DIY Drop-Spindle: fun with beads

A few days back I finally got around to making up some more drop-spindles. For all that I’m still in mourning for having no wheel, I am trying to move on! I really do enjoy spinning with spindle, as well as wheel (although there is a rhythm that one can fall into more serenely with a wheel, I believe), and no matter what I need to have something to spin on! And since I seem to keep giving away my spindles, it’s high time I made some more!

First off there’s this lightweight spindle, which I’ve come to think on affectionately as “Chinoiserie“. The jade ornament was found in a little shop in Chinatown, the bamboo/lacquer chopsticks likewise (in a 10-pack!). I think the grand total for materials cost was about $3.25.

red jade spindle

red jade close-up

There’s a bit of trickiness involved in making the two stay together: I used an x-acto knife to carve down the tip of the chopstick so that it would fit into the central hole in the jade, and then crazy-glued them for safe measures (I am contemplating getting better adhesive — epoxy? — for this sort of thing). The hook is an opened-up eye screw, carefully screwed into the bit of the spindle shaft that was whittled (so both end up going through the ornament’s central hole).

In actuality, this is Chinoiserie “mark 2”, the first having been given to Jodi (I think it might be blurrily featured in this photo) who, sometime known for wearing her hair up with chopsticks, was fairly pleased with this spindle’s construction. Stephanie was also fairly intrigued by my first Chinoiserie, mostly that I had gotten the two parts together; she even made me show it to (a very indulgent) Joe! On the first one, the jade had a design that, to me, looks like little sheep faces :)

Next up are two glass bead spindles:

2 glass bead spindles

I found the glass beads at Arton Beads, for about $2 each. While they are pretty, sparkley, and have a good whorl shape (round and disk-like), their central holes are rather large. My 1/4″ dowelling was too narrow, so I had to find something else for the spindle shaft.

The solution? Cheap paintbrush handles! With some applied force (aided by pliers) I was able to pull the brush-part off of otherwise nice, pre-varnished, tapered and turned wooden handles, just right for spindle shafts! You just need to sand down the part where the brush had been (in exactly the way I did not for the green spindle because I was too lazy), or make-pointy with a pencil-sharpener (as I actually did for the blue spindle). I am very pleased with these as spindle-shafts, and at about $1.25 per paintbrush I think they’re a great deal. Their slight bulge gives enough diameter that the glass whorl-beads don’t slip off; for each of these I’ve just jammed the bead on tightly from ‘above’, no adhesive. Which way is ‘above’ depends on if you’re wanting a high-whorl or low-whorl spindle!

blue low-whorl spindle
Low-whorl spindle; I chose to not add any hooks or notches.

green high-whorl spindle
High-whorl spindle; again, I used a simple eye-screw for the hook.

I don’t have an electric scale yet, so I can’t give accurate weights for any of these spindles, but I’d guess around 1-1.5oz each with Chinoiserie being lighter than the other two. Of the three, I am surprisingly fond of the blue low-whorl one, which spins fast and true. I am most definitely going to be scouring bead stores for future spindle-whorls!

As ever, if you make any spindles or whatnots inspired by my DIY efforts, drop me a line or link — I’d love to see what you’re making!



Filed under crafting, DIY, drop-spindle, spinning

16 responses to “DIY Drop-Spindle: fun with beads

  1. How does that work for spinning? I see that shot of Jodi in action, but I’ve only ever seen using a proper spinning wheel.

  2. Em

    Hi there, K1T2 pal!

    “I Can Spin” has some videos of various spindle-spinning techniques if you’d like to really see how it’s done, or just YouTube search “drop spindle” and tonnes of thing show up!

    Basically, the whorl of the spindle provides just a bit of weight, so once the spindle is given a flick, it spins around. Your fibre is attached to the shaft, so it gets twisted too — you draft it out, letting
    the twist lock the fibres together and it makes yarn! (I’ve got some good links on my “link” page for how-to handouts and articles if you want a more technical explanation.)

    Spindles have the advantage of being light and portable, easy to pick up/put down, and far more
    affordable than spinning wheels. You also have more control over many elements of your spinning, because it’s completely *hands on*! I
    definitely urge you (ok, pretty well *everyone*!) to try spinning, and spindles are often much more accessible to get started right away (whether you make you own spindle of purchase one). Let me know if you decide to “give it a whirl”! (har har, spinner’s humour…)

  3. Lady O

    These are amazing! All the DIY spindles I’ve seen before are kind of crappy looking, but these are really nice.

    I’m always overwhelmed by Chinatown, and tend to just walk through it rather than looking at anything. And I clearly need to get to Arton Beads.

  4. Very nice spindles! I signed up for a drop spindle class at my LYS in November. Can’t wait to get started. And possibly make some spindles…..

  5. Oooooh! They’re all gorgeous :-)

    Any for sale?

  6. Woah thanks for all the great info!! I’m really tempted to go try a spinning class or something, just to get a taste hands-on.

    P.S. — your package is in the mail!!

  7. Good job on your spindles, they are certainly easier than mine! I kind of fixated on the turned spindle part of the thing, but paint brush handles are a really good idea.

    I used gorilla glue to glue the whorls and hooks in. I shaped the hooks out of those super heavy T pins that you use for wigs and stuff.

    The beads and stuff cost very little, and these will spin as well as any. You can also build up the dowel surface with acrylic filler for false fingernails, that works really well.

    Have fun!

  8. Lady O

    I went to Arton beads this week (finally) – OMG it is amazing!

    I now have beads for making spindles…

  9. Tanja

    we have Beads ( Perlen ), too.

  10. Nora

    Oh, those are nice! I’ve been wanting to learn and those are so much better than the cd spindle I was contemplating.

    And, just FYI, if you ever decide you want to try making a charkha or a wheel, there are “make your own” directions at:

    I want to try one of those sometime… but I need to learn to spin first!

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  11. Pingback: Spindster part 2 « damp city knits :

  12. What a clever post! I did a of blogging for dummies over on one of the CPA Marketing forums and I thought it was too simple for them, but the sum of emails I got asking questions just like what you addressed was unbelievable. As young people today we have grown up with computers, but it’s easy to forget that even individuals just a a couple of years older have not! Really good post! :)

  13. Hey there. =)
    This article is rather old but still veeery valuable. Don’t know if you still update your blog but I wanted to thank you anyway for your great ideas. I might borrow some for creating my own drop spindle(s) any time soon. =D I’ll certainly let you know! =D

  14. Pingback: Spindster part 2 | Tin Can Knits

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