Part of the joy of hand spindles is there are so many different kinds. This is because they are a significant part of the history of most cultures. Each culture has developed a style of spindle that is suited to both the materials they have available to make it and the type of thread they spin. I will discuss different spindles and their heritage in a future post.
Here I want to give you enough information to buy a simple spindle and get spinning with your students, rather than get stuck in a quagmire of diversity.
Types of Spindle
There are two main types of spindle - Drop Spindles and Supported Spindles.
I recommend you start with a drop spindle. This means that the spindle is suspended by the yarn that it is spinning.
The alternative is a supported spindle. This is generally used to spin very fine threads or short fibres, as the thread does not need to support the weight of the spindle which sits in some sort of cup.
Supported spindles are harder to learn to spin with, and whilst you may well want to explore these with you students at some stage (my students love trying new spindles), I recommend you begin with a drop spindle.
Anatomy of a Spindle
A drop spindle is comprise of three parts:
1. The Shaft is the stick that runs through the middle of the spindle – not much to say on this!
2. The Whorl is the round weight that surrounds the shaft. This can be at the top or the bottom of the shaft. If it is at the top – you have a top whorl spindle and if it is at the bottom, you have – you guessed it – a bottom whorl spindle. These are sometimes referred to as high whorl or low whorl but I’m sure you get the idea.
The position of the whorl is really down to personal preference.I have a couple of each in my classroom (well, several of each, if I’m honest, but we do a LOT of spinning).The children are generally happy using either.
Some spindles do not have a separate whorl, but have the weight build into the shaft like these French Spindles.This will make them spin faster but for less time – not so good for a beginner.
3. The Hook hold the thread in position at the top of the spindle and stops it from flipping over and unwinding:
Not all spindles have a hook, some have a notch or a groove and some have nothing.
If there is no hook, you will need to make a half-hitch at the top of the spindle to hold the yarn in place as you can see my daughter doing with this rock spindle.It is possible to learn to spin on a spindle without a hook, but adds an unnecessary challenge.
You also need to consider the weight of your spindle. Very light spindles are designed to spin fine, lace-weight fibres. These are not good for beginners, who tend to spin quite thick yarn, as they cannot pick up enough momentum to spin the yarn. If you find that you spindle either won’t spin or spins back the other way – it is probably too light for the style of yarn you are spinning.
A good weight for a first spindle is around 50 – 70grams/ 2-2.5ounces.
If you find your spindle is too light, you can improvise extra weight by adding a large bead or some plasticene. If your spindle is too heavy and keeps dropping, try drafting your fibres a little thicker.
The best advice I can offer when buying spindles is to talk to your seller. Sellers should definitely be able to tell you whether their spindles are suitable for beginners or not. Whether you are buying from a person, or online, make sure you ask before you buy. If the seller can’t tell you – don’t buy from them.
Have a look on my Resources page for sellers I have bought from and loved - I will add to this as I make new discoveries.
Other sources are Ebay and Amazon. Feel free to post a comment if you would like me to look at a particular listing for you.
Please let me know how you get on in the comments section - I love spindle talk!