You can easily spin your own yarn exactly to your specifications! With a Turkish spindle, you can tuck your spindle into your bag, and spin yarn whenever you have a free moment in your day. The portable nature of a spindle makes it easy to accumulate yardage, and before you know it, you’ll have yarn ready for a knitting or crochet project!
Assemble Your Spindle
Our Turkish spindle is unique, because you have the option to use it with the whorl on top or on the bottom. Experiment both ways to see if you have a preference.
When you receive your spindle, you will see that there are two cross arms and a shaft with a bead on it.
Assemble your spindle by threading the thinner cross arm through the hole in the wider cross arm. Then thread the arms of your spindle onto the shaft, so the bead is seated under the arms. Here are examples of what your spindle should look like, depending on if you are using it as a top whorl or a bottom whorl.
Create a leader
First, get used to the motion of spinning your spindle. Take a piece of scrap yarn, approximately 36” long, and tie the two ends into a knot, so you have a loop. This piece of yarn will be called your leader, and it is used to start spinning roving onto your spindle.
Secure your leader to your spindle by threading one the end of your spindle shaft through your loop of yarn. The leader should attach right above the bead and under the arms of your spindle. The top of the leader will attach to the top of your spindle shaft with a half hitch knot.
How to Make a Half Hitch Knot
If you know how to do a backward loop cast on or increase, you know how to do a half hitch knot. Hold your leader loop yarn together as if it was a single yarn. Wrap the yarn around your finger in a clockwise direction. Take the yarn loop off of your finger, and put it onto the top of your spindle shaft.
You will be able to lift your spindle by holding onto the leader loop. Spin your spindle, and you will see twist forming on the leader yarn. When you are ready to spin, you will put a piece of roving through this loop in your leader and the twist will transfer from your leader into your roving.
Practice spinning your spindle with just the leader yarn attached. Twirl the shaft either at the top of the bottom. You can spin your spindle in either a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction.
How to Select a Fiber
Different fibers behave in different ways. As a beginning spinner, you will be a little slower at drafting fibers and spinning your spindle, so stay away from fibers with shorter staple lengths or anything that is slippery. Something like basic Peruvian Highland wool or Corriedale are ideal for learning the basics, and then try spinning with Merino, silk, superwash wools, or luxury fibers.
Preparing your fiber
Tear off a chunk of your roving, approximately 12” long. Get a sense of what you are working with. Look at your roving closely, and you will see that it is made up of individual hairs laying parallel to each other. Pull on one end of your roving until a few fibers come apart from the rest of your roving. You can see how long these fibers are, and that is your staple length. Different breeds of sheep produce roving with different staple lengths. Merino wool has a short staple length, so when you draft that fiber, you need to keep your hands very close together and add lots of twist. Peruvian Highland wool has a medium staple length, so you can keep your hands farther apart than with Merino, and you can draft more slowly as you add twist to the yarn.
Now fluff up your fiber. Divide your fiber into three lengthwise strips. Poke your fingers into the roving to create a hole, and then pull the strip off from the rest of your roving. Now you have a more manageable amount of fiber to spin with.
With more experience, you can draft your yarn as your spin. But as a beginner, try predrafting your yarn. Hold the top of your roving strip, and pull on the bottom end so your fibers slip past each other but do not separate or break. Keep moving your second hand up the length of the roving, and predraft the entire length of fiber. You will notice that your fiber has become much longer and thinner. Remember, the thinner you draft your roving, the thinner the strand of yarn will be, and vice versa. Since you have predrafted your fiber before you started spinning, you only need to worry about adding twist to your fiber.
Now you are ready to spin! Even though this is called a drop spindle, we recommend first spinning over a soft surface, like a pillow or carpeting. As a beginner, dropping your spindle on the floor is inevitable, and dropping it on a soft surface will prevent your spindle from breaking.
Take the end of your predrafted roving and insert the end through the loop at the end of your yarn leader. Fold the end of your predrafted roving up and back into your fiber supply. Keep your dominant hand back, and use it to pinch your fiber so that your twist does not get into your fiber. Your other hand should be in the front, and you will use it to control the twist entering your fiber.
Take your spindle, and give it a spin. Allow twist to build up. As your spindle begins to spin in the other direction, stop it, and hold it still. Now allow the twist to travel up into your fiber supply by slowly letting your hands move backward. It is important to always be pinching your fiber supply ahead of your twist, because if the twist gets into the unspun roving, it will become difficult to draft. This method of spindling is called the park and draft method.
As you become more comfortable spinning, you can draft, spin, and move the twist into your yarn all at the same time. But teaching your hands to do all of those things at once at first, feels a little like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. First you will grasp the concept of what you are trying to do, and with practice, your hands will become used to spinning and you will improve. By just practicing drop spindling for 15 minutes every day, you will see noticeable improvement in just a few weeks.
Winding your Cop
As you wind your yarn around the arms of your Turkish spindle, you are creating a center pull ball! Take the half hitch knot off the top of your spindle shaft, and wind the length of your yarn around your pinky and thumb, so your yarn doesn’t kink up on itself as you wind it up. Wrap your yarn around your spindle, going over two arms and under one arm. Keep repeating until you only have enough yarn to create another half hitch knot at the top of your spindle, and begin spinning again.
If you are using a multicolored roving, and you wind your cop carefully, your cop will look like a God’s eye, which is really pretty!
Creating a Join
If your yarn breaks, or you have run out of roving, you will want to join a new piece of roving to your yarn. Take the end of your yarn and divide an inch in half. Put a new piece of roving into the middle V shaped section, and keep spinning.
My spindle is full!
When your spindle becomes heavy and hard to spin, you can’t fit any more yarn on the arms, or you’ve run out of roving to spin, it’s time to remove your yarn from the arms and you are ready to ply!
The arms of your Turkish spindle up and off of the shaft. Then push the thinner arm out through the hole in the thicker arm. Slide your center pull ball off of the spindle arm.
Now you can either set the twist on your singles yarn, and knit with it immediately. Or you can ply your yarn together to create a yarn that is thicker, stronger, and more durable.
Plying with a Turkish spindle is easy! Take both ends of your center pull ball, and slide them through your leader on your spindle. Now spin your spindle in the opposite direction from your singles. Just like when you were spinning singles, wrap your plied yarn around your spindles arms, and keep going until you are out of yarn!
Typically, commercially spun yarn has singles spun with a Z twist, and the plying is done with an S twist. But this is your handspun! You can spin your yarn in whichever direction you prefer!
Finishing your yarn is much different from washing your finished garment. Fulling your yarn a little will make your handspun yarn stronger and more stable, but you wouldn’t want to do this to your finished garment, because then it won’t fit!
Fill one bucket with very hot water and add wool wash. Fill a second bucket with cold water. Add your skein of handspun yarn to the first bucket with hot water and agitate it (yes, really). You can either agitate the yarn by swishing it around with your hands while wearing dishwashing gloves, or use a plunger (maybe get one specifically for finishing yarn and felting projects). Squeeze the water out of your skein of yarn, and transfer it to the bucket of cold water. Keep transferring your skein back and forth between the buckets of hot and cold water until your yarn becomes soft and squishy. End with the yarn in the cold water bath.
Remove your skein from the water and squeeze out any excess water. Now you are going to whack your yarn. Hit your skein firmly against the edge of the bathtub, a railing outside, or a table. This will help to set your twist. Now, hang up your skein of handspun and let it dry.