Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Spin With a Top-Whorl Drop Spindle

Preface: These are the instructions I have written to go with a new Top-Whorl Drop Spindle Kit I am designing for Wind Rose Fiber Studio. I thought I'd share them with you and when the kits are ready, I'll come back with the link. Happy Spinning!

Top-Whorl Drop Spindle Spinning

Let’s get ready to spin! The string provided in this kit is your leader cord. The leader cord is used to anchor the fiber to the spindle. One end has already been tied to create a loop. Tie the other end to the spindle just below the whorl. Bring the loop end of your leader cord up over the whorl and wrap it around the hook 2 or 3 times to hold it in place. The drop spindle is now ready for spinning.

This is a good time to get a feel for the drop spindle. Hold the loop end of the leader yarn in one hand. Allow the drop spindle to dangle from the leader. Use the fingers of your other hand to give the spindle a spin. You can spin the spindle clockwise or counterclockwise, whichever is more comfortable to you. Clockwise is called a Z-twist and counterclockwise is called an S-twist. Watch the twist travel up the leader cord as the spindle spins. By twisting and untwisting the leader a few times, you will start to get a feel for the weight and spin of the drop spindle. Try switching hands. This will help you decide which hand is more comfortable holding the fiber and which one will spin the spindle.

It’s time to attach the fiber to the leader cord. In your kit there is one ounce of natural wool roving. Separate a length of roving about ¼ inch wide or no more than the width of a pencil. Loosely wrap this thin length of roving around the wrist of the hand that you have decided will be handling the fiber. This will keep it from getting tangled up in the twist as you spin. Insert the first couple inches of fiber through the loop on your leader cord and fold it back onto itself. Hold the end of the fiber and the length of the fiber together with your fiber hand. The fiber and the leader cord should look like interlocking loops. Keeping the fiber pinched between the thumb and the index finger, give the spindle several good spins. Allow the twist to travel up the leader and onto the fibers. This is how you secure the fiber to the leader.

*Parking your spindle – When you are not spinning, hold the spindle under your spinning arm or between your legs to prevent it from unwinding.
Lets get spinning!  One hand spins the spindle while the other holds the fiber.  Park your spindle and use the thumb and forefinger of your spinning hand to pinch the fibers in the same place where your fiber hand was holding the twist.  This frees up your fiber hand to slide back over the roving.  Now gently pull a short length of fiber. The distance should not be greater than the staple length of your roving which, in this case, is about 3”.  The fiber between your spinning hand and your fiber hand should look like a long skinny triangle.  This is called the drafting triangle.  To spin an even yarn, you will want your drafting triangles to be of an even thickness.

Now, with the fiber hand holding the wide end of the drafting triangle, release the pinch of your spinning hand and watch as the twist travels up the triangle to your fiber hand.  You just spun your first few inches of yarn!
Lets keep going! Holding the fiber in your fiber hand, spin the drop spindle and then park it. Once again, use your spinning hand to hold the pinch and draw out another triangle of fiber. Your fiber hand is holding onto the wide end of the triangle and you release your drafting hand. The twist travels up the next few inches. Keep going in the same technique until the yarn reaches about 12” or becomes difficult to handle. Then unwrap the yarn from the hook and wind it onto the spindle under the whorl. Leave enough length to bring the yarn back up over the whorl and to wrap around the hook a couple times. Then you can go back to your spinning.
*Wrapping a Cone - As you wrap your twisted yarn onto the spindle, do so in such a way that it forms a cone. The yarn just below the whorl should be the fat part of the cone. This helps to keep the spindle from wobbling as you spin.
This style of spinning a few inches at a time is appropriately called the Inchworm Method. It’s a wonderful way to start. The more spinning you do, the more control you will feel for the twist of the yarn and the spin of the spindle. As time goes by, you will find yourself spinning more freely. Many spinners stand when they create and will spin several feet at a time before they wind the yarn onto the spindle. Others like to sit, but will still allow the spindle to almost reach the floor before wrapping their yarn. The inchworm method is also great for spinning in the car or on a plane. Drop spindles are great for travel.
You should be feeling very good right now. You have officially become a spinner! Welcome to the community!
There is still a little more you will need to know. Let’s take it one step at a time:
*Adding more roving – At some point that nice piece of roving around your wrist is going to run out. Pull another length of roving from your ounce. Lay the end of fiber from your drop spindle over the end of the new length of roving. Pull on them together to form the next drafting triangle.
*I finished spinning all of my roving, now what? - Now you have two choices. You can decide to keep this as a singles yarn (one ply), or you can spin another singles and ply them together.
*Finishing a Singles yarn - There are lots of special tools spinners use, but the truth is, you really don’t have to have any special equipment to finish your yarn. Set your drop spindle in a basket or a shoe box so it won’t roll away from you. Wind your yarn around your hand and your elbow creating a large loop. If that feels awkward, you could wrap the yarn around a book. You are winding your yarn into a hank. Tie the beginning and ending strings to the hank using a couple small strips of string. Now it’s time to set the twist by giving your yarn a nice bath. Fill a tub or the sink with warm water and add a little liquid soap. Submerge your hank of yarn and let it soak for around 20 minutes. You don’t want to agitate your yarn too much or the wool will begin to felt. After the 20 minutes have passed, gently rinse any soap from your yarn and roll it up in a dry towel. Press down, even stand on the towel to remove as much water as possible. Then hang your hank over the shower to dry. If it is still twisting up a bit, this means your yarn has a little more twist than it needs. to help stretch out these twists, put your hank over the shower curtain rod and then add some weight to it. You could use an S hook and a can of paint or some people will take large cans from the pantry and insert them into the looped ends like a hammock. Use your imagination.

*Finishing a 2ply yarn – There are no hard and fast rules, but in general, When spinners make a plied yarn, they will spin their singles yarns in a Z-twist or clockwise and then ply them spinning counterclockwise in an S-twist.  When you complete your first singles yarn, do not wash the yarn to set the twist.  Wind the yarn into a ball.  You may want to have the drop spindle in a box or basket to keep it from traveling.  Make your second singles yarn and then wind that into a ball as well.  When you ply your two singles together, put each ball of yarn into it’s own container so they will not get tangled together.  Your fiber hand will hold your two singles yarns together.  You will attach them to the leader yarn and spin just like you did the fiber.  Just remember, if you spun your two singles counterclockwise, then you ply them clockwise and vice versa. When you have finished plying your singles, Wash and set the twist just as explained in Finishing a Singles yarn.

I hope you enjoy spinning with your top-whorl drop spindle.  The important thing is to relax and just let it come.  Tense fingers and sweaty palms tend to impede the process.  Also, remember to celebrate your first skeins of yarn.  Thick or thin or a little of both, they are wonderful!  Drop spindle spinning dates back more than 8000 years.  You are connecting with an ancient art and keeping it alive!


Redd said...

Question! When you ply the yarn, do you set the twist first on the singles with the water bath and drying or do you do that after it's been plyed?

Jenn said...

Good Question! I'll have to edit that in. No, you don't set the twist before plying.

Thanks! I was hoping for questions and comments that would help me improve this "how to" before I start selling the kits. If anything else is unclear or sounds confusing, please let me know.


Redd said...

Wish I had known that before I set the twist in the wool yesterday lol

Everything else sounds really clear and great. Another suggestion for the wool hanging to dry for beginners is/are clothes hangers! They pull it quite nicely. I usually use 3-4.

Sacia said...

Howdo you make more than one ply. How do you ply the yarn?