How to Spin a Rainbow Gradient Yarn




About: I love playing with color and texture and can usually be found knitting, crocheting or spinning.

This Instructable will demonstrate how to hand spin a gradient yarn. A gradient yarn is one where the colors change evenly from one color to the next and each color is presented one time. In contrast to other multicolored yarns where each color appears multiple times throughout the ball of yarn. So, let's make some rainbow colored yarn.

Step 1: Materials List

You don't need a spinning wheel to make yarn. You can buy or make a drop spindle. A drop spindle is basically a stick with some sort of weight at the end. Attaching the fiber to the top of the stick then spinning the stick will add twist to the loose fiber. Yarn in its simplest form is nothing but loose fiber with twist added to give it strength.

  1. Fiber that is dyed in a gradient
  2. Spinning wheel or drop spindle
  3. lazy kate or equivalent
  4. umbrella swift or equivalent
  5. large bowl, mild liquid soap, water, and towel

Step 2: Make the Pretty Braid of Fiber Ready to Spin

While this braided presentation is great for photography, displaying and transporting you will have to unbraid it to spin. Go to the end of the braid and pull and it will unbraid. Its basically a crocheted chain.

Step 3: Spin Each Color

If you have one long length of fiber that is dyed multiple colors like mine, you can separate the colors before spinning if you want to. Try to keep all of one color together as you are spinning.

Step 4: Ply the Bobbin of Yarn

I am plying using a 3-ply chaining technique. Plying is the process of taking a single strand of yarn and making it either 2 strand (2-ply) or 3 strand (3 ply) yarn.

Step 5: Taking the Plied Yarn Off of the Bobbin

I have a 60" antique clock reel for this, but you can use anything that will allow you to get the yarn into a loop and determine how many yards (or meters) of yarn you have. Popular alternatives: large book, chair turned upside down (wind the yarn around the legs of the chair), door knobs, yarn swift, or niddy noddy. To determine how many yards of yarn you have, measure the circumference (distance around) what ever you wound the yarn around. And count how many rounds you made. Multiply by circumference. Divide that by 36 (yards) or 100 (meters) to determine how many yards or meters of yarn you have.

Step 6: Setting the Twist

Before beginning make sure your yarn is tied in at least 3 places to prevent tangling. Unless you enjoy untangling knots. Lukewarm water and any gentle liquid soap will do, hand soap, shower gel or shampoo is what I use. Allowing the yarn to stay in the soapy water until it sinks to the bottom is the best way to ensure the yarn is thoroughly and evenly wet.

Two rinses also in lukewarm water, roll in a dry towel to remove more water and lay flat or hang to dry.

Step 7: Enjoy Your Rainbow Gradient Yarn

Enjoy using your handspun rainbow gradient yarn. My yarn is rather chunky, on purpose. I plan to knit a winter hat with it. You can use your handspun rainbow yarn for any project you would use commercial yarn for. Also you can use it as stripes and mix it with a solid color yarn. Enjoy!

Step 8: Resource List

Step 9: Process Video

This video shows steps 1-7 in video format. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million words, right?!

Before and After Contest

Participated in the
Before and After Contest

Rainbow Contest

Participated in the
Rainbow Contest



    • Games Contest

      Games Contest
    • Sensors Contest

      Sensors Contest
    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest

    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I bought one of these yarns recently. What do you use these type of yarns for?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice one, but...

    "To determine how many yards of yarn you have, measure the circumference
    (distance around) what ever you wound the yarn around. And count how
    many rounds you made. Multiply by circumference. Divide that by 36
    (yards) or 100 (meters) to determine how many yards or meters of yarn
    you have."

    If I use a niddy-noddie with a circumference of 2 yards and get 100 rounds on it, I'd have 200 yards (~183m) in my book - why the division? And why 1/36 yards vs 1/100m ?

    What am I not seeing here?

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for asking the question!!

    If you are winding around something and either you don't know that its 2 yards or if its not a even x-yards, maybe the thing you're winding around is 28", then that final number is going to be in inches (28 x 100 =2800 inches). Knitting, crocheting, patterns, are written to tell you how many yards/meters of yarn you will need. Its much easier to figure how to use your yarn if you know how many yards (or meters) you have. The rest of the world uses metrics and the fiber arts is a very international playground.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, I see where the leprechauns appeared now. You're sort of mixing both metric and imperial measures without mentioning which is which - perhaps add a paragraph of using centimeters with meters and inches with yards, then it won't be as confusing. Better yet, use only one and put the other in paranthesis after, like: divide inches with 36 to get yards (and divide centimeter with 100 to get meter).

    Have a nice day :)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you Amberrayh! I'm going to try to upload the accompanying video....wish me luck.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great tutorial. Thank you for sharing! The fiber and yarn are so pretty.