Tag Archives: drop spindle

Thoughts on BFL

28 May

I’ve now spun about 30 g of the 100 g of BFL wool I got as a birthday gift.

I was surprised and a little dismayed to notice that in a top like this, where the fibers are longer than in the Finnish sheep wool and combed nicely in the same direction, it’s actually easier for me to get more thick spots. I have to draw the fibers out on a far longer distance than I’d gotten used to.

I’m also curious about whether or not I am, in fact, doing this “wrong”. I saw someone post pictures of spinning in progress, and she’d obviously just started spinning from the end of the top. I’ve separated the top into three piles, splitting it along its length, and I also split each of those three more times to get to a point where there’s not too much fiber.

It’s also been easier to work with this fiber (as promised) – when I do get the wanted thickness to the single, that’s easier to maintain for longer stretches. That could also just be me getting better at this.  I also haven’t dropped the spindle even once this time because it’s far more difficult to get the single to break when the fibers are sooo long.

I’m also enjoying how clean and soft the fiber is. The single has a nice sheen to it, and it’s darker in color than the fiber in the top. If I’m not entirely mistaken, I think I’ll get a nice heathered effect in the finished yarn.

I haven’t decided whether or not to give my shoe box lazy-Kate another chance when plying this. I’d like to try the advice of spinning all the fiber and only plying it once it’s all done, but I’m not looking forward to Andean plying 100 g of singles.

The only problem with doing that is that since I only have one spindle, I’d have to roll the single I’ve finished around something else to wait while I spin the next single, and I’m worried about doing that. I keep thinking that when I then try to spin the two singles together, it won’t work. I can’t seem to get it through my head that no matter which end of the yarn you begin with, the twist will stay the same direction… I think. I get confused at this point, usually. But I think the magic is always just that you ply the singles together in the opposite direction you spun them in, and it doesn’t matter if you start from the beginning of single 1 and the end of single 2, or which ever way, they’ll ply together just fine. *frown*

I.. think that’s how it goes.

I could, of course, just roll each single around something, so I’ll then start plying from the beginning of each single… o.O I don’t know why I can’t brain this.

Also, I want to do three-ply – but I’m restraining that urge because of that whole “learn to walk before you run” thing.

I look forward to the time when I scroll back on my blog and can look at this entry and have a chuckle at my own expense 🙂


How I Learned to Handspin with a Drop Spindle

9 Jun

This week I’ve been learning how to hand spin yarn. To my surprise, the hard part wasn’t the spinning, it was making a working drop spindle. And even that wasn’t that hard. Well, this is how I did it.

Spinning has always seemed interesting to me, but I always thought it would be too difficult to learn and too expensive to begin. Then I learned about drop spindles and, after seeing videos on how to make a top whorl and a bottom whorl spindle here, I finally believed they really are pretty simple tools and easy to make at home.

I used a flower stalk and cardboard from a cardboard box to make my first bottom whorl spindle. I chose bottom whorl because I was going to use this Finnish page to learn to spin.

The page encourages the reader to first learn to spin the spindle by the leader. I tried this.

I tied the leader to the spindle exactly like instructed, but the thing just wouldn’t spin.  It always just wobbled for a bit and stopped. I kept trying for quite some time, thinking I was spinning it too fast or too slow.

Finally I figured there’s something wrong with the spindle itself. I thought it might have something to do with the piece of cardboard being too light (it *is*, after all, called the “weight”). So I found some tape and attached a couple of erasers to the bottom of the cardboard circle, since they were the only thing I could think of to fulfill the task. And what do you know, I was immediately able to spin the spindle by the leader. Great success!

The next problem came up, when I enthusiastically grabbed my wool and started spinning like instructed. Everything went just fine at first. My yarn came out totally thick-n-thin, but I wasn’t discouraged because that’s what’s supposed to happen, right? I also started to believe thick-n-thin yarn really exists because newcomers to the art of spinning don’t want to waste their wool, and have to make-believe thick and thin is totally rad and just what they wanted all along. Maybe? Anyway. The problem arose when it was time to wrap the yarn around the shaft of the spindle. “Ok,” I thought, “but, um, how?”

