Learn to Turn Natural Fibers into Yarn

Drop spindle is a good place to start for beginners turning natural fibers into yarn.

| 2013 Guide to Sheep and Goats


Using a spinning wheel takes a bit of practice before the art becomes effortless.

Photo By iStockphoto/David Mantel

Spinning natural fibers into yarn is an age-old art, practiced by people in nearly every culture. “Spinning” is simply twisting fibers together so they make a strong, usable cord.

Many kinds of natural fibers can be spun: plant fibers such as cotton, nettle, linen, hemp, yucca; and animal fibers such as wool, alpaca, angora, mohair, yak or buffalo. Spinning can, at first glance, seem difficult. However, like many crafts, it really isn’t — it simply requires a bit of knowledge and a little practice. Become proficient at this skill, and you’ll convert animal fiber to yarn, then into clothes for all seasons. It’s a fulfilling hobby and pastime that adds clothes to our closets, takes us back to our roots, and lightens the load on our pocketbook all at the same time.

Tools of the trade

To learn to spin, you need two things — some fiber to spin, and a wheel or drop spindle upon which to spin it.

Drop spindles are the oldest and simplest tools used for spinning fiber into yarn. A drop spindle is essentially a weighted stick or dowel that is spun by hand and used to twist the fibers. Many people begin spinning with a drop spindle, because they are inexpensive, easy to make, lightweight, and they don’t take up much room. You can purchase an excellent drop spindle for less than $30, or make one for less than that. There are even drop spindles made from recycled compact discs, although I don’t recommend these because they are too light and difficult to keep spinning steadily, which can be frustrating for a beginner.

A better option is to look for a slightly heavier spindle made of wood, which will still be relatively inexpensive yet easier to use. There are numerous online tutorials and much information available on how to both make and use a variety of drop spindles.

You also might want to invest in a spinning wheel — or, if you’re lucky, you may have inherited one from a relative. If you’re interested in purchasing a wheel, expect to spend between $200 and $700 on a new, high-quality wheel. As with anything, you can spend as much or as little money as you like.

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