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November 01, 2006



Parts 1 and 2: GREAT overview and intro to spinning. The posts are long (not too long), yet the coverage is succinct and thorough. The boat anchor I started with (that's all there was at the time) was very well made, which was its saving grace. New spindle-spinners have so many more options now and can make progress so much faster!

Janice in GA

I'm glad you're recommending a slightly heavier spindle, especially for beginners. I really think it's easier to make yarn with a 1.5 - 2.0 oz spindle.
I agree with pretty much everything you said except about the notch on the spindle rim. Back when I learned to spin on a spindle a bazillion years ago, notches on spindles weren't common. I learned to spin without one, and I still prefer it. On spindles like the one on the right in your labelled photo, the position of the notch would just annoy me -- it's way off to the side! I bring my yarn up from the shaft so it comes directly behind the hook. The only time I have problems is when the spindle starts to get full and heavy. The yarn will slip sometimes then.
I don't use a wrist distaff either. I either hold a rolag in my hand, or wrap the roving round my arm.
But I'm an old fart and kinda set in my ways. More power to anyone who actually uses other tools!


I didn't think the posts were anywhere near too long, but then I'm a new spinner. I found your comments about 'boat anchors' very reassuring -- the Kundert recommended by an internet acquaintance was very expensive, but I love it dearly. It wants to spin forever and I can only try to keep up. Point 10 is a good one to stress: perhaps it's a function of increasing mechanisation, or the increasing sophistication of our tools, but I wonder sometimes whether we've (well, me at least) have become accustomed to finding things easy to do well. People once spent most of their waking hours perfecting these skills, with good reason.

I'd welcome your comments and suggestions about the things that you find important when trying to produce a constant, relatively fine yarn. My goal is to spin sock yarn (and eventually laceweight), but I don't know what to aim for with handspun -- something quite tightly twisted that releases a bit when washed, or something softer that produces a hard-wearing fabric when knit more tightly? Perhaps it's a matter of preference, and I should just knit everything I spin until I discover my own likes and dislikes.

I was also reassured by your mention of spinning combed silk tops; I bought some of this recently just because I could imagine the sheen and hand-dyed colours spiralling along a yarn. I have no idea how to spin them, but I know it has to be done. That's something it's difficult to convey in words: the sheer thrill of watching and feeling 'stuff' become yarn at my command.


Thank you for this. I need to start a spindle spinning class around the first of the year - if I can get some students that is - and sometimes the things I want to say don't come out very beautifully. I will take your words, mix them with my own and run with it. I have learned to spindle spin and I love it. I hope to be able to teach that.


A wonderful, thorough explanation, Ted. Thanks for taking the time to share some of your skill and experience so eloquently.

BTW, Tracy now has StarLight Comets weighing less than 1 ounce - I saw Matthew's the other night. The thing practically floats to the ceiling. He was spinning merino/silk froghair, which will STILL be froghair when plied. Awesome.



Thank you for the post- I've been spinning on a wheel for a little while but would really like to get proficiant on the spindle-

I found you through Mar's website- she said that you recommended the Comet Spindle to her, and I read both hers and Franklin's comments on it- the spindle I currently have is a "beginners model" from who knows where and it doesn't spin for very long, thus giving me no chance to draft at all.

So I have ordered a comet, and will let you know what I think after I give it a go. I really would like to get proficent in spindle spinning because I travel so much and attend lots of academic conferences and stuff like that, so I would like to be able to take my spinning with me.

Also thanks for the warning on spindles that are beautiful, but don't spin great. As a grad student I have to be mindful as to where every dollar goes, and while I was scouring the internet for a new spindle, I was dismayed by how expensive some of them are...

Again thank you so much for your wisdom.


“Problem Exists Between Computer and Chair”.

