Beginner's Tutorials for using a Drop Spindle
If you knit or crochet and want to use unique yarns, or you simply want to learn to hand spin wool as a hobby, you've come to the right place!
Below you will find beginner's tutorials on spinning your own yarn using a simple wooden spindle, as well as instructions on how to then dye the finished yarn. It's a great craft to master, and if you want to progress further, you can then decide to invest in a spinning wheel. You can also get creative by designing your own art yarns.
I hope you are inspired to give this hobby a try :-)
Handspun Art Yarn
Top Spinning Tools, Supplies & Books
Spinning is so easy to get started with because all you need is wool roving and a drop spindle. For beginners I would recommend buying a book of instructions too because then you will have in-depth advice and tips, plus plenty of inspiration, all in one place.
Brief Introduction To Spinning
Spinning is the twisting together of loose fibers (such as wool roving) in order to create yarn. It is done with a drop spindle or a spinning wheel.
On this page I will deal with the drop spindle, as it is the best way for beginners to start spinning (because it's portable and cheap). You can then buy a spinning wheel if you decide you would like to progress with your spinning hobby.
To learn to spin, you will need a spindle or wheel, carded or combed fiber*, and a length of yarn to use as a 'leader'. The leader is for attaching the fibers to the spindle in order to start spinning.
*Fibers are prepared for spinning by being carded or combed (you can buy the fiber pre-carded or pre-combed, or you can do this yourself with the right tools). Carded fiber is where tangles have been removed and the fibers have been neatened up, but not all of the fibers have been aligned - some are still going in different directions. The more fibers out of line, the fluffier and airier the spun yarn will be (best suited to knitting). Combed fiber is where all the fibers are aligned, therefore resulting in a smoother, more compact yarn (best suited to weaving).
There are 3 types of drop spindle; top-whorl, bottom-whorl and supported.
Top-whorls are sticks ('spindles') with a disc ('whorl') at the top, bottom-whorls are sticks with a disc at the bottom, and supported spindles are not suspended in the air, but instead they are rested on the ground/table. The whorl/disc is the weight that keeps the spindle spinning.
Bottom-whorl spindles are better for plying yarns, and are best if you want to produce chunkier yarns. Top-whorl spindles are usually lighter and spin faster. They are better suited to spinning fine yarns.
To produce a yarn suitable for knitting or crocheting, you must also do a process called 'plying'. This is where 2 or more 'singles' (single lengths of spun yarn) are twisted together, producing 'plied' yarn.
Drop spindles can spin almost any fiber you want from, wool to silk. The fibers must be pre-drafted before spinning, which simply involves pulling the fibers to make the thickness you want to work with. So the less you slide the fibers apart i.e. the less you draft, the bulkier the fibers, and the chunkier the finished yarn will be. As you get used to spinning, you can draft as you spin.
Drop Spindle Instructions - Handspinning For Beginners
Starting off with a drop spindle is the cheapest and easiest way to start spinning, so that's what I will be mainly covering on this page. It's a great way for beginners to learn the concepts and techniques of spinning, and it's portable too so you can practice anywhere!
If you would then like to move on to using spinning wheels, there are useful books, classes and other websites you can use to learn.
Good luck, and have fun!
- Tips, Advice & Articles
Great introductions to using a drop spindle and plying yarn.
Great collection of how-tos on carding, spinning and making a spindle.
- Types Of Drop Spindle
Have a look through the sidebar on the left for more excellent information.
- Spindle Advice
The types, woods and weights available.
- Spinning With a Drop Spindle
A three part spinning tutorial masterclass.
- Learning to Spin
Dyeing, spinning and fiber preparation lessons, plus projects.
- DIY Spindles & Much More
Thorough guide on fiber prep, homemade spindles and wheels, plus lots more.
- Drop Spindle Spinning Guide
A free e-book to teach you everything you need to know about this technique.
- Types of Wool Carding & Combing
Ways of preparing wool for spinning.
Hand Spinning Videos
Dyeing Your Own Yarn
More Beginner's Guides - Further Information On This Creative Hobby
- Turkish Spindle
How to use this style of spindle, plus a spinning glossary.
- Carding & Plying Yarns
A few videos showing you more drop spindle techniques.
- From Fleece to Yarn
The journey from sheep fleece to hand dyed yarn.
- Recycled Cotton Art Yarn
How sweaters were recycled on a spinning wheel.
- Fiber Art Videos
Mostly wheel spinning, but there are also ideas on what to do with art yarn.
- All About Spinning
The history of drop spindles, plus current tips and techniques.
- Illustrated Instructions
Diagrams and drawings of different spinning steps.
- Winding Your Own Yarn
How to use a fun gadget to wind your yarn into a hank.
Yarn Dyeing Videos
DIY Hand Dyed Yarn
As well as using commercial dyes, you could also use Kool-Aid colors, or food dyes - as demonstrated in these tutorials:
- Crock-Pot Dyeing
Creating variegated yarn with Kool-Aid.
- Kool-Aid Ice Cubes
Using the heat of the sun to dye your yarn in multicolors.
- Handpainting Yarn
Brushing acid dyes directly onto the yarn.
- Self-Striping Sock Yarn
Stretching the yarn across the room looks like fun!
- Hot Pour Method
Multicolored yarn made with food dyes.
- Kool-Aid Dyeing
Lots of photos and experimenting with different colors.
- Easter Egg Dyes
This technique produces some really nice color combinations.
- Ombre Dyed Yarn
A technique for creating graduated colour along the length.
- Tie-Dye Rainbow Gradient
Create a beautiful effect by tie-dyeing a pre-knitted 'blank'.
Natural Wood Spools
Please Leave a Comment!
Jenn Dixon from PA on January 21, 2014:
I do a lot of drop spindling. My favorite spindle is a top whorl. Here's a lens I did about spinning a while ago: http://www.squidoo.com/spinning-adventure
evawrites1 on January 19, 2014:
This is so interesting! Thanks!
badmsm on January 17, 2014:
Great Educational Lens! I am working on learning to spin. Lots of LOVE for the Squidoo "Yarnaholic" contributor! <3
bikerministry on November 07, 2012:
I have a spindle from Guatemala and have a few spinning and dying books, but I haven't dove in yet, But, I tell ya, this really makes me want to give it a whirl. Great Lens, thanks for all the hard work putting it out here! Blessings.
June Nash on August 29, 2012:
Hi! I just bought a spindle. I am reading the book Respect The Spindle. I think my spindle is too light for my novice level. I might see if I can make myself one that is heavier. According to the book, if the rim is heavier, then the spindle will spin slower and have less tendency to backspin. For a beginner such as myself, I think it is where I need to start! Thanks for the great lens!
miaponzo on February 19, 2012:
I love spinning and wool and this is a great lens! Thanks! Blessed!
klaird on January 04, 2012:
Great lens! I've added this lens (and others of yours) to my "50 Craft Ideas for Adults"!