The Dropped Spindle

This evening will mark a week since the spinning obsession began. I’m still intrigued, fascinated, perplexed by the whole notion of spinning, and expect to continue to be so for a long time (or until something else comes up).

Some things I have learned in my first week:

– It is not called a drop spindle for nothing. “Dropped” spindle would be even more appropriate.

– Knitting is much easier to teach your self than spinning, if you rely upon internet resources. Knitters share. Spinners hoard their esoteric knowledge: perhaps one needs to find the appropriate coven (guild?) before one can be initiated into the Way of the Spindle.

– Concensus appears to dictate that while it is easier to learn how to spin on a drop spindle, this is only to draw you into spinning on a wheel. Anyone who wants to spin on a drop spindle alone must be some flavour of crazy. Even knitters appear to support this, with most of the handspun “yarn prOn” displayed on knitblogs being the product of a Louet, Journeywheel, Ashford*, or whatever.

– If you really do want to learn how to spin on a drop spindle, most of the how-to articles available online appear geared to the casual crafter, or even teen/kid crafts. Not that this is inherently bad, (I think encouraging anyone, especially young people, is great), but if you’re trying to figure out why you should do x or the how x is the best method, there’s not much out there….

– … except for Spindlicity, which seems very promising. I’ve already read through pretty-much the entire archive of articles, and have picked up several good tips. I have hope that Spindlicity will become the Knitty for drop-spindlers.

– I think I’m spinning “backwards”: in that, while I’m rotating the spindle clockwise for my singles, it’s my right hand that holds the unspun fibres. I’ve tried it the other way lots, and just end up with really terribly drafted fibres, really slubby singles, and/or a dropped spindle. Why, if I can teach myself to knit English and Continental, and am right-handed naturally, can I not spin the way everyone does in the pictures?

– There has got to be a better way of holding lots of fibre than the bolster on my couch. That way has me constantly pausing to turn around an pick up the next puff, and contains the constant threat of one of The Horribles coughing up a brightly-coloured merino hairball. What is this elusive “wrist distaff”, and how do I make one?

– I like the BFL better than the merino. Is merino harder to spin for everyone, or do I just suck?

Drafting from the fold is so far the most successful drafting method for me. I can get a nice, relatively-even, thinner single with this method (& the BFL).

– Plying is hard. The two-jars method just ended up with me cursing a lot and possibly ruining my already badly-spun first two spindle’s worth of singles. I think I’m going to try to find a way to make a cheap DIY “lazy kate”, and transfer spindlefuls onto little bobbins rather than winding my singles into balls.

Despite all my bitching, I’m really loving this spinning thing. I’ m finding it even more relaxing than knitting in some ways, and am going to stick with it. I have this crazy dream that someday I can scoff at all those wheel spinners as I display my beautiful, even, spindle-spun yarns…

*I can talk the talk, but I can’t afford to walk the walk!



Filed under drop-spindle, how-to, rambling, spinning, Uncategorized

5 responses to “The Dropped Spindle

  1. Hey!

    I just started spinning recently too & love Spindlicity. From what I understand, some spinners really love the spindle because it is so flexible and easy to use. The only drawback I’m having personally is trying to spin enough yarn for a project.

    Merino totally sucks when you are a beginner — its a fine wool. I love the stuff I got at paradise fibers (they are so friendly) in their bargain bin (columbia/dorset blend).

    Just so you know, you are not spinning backwards since you are still putting a Z twist into your singles when you are going clockwise. It’s the direction of the twist that counts. (I also hold the fiber with my right hand, but from what I understand few people do this…it’s how I learned and it just feels more comfy).

    Connie Delaney’s book has an example of how to make a wrist distaff. I tried it but it didn’t work so well for me. I decided instead just to lightly wrap the yarn around my wrist. A small, loose bracelet (I have some meditation beads I sometimes use) works well too.

    I found that Andean plying works well for the spindle. Knitty has a really great tutorial on another, easier version of it in Knitty Spin (can’t remember the issue offhand, but I think it was maybe winter last year…). Works better than the jars and bowls, since there is fairly even tension in the yarn. Unfortunately if you ply this way, you have to pretty much set aside time only for plying (about 30-60 min) because your yarn is wound around your wrist and attached to your spindle.

    Hope some of this helps you. I really recommend the book “Spinning the Old Way” by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. It gives a really comprehensive overview of spindle spinning and she is a champion of the spindle.

    Good luck!


  2. Em

    Thanks for the words of encouragement! I’m glad that it’s really not just me, both in drafting-from-the right (I keep trying the left, and it’s so very much not working) and in my poor use of merino. Perhaps I’ll just put the merino aside for a bit, and check out this “bargain bin” you speak of…

    Thanks also for the book advice. I think I’ve got the PGR on call from my library, so here’s hoping it comes through soon!

  3. R.

    I love your observations on spinning! I know that it seems there’s not a lot of information about spindling out there, but that’s because of another of your observations… for most people, the spindle is just a quick stop on the way to a wheel. Very few people actually take the time to explore the variety in spindling or get proficient at it. This ( is a really good page about spindle spinning. If you keep at it, you can definitely produce even yarns on a spindle.

    I switch between holding the fiber with my left and right, and just spin with whichever hand I have free.

    Welcome to spindling! I’m not surprised that you love it; everyone does.

  4. There are some spinning blogs out there (mine … and more :-) ) though most are on wheel spinning. But you will find a hoard of knowledgeable and sharing spindle-folk on two email lists (at least!): spindlers and spindlitis on If you post a question you’re bound to get at least one answer — probably more. And here’s to more spindling blogs! I’d love that. has a great set of drop spindle videos by Abby Franquemont — look for her name or look for the handspinning group to see spindle, wheel, and combing videos on youtube.

    Happy Spindling!

  5. Katia

    A reply long after the original post, I know but:

    I spin “backwards” as well. Though I ply the other way. Go figure. Guess it has to do with liking to spin the spindle away from the hand that spins it? That is, when I spin it to the right, I want to use my left hand, and vice versa? Seems less awkward to me as I can rotate my wrist forward rather than backward. I’m right-handed too, though (though FWIW, as a figure skater, my jumps rotate the opposite way than most people, and apparently this is sorta the “left-handed” way of doing it, so that’s weird about me too).

    As far as holding fiber: I can’t stand to wrap it around my wrist, and I use this tiny little tote bag my mom got from her yarn shop. I realized its potential immediately, and as it was too small to quite fit her sock project, she let me have it. It’s maybe 5 or 6 inches square (smaller might work well too, it’d just hold less fiber), and it just hangs from my wrist and holds the fiber, which I loop loosely and put into it. It stays out of the way, doesn’t get caught on stuff, and just pulls out as I go without me even noticing (unlike wrapping it around my wrist, where I’d have to keep twisting my wrist to get it off and that drives me nuts). I put it on my wrist so the yarn is coming out the end that is to the outside of my body (that way it doesn’t get tangled). Maybe you can find or make something similar?

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