I have been really looking forward to making this a feature as I am very new to spinning and I know how easy it is, how affordable it is, and how utterly satisfying it is. Even if this is not a hobby you intend to do long term, getting some fibre and a spindle and having a go at making an amount of yarn is a meditative process and forces you to calm your mind and just focus. It's safe to say I love it!
While there are soooo many fibre options to spin, from plants in your garden, to pet hair, I am going to be talking about an easy way to learn spinning in this blog. If you want to know more about other types of spinning, let me know and I'll be happy to write about that in future!
I suggest combed top to start with. The fibres lie in the same direction making for a strong yarn, this is called worsted spinning. Spinning roving where the fibres lie in different directions is called woolen spinning, and doesnt actually refer to the fibre itself. The type of fibre isn't too important but I think using fibre with a crimp in it is easier. Think Merino, Cormo, Corridale etc. Avoid alpaca, camel, mohair etc At least until you get the hang of it! I'm spinning camel at the moment and its a dream to spin! It's just a very different technique. When using Merino combed top, I use the combed top from White Gum Wool here in Tassie. I love her ethics as well as the quality of her superfine merino.
A spindle. I use a Turkish spindle but any drop spindle will be fine. You can get these for all budgets. I use ones made by FWAussieSpindles. You can find him on Etsy although he is currently taking a break. He uses repurposed wood and they are a beautiful weight, well balanced and a joy to use. There are all manner of spindles available from different suppliers, from wooden, to 3D printed to ones you can make from things around the house.
You can get spindles and fibre from my shop but have a look around too and get something you will be happy to use.
Once you have these two things, you are off!
Tear off a piece of the combed top so you are working with a manageable length. Try about 20 cm.
Insert the thinner piece of the spindle into the thicker piece and lay it down so the curve is pointing up with both holes aligning. This is the underside of the spindle.
Slowly draw (called drafting) out a thin piece of the fibre, twisting as you go and lay across the hole of the spindle.
The final thickness of the yarn will depend on how thick or thin the piece is as draw it out but for now, just get a feel for it and don't worry if it is thick and thin in places.
4. Insert the stick part of the spindle into the underside of the spindle, making sure to catch the fibre tightly as you do.
5. Twist a little more of the fibre, drafting it out as you go. Do this until you have enough to bring up to the top of the spindle and do a half hitch knot. It will look like this.
The fiddly part is over and you can now start spinning.
6. Letting it dangle in the air, twist the top of the spindle clockwise quickly, flicking it off to spin as you would a spinning top.
7. You can do this standing or sitting, whichever is most comfortable. You want to give it enough twist to hold itself up. Gradually drafting out a little more fibre, stop when you have about a metre, or whatever is the maximum that feels comfortable. If you find the spindle dropping to the floor, make sure you give it enough twist before moving onto the next section of fibre.
8. To release the yarn from the spindle stick, slide your thumb up underneath the half hitch and slowly slide it off the top. You can then wrap your new yarn around the cross pieces. I do the over 2, under 2 method as I find it easy and quick.
9. Now do a half hitch as before and continue spinning.
A few notes: As you continue spinning, wrap your yarn over the same cross pieces until you feel there is enough there, then rotate the cross clockwise by 90o and continue wrapping over the next 2 cross pieces. Continue in this manner until you have come full circle. Continue as before.
Once you have filled your spindle you are ready to ply!
While you can use a single ply, which is what you have now created, it has too much energy from the twisting to behave in a way that works for most items you can create with it. So for now, we will try a 2 ply construction. This simply means that you need to double the yarn on itself so the yarn expends some of that energy and behaves in a way that is easier to use. It is also stronger than a single ply and won't be so prone to break.
10. The beauty of the Turkish spindle over others is the ease in which you can ply. Turn the spindle upside down and remove the centre stick.
11. Now carefully remove the thinner of the cross pieces.
12. Very carefully and slowly, remove the remaining cross piece, keeping an eye out for the middle piece of yarn that is the beginning of your yarn.
13. Holding the ball in one hand, take the two ends and carefully put them into the Turkish spindle in the same way you did when you started, only this time you have two ends instead of one.
14. Now repeat your spinning process, only this time you are going to spin it counter-clockwise, wrapping around the cross pieces as before.
15. You can now dismantle the spindle to leave you with a ball as before, but this time it is plied yarn and you can either wind it into a skein, roll it into a ball or work from the ball you have created as it is. You can work from the centre (known as a centre-pull) or from the outside.
Have fun! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.