A simple spinning on a stick demo for shows

In my previous rant about the student spindle, I pointed out you’d be better off showing people to spin with a CD spindle, and showing them how simple it is to make one, than giving them a way-too-heavy spindle.

You really can spin with anything, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

And spinning with a stick is a great way to teach anyone the power of twist.

How to give a simple handspinning demo with a stick

I did this demo when we went with my guildies to the Rare Breeds Show & Sale recently. This is basically a very condensed version of Abby Franquemont’s Make yarn with a pencil demo. I found I could make it shorter, because you I had lots of takers coming over and waiting to have a go!

Probably all of the terminology will go over someone’s head when you demo this. But the idea of adding twist to keep fibres together will be clearly understood at the end. It looks long, but takes about 7 mins do the demo with groups of 3-4.

Supplies: Good combed top. I used BFL, and it was nice and not compacted. Very important. Sticks. I used sticks from cat toys, chop sticks, etc. Stick should be somewhat smooth if possible?

  1. Set up the challenge: Using combed top, show how to take the very end of the tip and pull a tiny bit out from your fibre supply. Everyone gets a tiny floating piece, which they pull out from the end.
    • Explain this grew from a sheep.
    • Staple length: You can’t pull it apart if you keep your hands close, but if you put your hands at the ends, you can slowly draft out, and pull it apart. Let them see how gently they pull it until it comes apart.
    • OK now we have a challenge! We don’t want it to pull apart. We need twist.
    • At this point they understand that the top is made of fibres that would come apart if you pulled them.
  2. The fibre: Using combed top, rip down a thumb’s width strip about 16 inches long. Give one to each kid, and one for you! (this will come in handy later.)
    • Drafting: Show how you can gently pull the fibre again, but don’t pull too hard because you will pull it apart. Move along the length, and show how you can draft.
    • If someone breaks theirs, hand them yours.
  3. The stick: Now add the stick.
    • With your thumb holding down on the end of the fibre, show how you take the other end and wind it around the stick.
    • If they run our of space they can push it down.
  4. The magic reveal: Check the twist!
    • Take someone’s example, and unroll it. Show how the twist was added when they wrapped around the stick, and it’s not lost when you unroll it.
    • Show you can tug it and it won’t come apart.
    • Ask: Why is that? At this point they can see they added twist and the fibres won’t come apart.
    • You might need to add a little twist as you unwind, to help it along!
  5. Plying and tying
    • You hold both ends and ask them to hold the centre point. Then you bring two ends together to fold it. You can explain this is “plying” which means to fold.
    • And you tie the two ends together to lock the twist.
    • Then they can see their little fibre strip now looks like yarn!
  6. Let them take it home. They are delighted to have something they can take with them. So simple 🙂

Below you can see all the lovely new yarn they made. Usually, the kids were automatically comparing and could see some were better than others.  If they start comparing, you could ask what they think they could do to improve – and they can usually figure it out!

Troubleshooting

In this example, where mum is helping, they are wrapping it the wrong way, letting the fibres slip so they wrap flat.  She was leading the fibre to wrap around the stick without adding twist. You can see the fibre is flat against the stick. We spotted that and then the kid got set up and was able to do this on her own. She was 4!

Handspinning with a pencil

Abby Franquemont breaks down a demo of teaching spinning on a pencil. You can learn enough in this demo to understand staple length, drafting and the power of twist.

Handspinning from the tip of a stick

This technique is an upgrade from that would be to spin off the tip from a stick. This is nearly how the Navajo Spindle works, except without the whorl. It would work if you had people sitting down, so they could get to their lap easier.