Friday, February 25, 2011

Winding On: Leaderless Center-Pull Balls on a Simple Spindle (Not Turkish)

When I was first reading about spindle spinning and the different types of spindles, something that caught my eye was the Turkish Spindle. One of the advantages of a Turkish Spindle is that the whorl makes an interlocking cross onto which you wind your cop (the newly formed yarn), and after you spin your fiber, you take the whorl off of the spindle and out of the cop, leaving your new yarn in a center-pull ball.

This concept fascinated me, and I started wondering how I was going to make my inexpensive spindles Turkish-style.

What I ended up doing was adding what I call a Turkish Twist to the simple spindles I made. I took a very small, almost toothpick sized wooden stick, and as I started to wind my cop around the spindle-shaft, I wrapped the stick cross-wise against the shaft of the spindle. This made the spindle-shaft and the little stick work just as well as the whorl of a Turkish spindle for making a center-pull ball of yarn; the big difference is that I still needed my whorl to create weight for spinning, and that whorl needed to be removable, so that I could get the center-pull ball off of the spindle when I was ready.

Turns out, I didn't really need the little stick to do this! I got so caught up in the fact that there was this cross in order to make the center-pull ball, that it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me that the reason a Turkish Spindle is like that is to make the cop part of the whorl. But I already have a whorl; I just need the center-pull ball. And with a little planning, winding a center-pull ball on a stick (or the shaft of my spindle) is simple!

Here's How I Do It:

1. You need a spindle (any simple spindle with a shaft and a whorl will do, but either the whorl or the hook must be removable so you can get your center-pull ball off when you're done spinning), and a poof (some fiber to spin).

2. I've never used a leader. It just always seemed simpler to me to draw some of the fiber out to about half the amount of the desired single,

3. Fold the drawn fiber around the hook of the spindle (maybe the hook is why I've never used a leader???),

4. Secure the folded fiber with your thumb (my right thumb),

5. Take the two sides of the folded fiber into your thumb and forefinger (my left),

6. And add some twist to this little bit of fiber by spinning the spindle.

7. Spin a length of yarn as if you'd already started spinning and winding on.

8. Wind that yarn around your hand, removing the end of the yarn from the hook, but careful to maintain the twist in the yarn.

9. Here's where the photos might be a little odd; to photograph this section well enough, I had to switch the direction that I usually wind-on in, but the concept is the same. Place the end of the newly spun yarn against the shaft of the spindle.

10. Secure it with your thumb (not pictured, I use my right thumb), while you begin to wrap the yarn around itself to keep it in place. This picture is the beginning result of the yarn being wrapped over its end to keep it in place.

11. Wrap it a few more times...

12. Push this wrapped end of the yarn against the whorl of your spindle.

13. Spiral the yarn up the spindle a few times, allowing room for your center-pull ball to grow. Then spiral the yarn a few times so that each revolution of yarn is touching the yarn from the previous revolution; this creates the base for the center-pull ball.

14. Now wrap the yarn around the section of spiral that is tightly wound, up and over and back around down and under. This is the basic concept of winding the center-pull ball. When you remove the whorl or the hook of the spindle, you slide the ball off, and the end that is wrapped to the spindle shaft becomes the "pull" end of the center-pull ball.

15-17. Watch your center-pull ball grow as you spin your fiber!

Have fun!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The advantages of making my own spindles.

Making my own spindles has been rewarding to me in several ways. First, because I get to say I made it myself:) And then come the other advantages...

For me, it is less expensive because I use simple, inexpensive materials to make my spindles. It costs me no more than $2.00 to make a spindle.

But using inexpensive materials is only worthwhile if it doesn't take too much time and effort; so it's a good thing spindles are easy to make! Using a little sand paper to smooth things out, and a little tape (temporarily), I put together some pre-cut wooden dowels, wooden toy wheels, and cup hooks, and I'm good to go. I've even used bamboo skewers with washers:) I could leave out the cup hooks if I wanted to learn to spin without a hook, but I'm kind of partial to the hooks (after all, my first craft was crochet!).

Another advantage that comes along with my spindles being so inexpensive and easy to put together, I can have many spindles for little investment in time and money. At first I only set out to make multiple spindles because I wanted to try different whorl placement and weights... But then I realized that having more than one of the same size and type of spindle could be an advantage, particularly when it comes to multiple projects and plying... Plus, when I'm spinning, other people notice, and it's fun to be able to offer them their own spindle; I think it's natural to want to spin with others.

One of the best parts of making my own spindles is that I can move and remove the whorl whenever I want, and I do ... a lot! I spin mostly with a low-whorl, and since I choose to wind my cop into a center-pull ball, it's important that I be able to take the whorl off the spindle in order to take my center-pull ball of yarn off the spindle. I suppose that wouldn't be an issue if I didn't have a hook, but like I said, I prefer the hook:) A lot of people ply from spindles, or wind off into balls for plying, but that doesn't work for me. The simplest way to ply for me is from a center-pull ball, and rather than wind the cop on the spindle, then have to wind that cop off into a center-pull ball, I just spin and wind the center-pull ball as I go.

So there you have it, my reasons for making my own spindles:)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My New Etsy Store!

So I've done it! I set up on Etsy this afternoon, and now I have an online yarn shop.

