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★ Yarn Spinning Techniques | How to Spin & Dye Wool by Hand ★

Updated on February 16, 2016
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Beginner's Tutorials for using a Drop Spindle

If you knit or crochet and want to use unique yarns, or you simply want to learn to hand spin wool as a hobby, you've come to the right place!

Below you will find beginner's tutorials on spinning your own yarn using a simple wooden spindle, as well as instructions on how to then dye the finished yarn. It's a great craft to master, and if you want to progress further, you can then decide to invest in a spinning wheel. You can also get creative by designing your own art yarns.

I hope you are inspired to give this hobby a try :-)

Handspun Art Yarn

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Top Spinning Tools, Supplies & Books

Spinning is so easy to get started with because all you need is wool roving and a drop spindle. For beginners I would recommend buying a book of instructions too because then you will have in-depth advice and tips, plus plenty of inspiration, all in one place.

Heidifeathers Starter Spinning Kit - Blended Bamboo and Merino Wool
Heidifeathers Starter Spinning Kit - Blended Bamboo and Merino Wool

This quality kit contains beautiful wool roving and a drop spindle so you can get started straight away!

 

Brief Introduction To Spinning

Spinning is the twisting together of loose fibers (such as wool roving) in order to create yarn. It is done with a drop spindle or a spinning wheel.

On this page I will deal with the drop spindle, as it is the best way for beginners to start spinning (because it's portable and cheap). You can then buy a spinning wheel if you decide you would like to progress with your spinning hobby.

To learn to spin, you will need a spindle or wheel, carded or combed fiber*, and a length of yarn to use as a 'leader'. The leader is for attaching the fibers to the spindle in order to start spinning.

*Fibers are prepared for spinning by being carded or combed (you can buy the fiber pre-carded or pre-combed, or you can do this yourself with the right tools). Carded fiber is where tangles have been removed and the fibers have been neatened up, but not all of the fibers have been aligned - some are still going in different directions. The more fibers out of line, the fluffier and airier the spun yarn will be (best suited to knitting). Combed fiber is where all the fibers are aligned, therefore resulting in a smoother, more compact yarn (best suited to weaving).


There are 3 types of drop spindle; top-whorl, bottom-whorl and supported.

Top-whorls are sticks ('spindles') with a disc ('whorl') at the top, bottom-whorls are sticks with a disc at the bottom, and supported spindles are not suspended in the air, but instead they are rested on the ground/table. The whorl/disc is the weight that keeps the spindle spinning.

Bottom-whorl spindles are better for plying yarns, and are best if you want to produce chunkier yarns. Top-whorl spindles are usually lighter and spin faster. They are better suited to spinning fine yarns.

To produce a yarn suitable for knitting or crocheting, you must also do a process called 'plying'. This is where 2 or more 'singles' (single lengths of spun yarn) are twisted together, producing 'plied' yarn.

Drop spindles can spin almost any fiber you want from, wool to silk. The fibers must be pre-drafted before spinning, which simply involves pulling the fibers to make the thickness you want to work with. So the less you slide the fibers apart i.e. the less you draft, the bulkier the fibers, and the chunkier the finished yarn will be. As you get used to spinning, you can draft as you spin.

Respect the Spindle
Respect the Spindle

This is the book that I own on spinning, and I've found it very easy to understand and helpful for beginners without any previous knowledge.

 

Natural Dye

Natural plant dyes from dahlia flowers and onion skins were used to dye this yarn. The variation in colour was created by leaving the yarn in the dye bath for different lengths of time, different strengths of dye, and different yarn weights.
Natural plant dyes from dahlia flowers and onion skins were used to dye this yarn. The variation in colour was created by leaving the yarn in the dye bath for different lengths of time, different strengths of dye, and different yarn weights. | Source

Drop Spindle Instructions - Handspinning For Beginners

Starting off with a drop spindle is the cheapest and easiest way to start spinning, so that's what I will be mainly covering on this page. It's a great way for beginners to learn the concepts and techniques of spinning, and it's portable too so you can practice anywhere!

If you would then like to move on to using spinning wheels, there are useful books, classes and other websites you can use to learn.

Good luck, and have fun!

Hand Spinning Videos

Dyeing Your Own Yarn

Using Kool-Aid as the dye!
Using Kool-Aid as the dye! | Source

Yarn Dyeing Videos

DIY Hand Dyed Yarn

As well as using commercial dyes, you could also use Kool-Aid colors, or food dyes - as demonstrated in these tutorials:

Natural Wood Spools

A gorgeous selection of yarns.
A gorgeous selection of yarns. | Source

Have you ever spun your own yarn before?

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    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 3 years ago from PA

      I do a lot of drop spindling. My favorite spindle is a top whorl. Here's a lens I did about spinning a while ago: http://www.squidoo.com/spinning-adventure

    • evawrites1 profile image

      evawrites1 3 years ago

      This is so interesting! Thanks!

    • profile image

      badmsm 3 years ago

      Great Educational Lens! I am working on learning to spin. Lots of LOVE for the Squidoo "Yarnaholic" contributor! <3

    • bikerministry profile image

      bikerministry 5 years ago

      I have a spindle from Guatemala and have a few spinning and dying books, but I haven't dove in yet, But, I tell ya, this really makes me want to give it a whirl. Great Lens, thanks for all the hard work putting it out here! Blessings.

    • JuneNash profile image

      June Nash 5 years ago

      Hi! I just bought a spindle. I am reading the book Respect The Spindle. I think my spindle is too light for my novice level. I might see if I can make myself one that is heavier. According to the book, if the rim is heavier, then the spindle will spin slower and have less tendency to backspin. For a beginner such as myself, I think it is where I need to start! Thanks for the great lens!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      I love spinning and wool and this is a great lens! Thanks! Blessed!

    • profile image

      klaird 5 years ago

      Great lens! I've added this lens (and others of yours) to my "50 Craft Ideas for Adults"!