A selection of craft information for artisans of the HFS.

    How to use a Drop Spindle:

    Dame Katrin Karlsdottir
    Dame Katrin Karlsdottir

    Posts : 28
    Join date : 2011-06-02
    Age : 51

    How to use a Drop Spindle: Empty How to use a Drop Spindle:

    Post  Dame Katrin Karlsdottir on Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:16 pm


    reduces stress and promotes well being. It can also be habit forming and lead
    to obsessive behaviors such as, but not restricted to: caressing and hoarding
    all fibers; dying them with food colors and things from your garden or whatever
    you have laying about; spinning the fluffy bits of the weeds in your fields,
    the cotton wad in your vitamin bottles and even the lint from your dryer!

    with extreme caution!

    Using a spindle is a very economical way to learn
    handspinning for a beginner. They are inexpensive to buy, and also very easy to
    make. Once you have mastered the spindle you will have learned the steps needed
    for spinning on the spinning wheel: drafting out fibers, twisting the fiber
    into yarn, and winding up and storing the spun yarn.

    Drop spindles are primitive spinning tools,
    virtually the only spinning tool used until 1000 ad —the spinning wheel as we
    know it did not exist before the 1500’s. The drop spindle is still the primary
    tool used in remote locations throughout the world. It has become very popular
    among current handspinners in the last few years. If you find you love
    spinning, there are guilds all over the country where you can find fellowship,
    information and fun.

    learn to spin you will need:

    • A drop spindle
    • Carded or combed
      fiber prepared for spinning

    • A length of yarn to
      use as a leader


    off a small section from one end of the wool preparation and gently grasp the
    fibers from this small sample. Pull out the few fibers and look at them. They
    look like hair and are constructed much the same as hair. Now set them down on
    a dark surface and pull out a few more fibers and lay them next to the first.
    Continue doing this until all the fibers in your little sample are loose and laying
    next to each other on the dark surface. Does it appear that the first fibers
    you pulled are longer than the last? It is a good practice to do this with
    every fiber preparation you spin—it tells you how far apart to hold your hands
    when you do a process we will describe later called drafting. Put all
    your sample fibers together and lay them aside for now—we will spin them later.


    few more terms are in order here: when you twist your fibers together the
    resulting yarn is referred to as a thread or a singles. A singles
    may be used in weaving but unless carefully constructed is not the best for
    knitting or crocheting. If you wish to knit or crochet your yarn you must do
    another process called plying. Plying is twisting two or more singles together
    into a plied yarn. Other terms will be defined as they are described. These
    terms will appear in bold print when they are introduced and defined.


    drop spindle has three parts: the stick is called the spindle; the disk
    on top or bottom of the stick is called the whorl; and the hook is
    called, simply enough, the hook.

    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image002Attaching a Leader:

    Time to get started! First attach the leader cord
    to your spindle. A leader is a piece of yarn used to anchor your fiber
    to the spindle. To do this, wrap the yarn counterclockwise around the
    shaft near the whorl several times, to secure it, and then spiral it up the
    shaft, like a candy cane. Wrap the last spiral under the hook and lead it
    out the center of the hook. (See fig.1)

    There should be a few inches of yarn extending
    beyond the end of the shaft . Turn the other end of the leader back on itself
    and tie a loop (use a square knot or an overhand knot, not a slip knot
    to do this). Bring the looped end up over the whorl and wrap it a couple of times
    around the hook. Let the spindle hang beneath your hand, suspended by the
    leader. As you spin thread, store it on the spindle by wrapping it in a cone
    shape below the whorl.

    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image004Now, pick up the
    roving, and holding your hands about 4"-5" apart, pull with a quick,
    even motion to get a handful of wool. .

    the wool on the end of the starting yarn. (Fig. 2).


    the fibers at the end of the leader loose. Let the spindle hang beneath your
    hand suspended by the leader. Take the spindle in your right hand and the
    leader in your left hand, spin the drop spindle from the shaft in a clockwise
    direction. This is the direction you will be spinning to make the yarn. Allow
    yourself time to practice making the spindle rotate. Repeat this process of spinning
    the spindle in the same direction until the leader begins to take in the twist.
    Leave a fluff of fiber at the end for joining on more fiber.