I stood there, the yarn wrapped around my knee, one arm stretched towards the ceiling so the yarn wouldn’t wrap around itself, trying to figure out how on Earth I was supposed to get the leader off the shaft so I could wrap the yarn. I stared wildly at the pictures in the instructions I was using. “Yes, the leader is definitely meant to come off the top of the shaft before the wrapping of the yarn can commence,” I thought, my arm (still pointing at the ceiling) starting to go numb, “BUT HOW?”

You see, the instructions said to make a loop around the top of the shaft with the leader before beginning to spin. So that’s what I did. But because when I spun the spindle, the leader always came undone, I figured I was supposed to *tie* the leader around the shaft (the wording in the instructions really is ambiguous). This is why I was having some difficulties.

I somehow detached the leader from the shaft and wrapped my yarn. Yay, my first few feet of hand spun yarn!

But I couldn’t figure out how to get the yarn to stay on the shaft while I spun. I was confused. I looked through all the sites I could find on hand spinning with a spindle. After a while it dawned on me that most drop spindles have some sort of hook at the top of the shaft and, apparently, the little hook is what does the trick.

What followed next was an hour of frustration trying to find a substitute for an actual hook – although I’m sure I have hooks somewhere, they are, for the moment, eluding me. I destroyed a few safety pins but I couldn’t push them through the wood – the metal gave out before the wood did. I tried hammering a nail with this little plastic hook in it (used for attaching cables to walls)  to the top of the shaft, but to my horror, I only managed to splinter the shaft. Fine. No hammers allowed near my spindle. I tried screwing a screw in there. I tried using my hobby drill to drill a hole and *gluing* a nail into it, but it just wouldn’t do.

Finally I gave up altogether on my bottom whorl and decided a top whorl would solve all my problems. If at first you don’t succeed and so on. Again, I used a flower stalk and some cardboard, plus the added weight of a couple of erasers (I KNEW I hadn’t saved all those 20 erasers for nothing!) and *very, very carefully* drilled a hole at the top of the shaft and very, very carefully put a nail with-one-of-those-little-hook-thingies in there, and pressed ever so slightly on the nail to attach it to the shaft juuust a little bit.

Spindle version 2.0

Finally! A spindle that spun like a good spindle ought to (after I cut 5 extra inches off the bottom of the shaft.

A lot of happy spinning ensued. I quickly got the hang of it, to my utter amazement, and began enjoying it more every minute. After three hours of spinning, I was able to spin an amazing 2 yards of yarn that was of even thickness. WOW!

I learned how to move my hands so the spindle keeps turning in the right direction and the spin on the yarn doesn’t reach the wool beyond the tight grip of my left index finger and thumb.  I began to understand how to hold the fibres, and a lot of little things like that, that come quite naturally once the hands get to feel the fibres and how they behave. I began realizing how many details have to be taken into consideration when spinning and my respect for those who really know how to do it grew by the minute.

But the spindle wasn’t perfect. The yarn kept pushing the cardboard up the shaft and next to the hook, and when this happened, the nail would invariable come loose and I’d have to stop for a while to very, very carefully glue it back in there. I was worried about the great quantity of glue near my hand-spun.

At some point I weighed my wool and realised I’d only spun half of it. I decided to make another spindle so I could then ply the yarn straight off the spindles.

This time I wasn’t going to stand for bits coming out or anything silly like that. I’d read of spindles with little grooves in them – no hook needed.

So I carved one.

Carving: an essential skill for any urban gal

I harvested the cardboard-eraser-set-up from the first spindle, cut the shaft down to size, took out a knife and carved a little groove for the yarn. I was pretty proud of myself.

But spinning was impossible: the yarn would come out of the groove way too easily.  Maybe there was too much wobbling going on because the weight of the erasers was distributed unevenly? I took the erasers out and tried spinning with only the cardboard circle on the shaft. The wobbling was gone, but the spindle didn’t spin long enough because of the lack of the weight. FINE. Back in go the erasers, only this time I took care to make it more balanced. The yarn wouldn’t stay in the groove. OK. I carved another little groove. And it works!

But by this time the hole in the cardboard was getting too big and the cardboard wobbled and caused the spindle to wobble as well. Plus there was the issue of the yarn pushing the cardboard up the shaft.

Solution? Cut out the middle man.


And that is how I learned to handspin.

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