Spin, Span, Spun

Yesterday I spent a nice, quiet afternoon practicing spinning with my spindle. I think I’m actually getting the hang of it. Since I’ve never written about spinning here, other than posting pictures of my spindles, I thought it was about time I did.

I have two small spindles, both with a high whorl. Both of them were made by Jesh (here’s her Etsy shop link), and both were bought by me when I was at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck.

The first one was bought in 2008:

First spindle

The second one was bought in 2009:

Second spindle

The second time I actually learned how to use it. Thanks to some kind friends at Rhinebeck, I received lessons and tips, and got in a little practice in between shopping and visiting. Since then I’ve picked it up a few times, and practiced some more.

I finished making my first yarn last October using some nice wool roving that I also bought at the show in Rhinebeck. This picture shows the spun single, still on the spindle:


When it came to plying this into a two-ply yarn, I was a little bit stymied at first. I wasn’t sure how to get the single off the spindle, and even less sure how to split it into two equal parts. I had also never watched anyone ply yarn using a spindle. So, everything was new. Fortunately I did have a decent book on spinning with a spindle. It’s called Spin It: Making Yarn from Scratch, by Lee Raven. One of the sections in the book describes how to do Andean plying. This is a cool technique that involves wrapping the single around the wrist and fingers of one hand in a way that will allow the yarn to feed easily from both ends at once without tangling.

I don’t have any pictures of my own Andean plying (my hands were kind of too full to operate a camera), but I’ll include some how-to links later in this post so you can see what I am talking about.

And now, through the magic of blogging, I now present to you my first plied yarn, shown here on my swift:

yarn on swift

And here it is in a skein:

finished yarn

And in close-up:

yarn - close-up

I’m pretty pleased with it, it came out pretty even considering it was my first try. One of the benefits of plying the single strands of spun yarn is that the thinner and thicker bits tend to even out when twisted together. This is about 17 m of two-ply yarn – not enough for a big project, but maybe enough for the trim on something.

Since making this yarn, I’ve learned a lot more. I’ve bought both the DVD and the book Respect the Spindle, by Abby Franquemont, as well as Abby’s DVD on drafting, called Drafting: The Long and Short of It. These are great resources for learning to spin and make yarn. I love the simplicity of using a spindle to spin, and I hope to improve at it until I can make yarn that I can use to knit whatever I want.

For more info on plying:

Here is a good drawing showing how to wrap the single around the hand to create the bracelet for Andean Plying. And here is a great video tutorial that shows it being done in reality. You might notice that in the video she is wrapping a little differently from the drawing – it’s actually the same thing, only with the loop around the wrist going around the front instead of the back.


4 thoughts on “Spin, Span, Spun

  1. I found this extremely interesting. I watched the video but must admit to total confusion. Bring your plied yarn on Friday. I’m think I remember seeing it as single ply

  2. Nice yarn! You did a terrific job. I’m much better on a wheel than a drop spindle, but I really should practice more on the spindle!

  3. Thanks, ‘Lista! I’m enjoying the spindle. I find I can focus on the drafting of the fibre without worrying about anything else, like the speed of a wheel. I just need more practice getting it to spin for longer.

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