and whack it against a hard surface and hang it for drying.
STEP 3: You will also want to weigh it down it to help get the kinks out.