Spin yarn the traditional way by following the steps outlined in this post. Gain some insight into this ancient trade and take your homesteading skills to the next level.
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In this article:
How to Spin Yarn From Raw Wool
What is Yarn Spinning?
Spinning is the art of twisting raw fibers together to make yarn. You can then use this yarn to make your DIY projects like crocheted scarves and hand warmers.
Hand spinning has been around as far back as the ancient times using primitive tools like stones. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, the spinning wheel came into play, which made spinning yarn much easier.
The entire process, from raising animals for shearing wool to the actual spinning, was a family affair. Now, you can go back to basics and spin some yarn the old-fashioned way.
How to Spin Yarn
To start spinning yarn, you need the following materials:
- Prepared sheep’s wool (roving): You can use a variety of fibers to spin yarn by hand, but for this article we will use sheep’s wool as it’s the easiest fiber for a beginner to handle. Roving fiber is a type of wool that’s been prepared by stripping excess grease off and combing to make sure all the fibers are facing the same way.
- 2-3oz spindle: A spindle is a wooden stick with a whorl. You can use either a top or bottom spindle (named for where the whorl is located)
- 1ft worth of scrap yarn
Step 1. Stretch Your Roving
Before you start spinning, you need to pre-draft your roving first. To pre-draft your wool fibers:
- Break off about a foot-long piece of roving.
- Gently pull the roving on both ends. Don’t pull it too hard though, otherwise it will break.
- Keep stretching your roving until it’s around twice as long as it was originally.
Pre-drafting relaxes and loosens raw fibers to make it much easier to handle while spinning yarn.
Step 2. Wrap Your Fibers Around
Now that you’ve pre-drafted your fibers, wrap them around your non-dominant wrist.
More advanced spinners can use a distaff, but since you’re only spinning a small amount of fiber, your wrist is enough for this purpose.
Step 3. Tie Your Leader
To start spinning for the first time, you need to tie a leader to your spindle.
What is a leader? A leader is a piece of yarn you use to spin the fibers into yarn.
- Take a foot-long scrap yarn and tie a knot to the spindle’s shaft.
- Next, take the leader around the whorl’s edge and hook it in the provided hook at the top of the shaft.
- Twirl your spindle clockwise and let it hang from your leader.
Step 4. Join the Fiber to your Leader
Once you’ve got your leader ready, give a few fibers a good tease and hold them along with the tip of your leader.
Next, spin your spindle clockwise and let it hang out. Make sure your nondominant hand is pinching both the fiber and the leader.
You should then notice the fiber and the leader twisted together. Once the leader has a good amount of twist tension going on, hold the spindle’s shaft between your knees to control it.
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Step 5. Start Spinning Yarn
Spinning yarn, for all intents and purposes, is essentially putting some amount of twisting to your fibers. Yet, this is more challenging than it looks on the surface, so to make things easier, we will use what we call “parking and drafting.”
- Sit down on a chair and hold the shaft between your knees.
- Pinch the spot where the twisted part ends with your dominant hand. The fiber between your two hands is your drafting triangle.
- How much fiber you have in the drafting triangle dictates how thick your yarn will be. Draft (pull) more fiber out if you want a thinner yarn.
- Once you’re satisfied with the amount of fiber you have, let your dominant hand go and let it twist until it stops spinning.
- After it stops spinning, park your spindle between your knees.
- Repeat step 2 to 4 until you start losing the tension from the twist.
- Twist your spindle again to get more tension in, then repeat steps 2 to 4 again.
Step 6. Wind it to Your Spindle
Once you’ve got a long yarn in, put the yarn into the notch at the side of the whorl and wind it to the shaft of your spindle until you have approximately a foot long hanging out.
Next, bring the remaining yarn up the notch, hook it on the hook on top of the whorl, and repeat the parking and drafting process.
Step 7. Join Your Fibers
Once you either run out of fiber or break it, you need to join fibers together.
- Draft a little bit of the new fiber.
- Hold the newly drafted fiber with the fiber at the end of your yarn.
- Give it a good twist until the fibers stick together.
You can then continue steps 6 and 7 as before. The twist serves as a glue holding your fiber together as you spin your yarn.
Step 8. Keep Spinning!
Spin your yarn until you fill up your spindle.
Step 9. Block Your Yarn
Once you’ve finished your yarn, you need to remove it from the spindle and block it. Blocking sets your yarn and gets the kinks out of it.
- Take the end of your yarn and loop from your elbow to your thumb. The result is what we call a hank.
- Tie both ends together.
- Use some scrap yarn to tie one end of the hank to keep it from tangling.
- Next, submerge it into some lukewarm water.
- Squeeze the excess liquid out and bang it on a hard surface a few times.
- Hang it to dry. Hang a heavy object on the lower half of the hank to get the kinks out.
Yarn Spinning Tips
- Practice, practice, practice! Don’t expect to get a perfect result right away.
- Make sure to stick to one direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) when you spin yarn. Otherwise you unravel the work you’ve done.
- Twist more than you think you need. This hides uneven twisting better.
- Advanced spinners can try spinning without parking the spindle. Try spinning while standing to stretch your legs, or use your thighs to roll the spindle instead of your fingers.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different thicknesses and fiber types.
Now that you know how to use a spindle, find out how to spin yarn on a wheel in this video from ExpressionFiberArts:
Most importantly, experiment and use your new yarn. It’s only when you start to use it for something that you know where specifically you can improve on.
We hope this guide helped you get started on your first yarn spin. Happy spinning!
What’s your favorite type of fiber for yarn spinning? Share them in the comments section below!
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