We have been getting lots of questions from folks wanting to try out new crafts now that most of us are spending a lot more time at home. We're excited that lots of new fiber artists are going to enter the world! Since we're getting so many questions we decided to make a series of blog posts with some basic info to start you off with several different fiber craft disciplines! This week we're going to cover: Spinning!
Since long ago in human history, we discovered that adding twist to fiber will make that fiber stronger for uses in clothing, ship sales, ropes, etc. The earliest methods of spinning yarn were all done using hand spindles. At some point the spinning wheel, a more mechanized and efficient method than the spindle, was invented. We're going to cover both spindles and spinning wheels that we like to recommend for newbie spinners.
Starting With A Spindle
A spindle is a straight rod, typically wooden, that is designed to twist, or spin, fiber into yarn. We like to recommend that beginners start out on a spindle first before jumping to a wheel because there is less movement to juggle with wheel spinning and the cost of entry is much lower for a spindle than a wheel. Some spindles are weighted at the top, middle or bottom of the rod by a whorl. Whorls are typically round and come in a variety of configurations and materials. We tend to suggest top whorl drop spindles for our beginner spinners. Really any spindle could be a beginner spindle, so pick what you like, but we have gathered some affordable options that are tried and tested with beginner spinners.
- Ashford Student Drop Spindle, this is a top whorl drop spindle that is specifically designed with beginners in mind. It's a great low cost but quality spindle.
- Louet Octo Drop Spindle, another beginner spindle that would be an excellent first spindle. This one is a little lighter than the Ashford so it might be a better choice if you're wanting to spin fine yarns.
- Galina Turkish Spindle - Small, A Turkish style spindle would not be our go to suggestion for most beginners because they tend to not be as easy to get going as the top whorl options and there is the added skill of learning how to wind on the Turkish Spindle coop. But if you're interesting in spinning and already dead set on a Turkish style then we like this simple option.
There are plenty of great free spinning resources available on the wide world of YouTube. Here are some of our absolute favorite videos for getting started with a spindle!
Starting With A Wheel
If you're absolutely sure you're going to become a serious spinner then there is no reason you can't start with a wheel instead of a spindle. Maybe you've already tried spinning with a spindle and really enjoyed it or you are the type of person who doesn't mind a higher learning curve if you intend to become a wheel spinner long term anyway. Like spindles, really any wheel can work for a beginner but we do have some favorites that tend to work out better for newbies to the craft.
- Ashford Kiwi 3, This is our absolute go to suggestion for beginner wheel spinners because of it's nearly unbeatable price point and flexibility. The Kiwi is marketed as a beginner wheel but it will definitely last you for years to come with its robust construction and availability of add on accessories. The treadles can be folded up for easier transport.
- Schacht Ladybug, another great wheel for people just starting out! A solid sturdy wheel that is also darn cute! It's easy to treadle and designed to be lightweight.
- Lendrum Original Double Treadle Complete Package, another excellent wheel. This complete package has tons of extra add ons like a Plying head and bobbins which will be very helpful if you're going to get serious about spinning a lot of yarn.
Our number one favorite way to choose a wheel is to try them in person, but we understand that is difficult at the moment. We have this Find Your Perfect Spinning Wheel Quiz that is not a perfect substitute for trying wheels in person, but might be able to give you some insight.
We also have a couple YouTube videos to recommend for people wanting to get started on a wheel instead of a spindle!
Fiber Suggestions For Beginners
The best part of spinning, the fiber! Like with everything else we've talked about, technically any fiber could be a beginner fiber but we have some suggestions that take out some potential pitfalls for beginner spinners. We definitely recommend going for a wool option as your first fiber. Wool has a nice long staple length (but not too long), is gentle on the hands, and is all around the best choice for a spinner who is just starting out.
- Heinz 57 Top, this is an affordable mixed breed blend of wool that is perfect for beginners. It's lofty but grippy and very easy to get spinning!
- Falkland Top, another excellent natural wool for beginners!
- Frabjous Fibers Hand Dyed Wool Top, once you've gotten the idea of drafting and adding twist to your fiber down we highly recommend jumping into some fun hand dyed wools! It's fun to play with how the colors blend together in your hand spun yarn.
While YouTube really is an excellent source for spinning knowledge, we know that sometimes you can't beat a quality book.
- How to Spin by Beth Smith - Expert Beth Smith teaches you everything you need to know to spin your own yarn, from choosing a spinning wheel to every stage of preparing your fiber, plying, winding off, and finishing. Fully illustrated step-by-step instructions make it simple and easy!
- The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning - If you want a comprehensive book on all aspects of spinning, you can't go wrong with Alden's big book. This book examines every aspect of the craft of handspinning from dissolving lanolin to washing fleece, rotating wheel position, choosing wool types and much, much more.
- Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno - Create your dream yarn! Discover the pleasures of designing and building custom-made yarn by spinning it yourself, choosing everything from color to feel and gauge. Jillian Moreno leads you through every step of yarn construction, with detailed instructions and step-by-step photos showing you how to select the fiber you want (wool, cotton, silk, synthetic), establish a foundation, and spin a beautiful yarn with the structure, texture, and color pattern that you want.
Additional Helpful Accessories
These are a few additional tools to help you in your spinning journey. You can get started with just a spindle or wheel but you're going to want to add some additional items to your toolkit pretty quickly.
- A Niddy Noddy is a tool that will help you to wind your handspun yarn into a skein. We like both the Kromski and Lendrum varieties.
- A Lazy Kate is a device that will hold bobbins of yarn for you so you can ply them together! If you're using a wheel double check that you don't have a built in Lazy Kate. We recommend choosing a Lazy Kate with tension like the Lendrum.
We hope this is a good jumping off point for your in your spinning journey and we can't wait to see all of the beautiful handspun yarns you create!