My grandmother had her mother’s spinning wheel stored in a building out back; I remember looking at it with fascination when I was a young girl, but I had no idea what it was all about. Nan, my grandmother, was not about to make her own thread with modern factories churning out 1950’s fabrics by the mile, so she eventually got rid of it. Recently, I saw one at a roadside yard sale for three hundred dollars, but finding one today, even at such a high price, is a rare thing indeed. Is the spinning wheel, like hand-spinning yarn, a relic of the past? Not yet – today’s homesteaders are keeping the art and craft of spinning yarn alive. Let’s talk about making our own yarn from natural fibers using a spindle.
Are There Other Yarn Fibers than Wool?
The natural fibers most used for making yarn come from animals, plants and insects. These varied sources range from sheepswool, mohair from Angora goats, to wool from alpaca llamas, silk from silkworms, and flax fibers.
Preparing the Yarn
Once you have the fiber with which you will be spinning your yarn, you have to make a long, narrow “roving” by carding these fibers. What’s Carding? It’s a simple and necessary process which involves taking two brushes with wire pins embedded in them, and working the clumps of raw fiber to break down and align the threads so that they more or less lay parallel to each other in a long bunch of fiber called a roving – which you need if you want to spin thread or yarn. Fortunately, if you wish to bypass this process, you can buy roving that is already carded and ready to spin.
Once you have your roving, you’re ready to spin yarn. Now you just need something to spin it on…
Forget the Spinning Wheel: Spin Yarn on a Spindle!
Don’t want to drop a ton of money on an antique spinning wheel? (Although – how cool would it be to have a real spinning wheel in your living room?! Talk about a conversation piece!) A drop spindle is an inexpensive and easy-to-make yarn spinner! To make a drop spindle, you need:
1piece of dowel, about a foot long
1 wooden disc with a hole equal to the diameter of the dowel in the center.
1 metal hook to screw in the top
18 inches of any kind of string or yarn. The first photo above is a composite of spindles made by people in the Andes Mountains for spinning yarn. Between the link and the pictures above, you should have no problem putting the spindle together.
Keep reading for spinning step-by-step, including a VIDEO!