You can visit me on Etsy at

Right now the shop consists of a few yarns (pictured above) that I have lying around, projectless.

In the future I will be a bit more intentional as I stock up the shop with yarns that I'm dyeing to create (sorry for the pun!).

But to do that, it's back to spinning for this spindler.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On My Spindle: February 2011

So this is what is on my spirited spindle today...

For February and March 2011, cotton is the fiber to spin! Actually, cotton is what I intend to spin most anyway, but for these two months I have something specific in mind.

Being my father's daughter, when I wanted to learn to spin I went out and collected books and blogs on the topic and read and read and read. I knew I wanted to spin cotton, but those who came before me warned that spinning cotton could be trickier for a beginner. I took their advice to heart and started spinning the longer-stapled wool at first. And I was in heaven. Spinning merino top, sometimes with a little silk, in a variety of beautiful colors. I got to play with color and textures while I was learning, and that made the learning that much more enjoyable.

But cotton ... I love cotton. Cotton is soft and light and inexpensive. People who won't wear wool will wear cotton. Cotton is beautiful. And while not colorless, it does tend to come in all shades of natural ... but a girl's gotta have some color!

So I'm going to dye. Literally. I'm going to dye lots and lots of cotton, and my cellulose dyeing class is scheduled for early April, so I'm spinning and spinning and spinning ... so that I can have some yarns to dye once I learn. I'll also be dyeing yet-to-be-spun cotton, but I want to try my hand at both, and so I bought 24oz of cotton to spin between now and my dye class (I aim high!).

I usually like to learn from a book, but after having read plenty on the subject of dyeing, I've decided that this one time I'd like to learn from someone who has made all the mistakes I don't want to have to make in order to become proficient...

Monday, February 21, 2011


So I can't adequately blog about spinning without posting some pictures ... so, here's a taste of what I've done with my spindle spinning. These represent the first two projects I've used spindle-spun yarn to create. The top row was for a scarf for my sister, and the bottom row a little something for my mom. All of the fibers were from animals, mostly Merino, but also some Angora and Camel. And the results? Beautiful:) And if you think you see Abby Franquemont's Respect the Spindle cover in the background on the bottom, that's because you do! (I love that book...)

What I love about spindle spinning...

I've already told you that I love spindle spinning, so here are a few of the reasons why...

First, I love seeing things transform. And the transformation from fiber to yarn is fascinating to me. That something as simple as twist, which I've played around with since I was a girl, from hair to paper to string, can be stored in fiber and other things, organizing them in ways that can then be manipulated in to any number of necessary and beautiful things ... wow.

The control-freak in me wants to play an instrumental role in this process. If you go all the way down to the fiber before it's been spun, you can make choices and decisions that affect EVERYTHING from that point on.

Of course, if you go all the way down to the biology creating the fiber in the first place, you can have even more control ... I'll get there, my friends. I'll get there.

But for now, I'm fascinated by the endless possibilities of yarn creation by spinning.

So why spindle-spinning? Well, I kind of like to make things myself. Last summer I made myself a backstrap loom and learned to weave (thanks Laverne!!!). Then I decided to take up spinning, so I made myself a few different spindles: top whorl, bottom whorl, make-shift tahkli, and all of these with what I call a turkish twist for making center-pull balls, which I have come to discover isn't necessary for making center-pull balls right on the spindle... Maybe someday I'll try spinning on a wheel and discover that I've been missing out, and then I'll buy one. But I can assure you, the drum carder purchase will come first. In the meantime, I love love love the way the spindle feels. I like that something so simple and so small can do so much ... all at my command.

But why do all of this? I call it charm. I'm still a beginner when it comes to spinning. My consistency is improving each day, but I'm not a machine. And, I don't want to be a machine. I think the inconsistencies, so long as they don't compromise the required structural integrity of the yarn for the next step of making something else, is the charm of spindle-spinning yarn myself. And I think the number of ways I can play on the inconsistencies to create beautiful yarns is fun! That's not to say that consistency isn't worthwhile; the control-freak in me says that the inconsistencies are made more beautiful by my choice to be inconsistent, so I'm always striving to increase my say in the end product as I'm spinning...

So that's a bit about why I love spindle-spinning. Do you love spindle-spinning, too?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome to my new blog!

Hello everyone. My name is Tonya, and I'm addicted to fiber crafts.

I started thinking about spinning over the summer of 2010, and finally made myself a few spindles and bought some fiber in September.

Living in the heat of Tucson, before even having touched a spindle I decided cotton was probably the most logical fiber choice for me. And now, having spun a few different blends, I have returned to cotton a more adept spindle spinner. I'm still using the spindles I make myself, and have developed my own methods and styles.

At first my hubby teased me that I hadn't made anything with the yarn I was spinning; but that has all changed, now that I have turned out a weaving (I use a backstrap loom), and a knitting project (for which I learned to knit), so take that babe!

But, I must admit, I LOVE to spin more than anything else, and so I've decided to blog as part of a potential side-business of spinning.

Since I'm going to be spinning (and dyeing, soon enough) anyway, I might as well be doing it for beautiful projects that, since I'm spinning so much, I don't have time to make myself.

Before I get ahead of myself, though, welcome to my new blog, and I hope to offer you something interesting here. If you want to talk spinning, let me know!