    First Step

    get used to the feel of spinning before actually learning to do it, practice
    making the spindle rotate. Take the spindle in one hand and the leader in the
    other, spin the drop spindle from the spindle (stick part) with your fingers
    (like a top) to the right, let go and watch it spin. If this feels too awkward
    or isn’t working, try resting the spindle against your left thigh, lay your
    palm against the spindle and quickly roll it forward between your palm and
    thigh off your leg–it should keep spinning. If it is more comfortable to hold
    the leader in your left hand, put the spindle on your right thigh and roll it
    quickly toward your back and then let go, holding it only by the leader—it
    should keep spinning. Repeat this process several times until it feels less
    awkward before you start actually spinning a thread. You want to ultimately be
    holding just the leader and having the spindle rotating toward the right
    quickly, thus putting twist into the leader. The leader should be bunching up
    from all the twist.

    some time and get used to the motion and feel of the spindle. You may spin the
    spindle in either direction to make your yarn; however, a rule of thumb is to
    always spin the spindle clockwise (to the right) to make a singles. Spinning
    counter-clockwise is then used to ply two or more singles together into yarn.
    The important thing here is consistency—if you begin to spin clockwise and
    change to counterclockwise your thread will fall apart! For this example use a
    clockwise twist.

    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image006Supported
    Spindle Spinning:

    you get the initial hang of spinning, you will "support" the spindle,
    rather than "dropping" it. Set the spindle on a table or
    another flat surface. Hold the starting yarn taut to support the spindle,
    and gently hold the area where the wool overlaps the yarn. Using the
    other hand, grasp the shaft with your fingers and twist the spindle in a
    clockwise direction. As the spindle turns, the yarn and wool will twist
    together. Hold them gently enough to allow them to do so. See fig. 3.

    Spindle Spinning:

    you get the hang of the spinning process, you will want to try using your
    spindle as a drop spindle. The process is the same, only instead of
    supporting it on a table, you let it hang in the air. So, you can see
    that it is important that the yarn have the proper amount of twist, so that it
    will hold together and keep the spindle in the air. If it does not have
    sufficient twist, it will drift apart and the spindle will fall. Remember
    to hold the yarn itself for only a moment with the second hand when you are
    drafting, so the twist will be allowed to travel up the yarn and twist the newly
    drafted fibers.

    the Fibers

    upon your comfort with your practice session, decide which hand to use to hold
    the fibers and which hand to use to draft the fibers and spin the spindle. If
    you were more comfortable holding the leader with your right hand, use your
    right hand to hold the fibers. Reverse this if you were more comfortable using
    your left hand to hold the leader in practice. Many people have many ideas
    about which hand is "correct" —we will do what feels most comfortable–there
    is no right and wrong way!
    Choose a hand to hold the fibers to start
    with—if, after spinning a while it feels awkward, shift hands.

    off a 6-inch piece of wool and split this piece 3 or 4 times down its length.
    Hold one of these sections loosely in your fiber hand. Don’t clutch your
    fibers—you will bunch them up and sweat on them and make them unpleasant! Relax
    as you spin—if you tense up, you are trying too hard! Lay the fibers across
    your palm and gently hold them in place with your thumb. Use your drafting
    hand to pinch the tops of a few fibers and slide them out a bit–you don’t want
    to separate them from the fiber mass, just pull them out an inch or two. Put
    these fibers through the loop in your leader and fold the end back upon itself
    into the fiber mass. When you twist this it will attach your fibers to the


    drafting hand also spins your spindle. Hold the ends of the fibers together
    with your fiber hand and twist the spindle a few times with your drafting hand.
    The twist runs up the fibers to the thumb of your fiber hand. You are pinching
    off the twist with your thumb and index finger at this point and not allowing
    the twist to enter the large mass of fibers. Give the spindle a good spin with
    your drafting hand, then stop it and park it (put it between your legs or under
    your drafting arm.) Then you "draft" the wool: hold the wool gently
    with the first hand about a fiber’s length away from the triangle
    (4"-5" in this instance) and gently grasp the yarn with the second
    hand. Gently pull the wool upwards away from the spindle. Now use the
    second hand (the one that was holding the yarn) to give the spindle a clockwise
    spin. The drafted fibers will now twist together to form yarn.

