Introduction: Learning How to Make Yarn With a DIY Drop Spindle!
I am constantly looking for new crafting skills to learn, And since I have been getting more into knitting lately, I thought trying to make my own yarn would be fun!
I am by no means an expert in spinning yarn, I am simply a novice trying to impart the wisdom I have learned in my yarn spinning journey so far. The process of making yarn is actually really simple, it just takes a lot of time to get really good at it.
In this instructable I will be showing you the process of making a drop spindle, preparing wool roving for spinning, spinning yarn on a drop spindle, how to ply together your singles, and finally how to set the twist and finish off your yarn!
Step 1: Resources I Used
Since I knew nothing about making yarn, I gathered a lot of info from other sources to help me figure out what I was doing. Here are some of the things I used
these are books I got at my local library. If you can, going to the craft section of your local library is a great way to find books on all kinds of hobby's. The books I got are
Spin to Knit by Shannon Okey
A Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn by Brenda Gibson
The Spinner's Book of Fleece by Beth Smith
and Spinning and Dying Yarn by Ashley Martineau
These books all contained a lot of the same information, but out of these I thing Spinning and Dying Yarn by Ashley Martineau was my favorite. The photos are beautiful and clear, the instructions are well written, and it was full of great DIY projects perfect for someone who wants to get into making yarn. There is even instructions on how to make a spinning wheel out of PVC pipes and an old bicycle wheel.
Step 2: Supplies
To make your drop spindle you will need
A wooden dowel
A wooden toy wheel (You can find them at Michaels)
You will also need wool for spinning. I use wool roving since its already been processed and is ready to spin.
Step 3: Making the Drop Spindle
To make the drop spindle, take a small amount of wood glue on a brush and brush a bit of glue on the dowel where you want the whorl (the wooden toy wheel) to sit. A top whorl spindle has the top of the spindle and a bottom whorl has it at the bottom. You can find an explanation of the differences between the 2 here. At this point you can also use sandpaper to make the wood smoother.
Once the whorl is attached you can add your hook to the top of your spindle. I had to drill a small hole it the top of my spindle to get the hook screwed in but you might be able to get away with screwing it in without drilling a hole.
I also painted little sheep around the whorl of my spindle. This is not necessary but is very cute.
Step 4: Pre-Drafting Your Wool
I have found this step is very important in getting nice even (ish) yarn.
First I like to pull of some of the wool from the big ball of roving. Place your hands about 6 inches apart and grasp both hands firmly on the wool. Then gently pull your hands away from each other until you have removed the chunk of yarn you want. I also like to pull out smaller strips of yarn from the big piece so they are easier to work with.
Now to pre-draft, take one end of the strip of wool is your hand while your other hand holds the wool about 6 inches down on the strip. With the hand holding the end of the wool begin to gently pull on the end while the other hand holds firm. Don't break this piece off, you just want to separate the fibers so it is easier to spin. Repeat this process on the rest of the wool. Above you can see photos of my wool before and after pre-drafting.
Step 5: Spinning
Now you are ready to spin!
Some people like to use a leader yarn to attach the wool to the spindle, but I've found just hooking the wool on the hook to work out just fine.
To start your spinning take the end of your wool and hook it around the spindles hook. Pinch the wool together with your left hand and spin your spindle clockwise. Whenever you are not spinning hold the spindle between your knees to stop you yarn from unwinding. To continue spinning, take your right hand and pinch the yarn right under where your left hand was. With your left hand gently pull on the un-spun yarn until it is at your desired thickness. Pinch the un-spun wool with your left hand about 1 or 2 inches away from where your right hand is pinching the wool. Let go of the wool in your right hand. You should see the twist travel up the yarn. Keep spinning your spindle clockwise until you feel the twist travel up to where the yarn is pinched in your left hand. Then you repeat that process until you cant lift your arm any higher to keep spinning. At this point you will need to take the yarn you have spun and wind it around the spindle under the worl. This can be a little bit tricky when you first wind on a new bit of yarn, but after it gets a lot easier. You are also going to need to leave enough yarn unwound so you can bring it back up to the hook and wrap the yarn around the hook a few times before you can start spinning again. When you run out of wool you are going to need to attach more. To attach more wool, take the wool already on the spindle and fan out the un-spun bit at the end. Then take another bit of pre-drafted wool and attach the end of that to the "fluffy" part of the wool on the spindle. Pinch them together and spin the spindle clockwise until the 2 pieces of wool are attached. And then repeat!
Remember, your yarn is going to be uneven and lumpy at first. That's okay! You just need to keep trying! Getting perfectly even hand-spun yarn takes a lot of time and practice, so don't worry if it isn't perfect!
Step 6: Plying Together Your Singles
This step is not totally necessary but it makes sure that your yarn doesn't twist up on itself. The yarn you have currently spun on your spindle is called singles, which will twist up on themselves if there isn't any tension applied to them. Plying takes 2 different singles and spins them together to make one length of yarn.
Before you can start plying you are going to need to wind your single onto something else, which is called a bobbin. Empty toilet paper rolls work great for this, but basically and cylinder you can wrap your yarn around will work. I've even used empty pill bottles to wind my yarn onto. You are going to need two bobbins before you can ply them. There are ways to ply a one single but today I will just be talking about how to ply two singles together.
You are going to want to have some way to keep your two bobbins separated before you start spinning them together. There a things specifically made for this, but something like 2 buckets to put the bobbins in would also work. You will see in my photo that I just have my bobbins loose on a table, don't do this, it just makes things more difficult.
Once you have your 2 bobbins ready take the 2 ends of your singles and attach them to the hook of your spindle. You are then going to repeat basically the same process as before but you need to make sure to twist counter-clockwise, not clockwise like before. This is very important to making sure your yarn ply's together properly.
Step 7: Setting the Twist
Now that your yarn it plied together its time to finish it by setting the twist. This step isn't totally necessary but it helps make your yarn softer and more fluffy.
First you need to make your length of yarn into a skein. You can use a tool like a niddy noddy, of you can just use your arm like I do. Hold the end of your yarn between your thumb and pointer finger and wrap the yarn under your elbow and back up to where you started. Keep wrapping until you are out of yarn.
Lay your skein down on a table. You are going to need to tie it up in sections so it doesn't get tangled when you soak it. I usually tie my skein up in 4ths. Take a section of your skein and split the yarn approximately in half. Take a bit of scrap yarn that is in a contrasting color to your yarn and tie a figure 8 around your skein like in the photos above.
Next fill a container with warm water. There needs to be enough to fully submerge the yarn. Put your yarn in the warm water and push it under until fully soaked. Leave the yarn in the water for 10-30 minutes. After the time is up take out the yarn and gently squeeze out the water. To get out more of the water wrap the yarn in a towel like a burrito and press or step on it.
This next part is not always necessary but its my favorite part of the process. Take the yarn out of the towel and hold one end firmly in one hand. Then take the yarn and smack it against a table of a wall as hard as you can. Rotate what end you are holding frequently and keep smacking the yarn against a surface for a few minutes. This fluffs the yarn, but it is also just a great way to get out any aggression.
Then just let the yarn hang out to dry.
Step 8: Finish
Then you are done! When your yarn is dry you can roll it into a ball and use it for your next project. At this point you could also dye your yarn some cool colors, but otherwise you are done!
I have honestly loved the process of learning how to make yarn. It is really fun and relaxing once you get into it. It is the perfect activity to do in front of the TV or while listening to a podcast. And afterwards you have yarn you can use for your next knitting or crochet project.
I hope this tutorial was helpful in getting started spinning yarn. Please let me know in the comments if you try it and how it goes.