Thick and thin

My 3 beginner spindle-spinning tips

There are loads of good tutorials even for free on spinning with a spindle. I’ve also included links to good resources below. But I feel like these were some missing tips which I’ve discovered in my first weeks of spinning.

  1. Don’t use dyed combed tops in a smooth wool or smooth fibre for a first attempt. Check if the fibre has felted, and avoid it for a first attempt. Try something wooly; medium wool fluffy roving is easier!
  2. Don’t over-rely on pre-drafting. Learn to pull the fibres from your source and spread or pull them out as you go.
  3. Take the risk of moving from park and draft to suspended even before you think you’re ready. Dropping a spindle isn’t really a big deal.

The beginner thread in the Spindle spinners group on Ravelry has loads of great advice and links.

I finally had the Spinning Breakthrough Moment!

Trusting the advice of Abby Franquemont in her book and the downloadable video, I practiced a minimum of 15 mins for a couple of weeks. I parked, I drafted. It took me a while to get over the awkwardness of controlling the spindle, and handling the wool. I was using an Octo drop spindle from Louet, which weighs 39g. I think that is a lighter weight category. I didn’t really even know that until yesterday.

I read a post on Ravelry which exclaimed great success after JUST three days of spinning. I was struggling still after a few weeks… I was parked in park and draft city. This was a photo of what it was looking like:

parked and drafted singles

Then on Sunday, it just sort of dawned on me and I went from sitting to standing. This is kind of a horrible picture because I’m still wearing my pajamas AND my shirt is inside out, but hey! I was having a happy moment.spinning

My spin was starting to get wonky a bit thick and thin, but I was spinning suspended 🙂

Thick and thin

Held back by too much pre-drafting?

One thing which I’m convinced held me back is doing too much pre-drafting. My wool was a thick combed top and a bit felted in places because it was hand-dyed. Using that was probably a mistake to begin with.

screenshot from videoBut Abby’s video didn’t explain how she got her long, slim, fluffy rainbow wool. I think the course could have been improved by starting with explaining how you might find your wool, in what form or condition. Then explain how to prepare it for spinning. Or maybe just explaining what she was spinning with.

So I was dividing the combed tops down into thinner pieces, then pre-drafting the full thing to be like what Abby’s wool was like. This meant I was actually just spinning off the long piece with very little actual drafting motion needed when spinning.

On Ravelry, I saw a post by MonaLykaina about pre-drafting.

“I’ve recently watched and helped several beginners, and I’m becoming more and more wary of this concept of “pre-drafting”.. When you take it all apart into fragile whisps of fibre it is much more difficult to spin suspended, to get enough twist in before it starts falling apart, and to learn to draft consistently. I actually think that if you have to make a bit more of an effort to pull fibres out of the top, it is easier to keep the thickness consistent.

That point came at just the right time. It made me re-think what I was doing and try to figure out how to pull the fibres out of a thicker tube. So next time I only divided the combed top by half long ways. I was using a short draw method, using both hands to pull out bits of wool and feed it to the twist. Problem is, with my hands both occupied I still couldn’t figure out how to “let go” of the spindle.

Letting go, finally

I took 3 days off spinning after I returned from the US. And the next time I picked up the spindle, I was spinning outside talking to my fella. As I was explaining park and draft, I said, “At some point I have to try and let go of this”, and I was like “DUH, try it.” So I did and the light bulk just went off.

Almost at once I stood up because as I was feeding the twist, the spindle needed more height. I “dropped” the spindle once during the rest of my spinning.

And boom, I was spinning suspended instead of park and draft.

Every article or forum post mentioned the ah-ha moment, and I was waiting patiently. And finally it happened!

I had about 2 fifths of the yarn remaining on Sunday and I spun right through it after I learned how to spin suspended. It was loads of fun, and very fast. I was sort of sad the wool was finished but it was on to the next challenge: plying! I’ll post that tomorrow.

Useful “learn to spindle spin” resources

This is probably the most expensive yarn I own. €10 for the combed top of BFL. Then a book, then a video download and a Craftsy class. Not counting the hours, heh. These three are all really great resources.

  • Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. This book is fun to read, and also has loads of pretty pictures of spindles. There are also clear step by step photos.
  • Respect the Spindle DVD. This is a video companion to the book. The first explanations are very clear on how twist works. Later, she does explain the types of spindles. There are also great little tips for efficiency. She makes sure to go into detail about hand positions which are awkward.
  • Spindling from Fluff to stuff Craftsy course with the ethereal Drucilla Pettibone. It’s very clear, and she shows a variety of wools and how to work with them differently. Drucilla also shows different spindles and how you use them. And even how to fashion your own tools such as a lazy kate made out of a box. (like this one!)

If you want to get a flavour for Abby’s video, this is a good sample! I love her frank way of speaking and she is very easy to understand. She clearly explains twist and how it works.


And next up! Start on my next handspun…

This is a wooly dinosaur egg, or actually a big ball of medium grey wool roving from Sankow’s farm, which I visited recently. I started spinning it, and it’s much easier to spin than the BFL. It’s like it wants to grab onto the other fibres. I think I’m still doing short draw, so I plan on trying to learn how to long draw. Though I’m not 100% convinced I could do that unless I had “rolags”?

Sankow farm roving

I want to spin through that before I start trying the fibres from Northbound Knitting. There’s some great photos of “More Gin Please” yarns. How lovely!


Fibres from Northbound Knitting
Fibres from Northbound Knitting