    Drafting Zone (Triangle):

    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image008Now we need to
    discuss what is happening when you spin yarn. First, look at what you
    have now. The starter yarn and the wool have twisted together to form
    yarn. Immediately above the yarn is the "drafting zone" or
    "drafting triangle". Fig. 4. This zone controls many of
    the factors that affect your yarn. If this triangle has more fibers in
    it, the yarn will be thicker; if it has fewer fibers in it, the yarn will be
    thinner. The triangle will shorten as the wool twists into yarn, and
    lengthen as new fibers are drafted. The yarn is formed when fibers enter
    the drafting zone and are caught by the twist that is coming up the yarn from
    the rotating spindle.

    not let the twist run into the drafting zone. If it does, it will make it
    difficult to draft. Use your drafting thumb and index finger to pinch off the
    twist (replacing your fiber hand) and gently slide out more fibers. The fibers
    between your drafting hand and your fiber hand form a small triangle called the
    drafting triangle. This area should never be longer than the length of
    the fibers you pulled out when you first looked at your fiber (remember that
    little pile of fibers you pulled out?) Compare the size of the triangle to the
    length of those fibers. You should try not to allow the twist to run up into
    the fiber mass in your fiber hand, that hand should always be gently pinching
    down on the undrafted fibers. Later, when you become more accustomed to the
    feel and rhythm of spinning, you will find it easy to draft and not have to
    pinch off the twist if you lay the fibers over your hand and only let the
    drafting triangle or drafted fibers lay over your index finger and down into
    the thread. The twist will not run over your index finger and so the fibers on
    your palm (which is held palm up) will not be twisted.

    this process until you are comfortable with it-- draft, spin, draft,
    spin. Don’t let the spindle start to turn counterclockwise, or it will
    untwist your yarn. Soon you will be able to draft while the spindle is
    still spinning. Do not hold the yarn for very long with the second hand,
    though, or the twist will accumulate below your pinching fingers. Try to
    learn how to draft against the pull of the weight of the spindle, and just use
    your second hand to get over tough spots.

    Continuing to Spin

    have your fiber hand pinching back the twist and your drafting hand is free.
    Replace your pinching with your drafting hand, gently slide out some more
    fibers from the mass by pulling gently back with your drafting hand, pinch off
    the fibers near your fiber hand so the twist doesn’t run up into the fiber mass
    and let go with your drafting hand, allowing the twist to run up into the
    drafted fibers. Always keep tension on your newly spun yarn by gently pulling
    up as you draft and make more thread. By keeping tension on the thread, you are
    inviting the twist to run up into the newly drafted fiber, if you let the
    thread hang slack, the twist cannot travel up.

    Adding Twist

    should be time to add more twist to your thread. What you are doing in this
    process is storing up extra twist, using most of it up drafting new thread,
    then adding more twist to strengthen your thread. Stop drafting now, while
    pinching off the twist in your fiber hand and pick up the spindle with your
    drafting hand and give it a spin or two. Stop the spindle before it slows to
    the point of reversing the spin and hold the spindle with your drafting hand.
    Allow the yarn to relax by moving your hands a little closer together. You want
    to have enough extra twist stored up to allow you to draft more. If the relaxed
    yarn snarls up and makes little twists on itself you have enough twist, if it
    lays limp you must add more twist to keep going. You may find that the fibers
    seem loose or will not hold together this means you have drafted too many
    fibers for the amount of twist stored, move your fiber hand back along the
    thread to where the fibers are staying together and spin the spindle again. Let
    it spin a while, then stop it and park it and slide your hand back over the
    loosely twisted yarn to allow the twist to run up into it. Stop when you reach
    undrafted fibers, spin the spindle a time or two to store up some extra twist
    and repeat the drafting process.

