Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Drop Spindles

One of my readers, my sister actually, asked what a drop spindle is and what it does. Well, here you go. A drop spindle is a small tool that you use to spin yarn. It makes yarn just like a spinning wheel only you power it with a twist of your fingers instead of treadling with your feet. And you have to manually roll the yarn you spin onto the shaft of the drop spindle. There is a picture of a woman using her drop spindle above this text. In the right photo she's setting the spindle to spinning and in the left she is drafting the fiber and letting the twist climb into it.

Lots of places in the world a simple drop spindle is used to make yarn. And many of those spinners can out spin a woman with a spinning wheel today. All your clothes, unless you wear leather, is made of some kind of yarn. Your jeans, your dresses, everything. Some are woven and some are knitted. But all is made from some kind of yarn. If it's really tiny they call it thread but it's still spun and it's still yarn. Until the spinning wheel was invented in 500 - 1000 AD all yarn was spun with a drop spindle. Until very modern times most still was. Spinning wheels were and are expensive. Most people couldn't afford one. So you had to spin all materials that were to be woven or knitted with a drop spindle. You probably would begin learning about the age of three to five. Yes, I'm serious.

This is taking making yarn to the very, very basic core of the process. The reason I wanted to learn to do this is that it is portable. These are most of my drop spindles. The wooden one on it's side is the one I used to spin the orange/yellow fiber. Most of the ones in the glass are small and can be used to spin light, fine, fibers. I'm going to try some silk. It's strong and easy to spin. It's so strong you don't really have to spin it to knit with it. You could just pull it out to the thickness you want and just knit it. But I'm going to give the small drop spindles a try. Especially since I made the three on the right. I really should see if they work.

In the meantime, I finished knitting my sweater but it needs seam seaming before I show it off. I'll get to that one of these days. Maybe tonight. Who knows?


  1. Maybe you can teach my how to use a drop spindle. I just get frustrated and want to throw it across the room whenever I give it a try. My fiber always breaks and my drop spindle, drops to the floor.

  2. WOW! What a great explanation.

    I love hearing the history of stuff and how stuff works. This was a very easy to read and understand explanation.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to teach this old dog something new.

  3. Great post, lots of fun information.