Yarn Creation – From Stick and Stone to Spinning Wheel

Yarn is fibre under tension with a twist.

Yarn can be spun into a single strand, double, triple, quad, etc. and can be made of one or more fibres wool, cotton, linen, silk, exotic animals, dog hair, pineapple pulp, rose fibre, paper, the list is endless. As crafting with fibre becomes popular, the industry is growing and experimenting. New blends and methods to repurpose materials into fibre such as Lyocell or Tencel fibres, are a sustainable means of using otherwise wasted resources.

Historically, a batt (collection of prepared fibers) was spun by hand using a pointed stick and weighted stone with a hole in the center. The combination of these tools was ideal due to their shape and weight, offering the ability to take speed and create a twist. In the case of spinning, these tools make for a slow and pleasant experience with sticks and stones readily available.

Today many different systems of spinning exist which essentially replicate and develop on the base concept of twist under tension. Spinning wheels were first documented in the form of the great wheel, a wheel and pulley system which typically had a pointed spindle on the end. The spinner would create yarn by connecting the fiber to the end of the spindle and drafting to the weight chosen for the yarn. Drafting is the process of thinning out fiber so that the spindle can draw in and twist the fiber into yarn.

Regardless of what fiber you choose to spin, spinning yarn is a slow craft. If your goal is gossamer or lace weight yarns patience is a strong virtue. Spinners often relish in the pace enjoying the solace while listening to a good story, watching a show, or in the comfort of friends.

My favorite ways to spin yarn are Turkish Spindle, Supported Spindle, and Wheel Spun.

A Turkish spindle has two intertwined legs and a spindle shaft which suspends and crates yarn through the suspension and twist. My love for Turkish style is that the legs provide a built-in system of keeping the spun yarn together into a ready-made ball once spinning is complete. The momentum that builds in a Turkish allows even a new spinner to feel the building of yarn quickly.

It is similar to a drop spindle in that both spindles hang and twist with the balance of the base weight.

Purim groggers straddlecreek spindles
Two Spindles from Straddle Creek Spins

Supported Spindles reflect back to the concept of stick and stone. Often made from wood with some form of a bulbous base, modern versions can be found with steel, titanium tips, or glass tips. The round bulbous base is the intended weight and can be carved as part of the wooden shaft or added as an ornament made of ceramic, glass, metal, wood or a vast wide choice of other materials. The design or material used is up to the artist who creates it and the variety of artistry currently available is vast. Models of glass, metal weighted wood, upcycled watch pieces, old coins, ceramic, resin, and even carbon fibre filament for the 3D printed models. Eco Spindles is one company that is mindful of eco friendly productions by converting waste into yarn or filament.

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a spindle, supported or otherwise is not the ornamental beauty; although many do purchase them for this reason. A spindle is made to spin, the accuracy of spin, lack of wobble and angle of balance when supported, are the most crucial of elements for yarn creation.

Of course we cannot overlook wheel spinning which can be either manual or electric. Spinning yarn on a foot treadle system allows for a full-body gross motor experience. I highly value this experience and recommend it as a component of any yarn creation course. Getting the mind and body to talk to each other while creating something new is a very personalized and valuable experience. So many different brands have made their own take on styles and varieties of manual wheels; that is a blog post in and of itself.

Fairly new to the market are electric wheels; the EEW nano is a modestly priced wheel with a small footprint and a great deal of power. This tiny machine offers a speedy spin and is portable for spinning on the go. The learning curve for this system is small, more of a transition if you understand the functions of a manual spinning system and accept the differences in take-up and tension with the electronic motor. I find the ability to manipulate the fiber and keep consistent increases in this spinning system.

The tools you use for yarn creation can become as enjoyable as creating the yarn itself. Looking for the opportunity to experience this slow craft for yourself? Next time you are on a walk take a look at all the natural resources available to you to start your spinning journey. Or better yet, send me a message in the chat box to book your own experience with authentic and modern tools.


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