    Winding On

    you are at a point where your arm is up in the air over your head and you are
    no longer comfortable, you have almost completed a length of singles. Put extra
    twist into this length before storing it and
    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image010moving on. This
    twist should cause the yarn to start to turn into a coil. This extra twist to
    helps the thread hold together, and then add even more twist to balance out the
    yarn when it is plied. Plying yarn takes twist back out of the singles so you
    need that extra twist in there now.

    the spindle a couple of twists and look at what you’ve got—take the spindle in
    your drafting hand and continue to pinch off the twist on the other end with
    your fiber hand (Fig.5 shows one way of doing it). Allow some slack and
    the thread should immediately start curling up on itself making spiky twists.
    It should feel a bit "spongy". If it doesn’t do this in many places
    you need to add more twist, if it’s curling all over the place–good! (Just so
    you don’t have a snarled mess!) If you need to add more twist, suspend the
    spindle, give it a twist, and then test it again.

    the yarn from the spindle, unwind the "candy cane", and wind the yarn
    onto the stick portion of your spindle, leaving enough extra to spiral to the
    whorl and through the hook,
    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image012and extend a few
    inches above the top of the spindle. A note about winding on the yarn--
    try to keep the yarn in a squat, wide cone shape. Keeping the yarn, and
    therefore, the weight, near the whorl helps it spin better. See fig.5a.

    keep tension on your newly spun yarn to allow the twist to run into the newly
    drafted fiber, if you release the tension, the twist will not travel up. Repeat
    this process a couple of times and check to see that there is enough twist
    before moving on. If the yarn pulls apart or the yarn is too slack spin the
    spindle again to store more twist. When the yarn is long enough to cause the
    spindle to almost touch the ground, unhook the yarn and wrap it around the base
    of the spindle next to the whorl. You have just spun what is called a single.
    Leave enough yarn unwound in order to slip it back on the hook with a couple of
    extra inches to spare-loosen the end fibers.

    Joining More Fiber

    you’ve spun most of the handful of wool, you’ll want to join on another piece
    of wool. Fluff out the end of wool you still have, or, if you’ve spun
    right up to the very end, split open and frizz out the end of yarn by
    un-twisting it. Pull off a piece of roving as described above and overlap
    the wool and the end of yarn. You want the fiber from the spindle end and
    the fiber from the handful to interlock and mesh, so the join will be strong.
    Let the twist run into the joined fibers, add more twist by spinning the
    spindle before you continue making a new length of yarn, otherwise your join
    may not be secure. (It is important not to try and make a join of new fluff
    fibers over an already spun section of yarn.) Once you’ve joined them, rub your
    fingers up and down over the join. It should hold together and no tails
    or ends should pop out; the two ends should not wrap around each other--
    they should meld into one. Try pulling on the yarn. Is the join strong
    enough to hold together? Give the spindle another twist, and bring your
    right hand back to where the left hand is holding the yarn. Move the left hand
    back about three inches, pulling and drafting out more fibers of wool and
    letting the spindle turn around a few times. Let go of the yarn with your right
    hand and let the twist move up into the fibers like before. Gently pull out
    more fibers from the fiber mass by pulling back with your left hand, allowing
    the twist to run into the drafted fibers.

    Keep Practicing:

    yarn you are making will not look perfect at this point. And there is
    nothing wrong with that. Every spinner starts out spinning uneven,
    over-twisted, under-twisted yarn. You have to start somewhere. T he
    important thing is to keep practicing. Don’t give up! You will get
    the hang of this.


    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image014Look at your
    yarn. See how the twist accumulates in the thin spots and skips over the
    thick spots? See fig. 6. Twist has a lot to do with your
    yarn. You can see that you need more twist to hold together a fine yarn
    than you need to hold together a thick yarn.

    remember to keep the twist out of the drafting triangle. It makes
    drafting difficult. If drafting is
    still difficult, it may be that the first hand is holding too close to the drafting
    zone. Depending on what you are spinning, the fiber length varies.
    The wool roving you are using has approximately a 4" staple (individual
    hair length), so try to hold about that far from the drafting zone.

    or S?:

    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image016The yarn you have
    been making is a Z-twist yarn. If you spun the spindle counterclockwise,
    you would have a S-twist yarn. See fig. 8. If you were to turn this
    diagram upside down they would still be Z or S, no matter how you look at

    is good to know when it comes time to ply or use your yarns. It is also a
    good idea to be consistent. Always spin your yarns either Z or S. That
    way you don’t have to examine them when it comes time to ply or use them.
    Traditionally, singles are spun Z (clockwise) and plied S (counterclockwise).
    But, this is your yarn, and you are free to do whatever suits you.

