Learning to Spin on a Drop Spindle

Like sewing, spinning is one of those things I never thought I would ever want to try.  I was content to just look at (and pet) all the pretty fibers and watch friends spin at knit night.  I’m not sure what changed, but I guess maybe enough people finally told me enough times that they thought I would enjoy it, so I signed up for a drop spindle class at the Ann Arbor Fall Fiber Expo this past weekend.

The class was very fun and helpful.  I took it with my friend Jennifer from knit night.  She had had a crash course in spinning with a drop spindle once and I had watched a video, but neither of us really knew how to do it.  The instructors, who own a farm nearby and raise alpacas (jealous!!), provided beginning drop spindles, a small amount of pencil roving, and over 4 ounces of 50/50 merino/alpaca roving.  The alpaca fiber was from their own alpacas. 🙂  The spindles were made from a dowel and a blank CD, which the instructors had put together themselves.  They were actually excellent spindles!  They spun very well and were heavy enough for our beginning (lack of) drafting skills.

The spindle
The arrow reminds me which direction to spin.

We started off spinning two different colors of pencil roving together, pretending they were one strand, so we could see the twist.  I ended up with this frosting-looking thing.  I think it’s cute. 🙂  The point of using pencil roving was to practice the spinning motion without having to draft the fiber (i.e. we didn’t need to pull out thinner bits of fiber).

Pencil roving spun up
The pencil roving all spun up

Then, they gave us the merino/alpaca roving and taught us about drafting.  We got to spend the next 45 minutes spinning that roving and then learning to ply it.  At the end of the class, I had this little ball of my very first handspun yarn!  I may possibly have brought it to work the next day and shown anyone who would listen. 😉

My very first handspun
My very first handspun

I have since been pretty obsessed.  Each of the last three nights, I have spun another 10 grams of fiber.  (For some reason, in fiber arts at least in the U.S., it’s common to refer to unspun materials such as roving in ounces, but yarn in grams.  I just go with it.)  Last night, after spending a frustrating hour repairing joins that kept breaking, I realized that my starter spindle is too heavy for the weight of yarn I want to spin, so I’ll be resigning myself to spinning heavier yarn with the roving from the class, while also ordering a lighter-weight spindle to spin much finer yarn ASAP.

Doing some spinning
Doing some spinning
How much I've been spinning each night
How much I’ve been spinning each night. Sorry for dark.

I have three little balls just like that shown above now, and anticipate having a series of about ten, one for each night’s 10 grams.  I’ll ply them into a 2-ply once all the singles are spun up and then maybe I can knit a hat or something. 🙂  I’m really excited to see how my second ever yarn turns out.

For fun, I knitted my yarn from the class into a little square.  It might become the most special coaster ever.

My first handspun yarn knitted up
My first handspun yarn knitted up

5 thoughts on “Learning to Spin on a Drop Spindle

  1. Just stumbled upon your blog through the wormhole that is ravelry – Your spinning looks great! I was gifted a drop spindle earlier this year, but went the youtube route instead of taking a proper class. Perhaps I should rethink that. I still haven’t made any usable yarn!

    1. Thank you! I’m sure with practice you will improve. In fact, it has been a month since you left this comment–has your spinning gotten any better?? 🙂

      I thought the class was useful because the instructor could correct me or answer questions.

      1. I’ve been too busy with deadline knitting to do, well, anything else. Hoping to get back to it now that I have some of those big projects finished.

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