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Spinning - Part 1
Spinning - Part 2

May people think that the only way to make yarn is with a spinning wheel, but there is a much simpler, more primitive way of spinning that is very effective -- using a hand spindle.  It has a very simple design consisting of a shaft and a weight. The majority of the spindles available today, have wooden shafts with a wooden disc as the whorl (weight). Choosing the type of spindle to use, will be determined by the type of yarn you want to produce, and the type of fibre being used. There are basically two types of spindles; suspended and supported.

I have a  top-whorl spindle which is a suspended spindle and has the whorl at the top of the shaft and they can come in a variety of weights. There is a hook on top of the spindle just above the whorl for catching the yarn. Top-whorl spindles can rotate at a higher speed (high-whorl spindle), which makes them ideal for spinning thin yarn and fine fibers.

Using a drop spindle is a great way to begin learning how to spin wool. 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 fibres, twisting the fibre into yarn, and winding up and storing the spun yarn.

Step 1

Begin by taking an end of roving and twist the end between to fingers, and loop it to hook onto the hook at the end of the spindle.

Step 2

Take the spindle in your right hand and the wool in your left hand. Pinch your fibre with your left hand, and , spin the drop spindle from the shaft in one direction with your right hand. This is the direction you will be spinning to make the yarn — don’t ever change it or you will unpin your yarn.

Allow yourself time to practice making the spindle rotate. Repeat this process of spinning the spindle in the same direction until the wool begins to take in the twist.

Step 3

When your spindle stops moving in your chosen direction, “park” it — stop it and hold it between your thighs, or under your arm. Then draw some fibre out, and release your pinch to allow the twist to travel up into your drafted fibre.

I always say to myself, “park, draft, release, pinch, spin” — this helps me to remember the process so I don’t lose any of my hard work.



Always keep tension on your newly spun yarn to allow the twist to run into the newly drafted fibre, 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 fibres.

Step 4

To add on more wool, overlap the wool a few inches over the fluff of drafted fibres to catch and twist into the spun yarn. Let the twist run into the joined fibres, 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 fibres over an already spun section of yarn.)

It is good practice to test the join before continuing. 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 fibres 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 fibres like before. Gently pull out more fibres from the fibre mass by pulling back with your left hand, allowing the twist to run into the drafted fibres.

Navigating Trouble

If your yarn pulls apart, you need to add more twist. To connect the ends back together, untwist both ends again and loosen the fibres. Lay one side on top of the other and twist the fibres together like before.

If the spindle gets away from you and the twist runs up into the fibre mass, which is a common occurrence for beginners,, stop the spindle and untwist the fibre mass—then start the drafting process again.

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

If there are "fat soft areas", known as slubs in your yarn or thick spots and thin spots, you can keep them and make a novelty yarn. 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 fibres draft out a little.

After you have wound off a considerable amount of singles the spindle will become too 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.

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