    Removing the Thread

    you have wound off a considerable amount of singles the spindle will become to
    heavy and will start to wobble a lot as you are spinning it. When this happens
    it is time to stop spinning yarn and remove it from the spindle Once your
    spindle is full it is time to take the thread off the spindle and store it
    until you have spun another thread to ply it with. There are many ballwinders
    and other contraptions you can get to aid in this process. For now it is
    easiest just to wrap the singles into hanks of yarn. To wrap your yarn into a
    hank simply wrap the yarn across your palm down around your elbow (which should
    be bent) and up around your palm until you have used up all the yarn. Tie the
    ends loosely around the hank. You may wish to tie some other string or
    yarn loosely in other places around the hank to prevent tangles. You can let
    the spindle just run free, if this proves to be a problem you can put a hole in
    the bottom of a shoe box that is larger than the spindle and set the spindle in
    it. Another way is to sit cross-legged on the floor and put the spindle in
    between your toes!

    Setting the Twist

    set the twist, soak the yarn in hot water. This will gently clean out any oils
    that may have been used in the preparation process as well as make the singles
    more cohesive into a stronger yarn. You can do this in the kitchen sink. Fill
    both sinks at the same time with hot water-as hot as you can stand or even
    hotter! Put a tiny squirt of dish soap in one sink and a dash of vinegar in the
    other. Gently lay the hank of yarn on top of the water in the soapy sink and
    lightly push it down into the water. It is important not to swish the hank or
    add any movement to it at all that is not necessary. One push in to saturate
    the fibers is enough movement. Wool will felt if given a lot of agitation in
    hot water. Let it soak for a few minutes then remove the hank and gently
    immerse it in the vinegar water to rinse. Let it soak a few minutes. The water
    should be cooling by now. After the yarn has dried completely, wind it into a
    ball for future use.


    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image018Once you have spun
    two or more balls of singles, it’s time to ply your yarn. For simplicity’s sake
    we will refer to two-ply yarn, but if you want to do three or more plies,
    simply add them to this process.

    each ball of yarn into a mug—this will keep them from rolling all over the room
    and getting caught behind furniture, etc. Pull out the end from each ball (it
    sometimes helps to thread the end through the handle of the mug). Put the ends
    through the loop in the end of your leader, just like you did with the fiber,
    folding it back onto itself and gently holding the ends back onto the two
    singles in between the thumb and index finger of your fiber hand. Your fiber
    hand will do all the pinching this time and your drafting hand will do nothing
    but spin the spindle and occasionally run up the length of the yarn making sure
    that the two threads are fed evenly into the yarn you are making. Give the
    spindle a spin to the left for a S-twist (make sure you are going in the
    opposite direction that you used to spin the threads), until the ends are
    firmly twisted in with the singles. Now just pull out lengths of the two
    threads and spin the spindle until it looks like it’s nicely twisted together.
    Try and feed the threads evenly. Test the yarn by holding the spindle and
    letting the yarn go slack—it should not curl back on itself at all. If it does
    not it’s called a well-balanced yarn. If it does curl back on itself,
    pull some more of the unplied singles out of your fiber hand and let the twist
    run up into it and test again.

    you have a well-balanced yarn but it has wide gaps between the places where the
    two singles twist together so it will be difficult to use later, there are two
    things you must do. First, take note! Your thread did not have enough twist in
    it to counter balance the untwisting done when plying. Make a note to put more
    twist in the next singles. To correct this yarn, put more spin in the plied
    yarn, it may even require putting in enough twist so that it curls back on
    itself-you can correct this (as long as it’s not extreme) when you finish the

    may find that you have a well-balanced yarn that has gaps but also has snarls
    in the singles. This means you have not put enough twist in the plying process
    to counteract the extra twist in the singles. Again, add more twist to the
    plied yarn until the snarls disappear.

    you are not satisfied with the tightness of the plied yarn until it’s
    over-twisted, go ahead and over twist some (but not to extreme). You will fix
    this problem in finishing.

    you have plied your threads to arm’s length and tested it, wind the plied yarn
    underneath the whorl for storage and as before, wrap the end around the hook
    and ply the next length until you have plied all the singles. If one ball has a
    bit longer thread than the other ball, break off the longer thread to end.


    How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image020How to use a Drop Spindle: Clip_image022Once you have a
    spindle full of plied yarn, it is time to make a skein.

    people use special tools such as niddy-noddys or reels, but you can use a chair
    back. See fig. 10.

    tie figure eight ties in three or four places. See fig. 11. This
    keeps the yarn from tangling.

    Finishing Your Yarn

    time to finish your yarn. Finishing your yarn means setting the twist and,
    sometimes, blocking the yarn. To set the twist you need to wrap your yarn into
    a hank, or wrap it on a reel or niddy-noddy.

    Setting the Twist

    set the twist, soak the yarn in hot water. Fill both sinks at the same time
    with hot water-as hot as you can stand or even hotter! Gently lay the hank of
    yarn on top of the water in the sink and lightly push it down into the water.
    It is important not to swish the hank or add any movement to it at all that is
    not necessary. One push in to saturate the fibers is enough movement. Let it
    soak a few minutes. The water should be cooling by now. Some spinners add a
    tiny squirt of hair conditioner to the last rinse to soften the wool. You may
    wish to try this.

    Blocking and Drying

    the hank from it’s final rinse and remove excess water by either wrapping it in
    a towel and stomping on it. The hank should be hung to dry—hang it over a hook
    in the shower or the showerhead. The hank should hang straight and not twist on
    itself, if it does it is over twisted, you can fix this by blocking the yarn.
    Put a can of soup in the cradle formed at the bottom of the hung hank and let
    it remain there until the yarn is completely dry.


    • If the spindle gets
      away from you and the twist runs up into the fiber mass making a big bunch
      (not uncommon when you are learning), stop and park the spindle, untwist
      the fiber mass—you can do this by letting it hang down and holding the
      singles at the last place it was even—then start again in the process of

    • If you find that
      there are "fat spots", known as slubs in your yarn or thick
      spots and thin spots, you can enjoy them—you have spun novelty yarn that
      really looks lovely when plied and used. Most spinners who have been
      spinning for a while find that their thread becomes thinner and thinner
      and they can no longer make slubs, even when they want to! If the slubs
      bother you, you can remove them by pinching the yarn with both hands on
      either side of the slub (a little back from the slub) and untwisting it
      until the fibers draft out a bit.
      IMPORTANT! Do not tug on the slub; if it doesn’t easily slide a bit
      then continue to untwist until it does. If you tug you risk breaking the

    • Yarn drifts apart or
      pulls apart–add more twist. To connect the ends again untwist both ends
      and fan out the fibers. Lay one side on top of the other and draft the
      fibers out together, running your drafting hand over the join.

    • Yarn is snarled and
      becomes tangled. Draft out some of this extra twist by drafting out more

    • There will come a
      time when your cone of singles will be too heavy for the spindle and it
      will wobble a lot as you are spinning it. It’s time to stop spinning now
      and take your yarn off the spindle.

    • If your yarn pulls apart,
      you need to add more twist. To connect the ends back together, untwist
      both ends again and loosen the fibers. Lay one side on top of the other
      and twist the fibers together like before.
      If the spindle gets away from you and the twist runs up into the fiber
      mass, which is a common occurrence for beginners,, stop the spindle and
      untwist the fiber mass—then start the drafting process again.

    • If the yarn is over
      twisted, loosen some of the extra twist by drafting out more fibers.

      Current date/time is Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:01 pm