I work in the IT industry too and we call it "Pilot Error". Doesn't always result in crash and burn but frequently holds that potential. There was another one that I can't remember now. I'm not a techie, just an office manager, so I hear those expressions directed at me occationally and then I have to ask what they mean. My favorite is the I.D.ten T. error. But I never actually say it to people (I also do tech support for an ISP) because that would just be mean.

BTW, love your spindling thoughts. Very helpful to read your perspective. Thanks for taking the time to share.


Thank you for posting this, Ted. I will try again. I have some Romney from OFFF that's been waiting for me to work on and a lovely spindle that is calling my name.


Oops - I'd edit my previous comment, if I could figure out how to do it.

Anyhoo, I mis-identified Tracy's new spindle - it is the UltraLight, and doesn't seem to appear on his website yet.

The StarLights are, of course, the ones we purchased this summer. I don't remember what Matthew said his UltraLight weighed, but our StarLights are less than an ounce. I seem to think his UltraLight is less than half an ounce. The whorl seemed to be one-third to one-half the thickness of the StarLight whorl.
Really quite amazing.


For folks like me who have been paying attention to what you say on this subject for a while, there wasn't much new. But it is handy to have it all in one place. I have generally found your advice on this topic to be excellent (including the Comet recommendation) even though I am not in the habit of spinning every day.


I know nothing about spinning and probably won't ever do it (famous last words) but I enjoy reading your posts about it and found the information here very interesting.


Thanks for posting this, Ted. As soon as I got your answer to my email I thought "wow, he really should turn this into a blog post so that other people can benefit from it". I was just waiting for you to come back from Rhinebeck and settle a bit to write with my suggestion... and there you are with those great posts! As we say in French: les grands esprits se rencontrent...
Anyways, thanks again for your help. I've received my spindle two days ago, and I can't wait to give it a try. Now I just have to find some time in a suddenly very busy schedule (bad timing when all I want to do is spin!) to make up my mind about what fiber to order and where to order it from... because all I can find locally is Fleece Artist stuff; not sure I want to start with something so precious!


Watching you spindle at Rhinebeck was so helpful. I am now doing much better, thanks to your demo--even though the fiber on the distaff got, um, out of hand, so to speak.

My Comet is .7 ozs and I really like it the best of the three I own, much better than my Hatchtown even. And you are so right about experienced wheel spinners expecting to spin perfectly on their first spindle try. God knows I still can't. But I'm working on it.

And if you ever again threaten to shut down your blog, I'm gonna make your life a living hell. You know I can.


You're leaving me absolutely no excuses! Your clear explanations and thoughtful comments answered questions I didn't know to ask.

Now, what do you do with two cats who think that your spinning is all about them? Fiber, a spinning toy...they don't even seem to mind that there's no catnip! I'll sleep on that and start over tomorrow.

Jim Conti

Nice posts. Good go. Looks like Rhinebeck was inspiring.

Being a member of the boat anchor spindle school (circa 1980, homemade), I have to say this makes it all seem much more appealling. Even more interestingly you filled two full posts without even touching on "how to spin" on a spindle. I sense a continuing series or even the beginnings of a book....PEBSAS

BTW the Lendrum Saxony has arrived, has been assembled and tested. It's fantastic. I am pondering wood finishing methods/materials.



Mary in MN

I just want to add one little thing to your wonderful lessons on spindling and maybe you are planning to include it in future posts. That would be the importance of having the hook in perfect alignment so the spindle doesn't wag it's tail or start doing some gyrations. This can make the best of spindles a royal pain in the youknowwhat and be very discouraging to a new spindler. Tuning the hook so the yarn comes exactly up from the CENTER of the whorl is of the utmost importance. I use a pair of needle nose pliers with cork padded jaws (so as not to scratch the hook.)to do the tweaking. Keeping an eye on the hook position is important too since a fall or knock can bend some of them badly. We are talking eeentsy little adjustments here.

Please keep on blogging my friend, it's a great way to keep up on your comings and goings and your lessons on spindling are super too.


Mary in MN

As usual I have put foot in mouth. I read further in the blog and found that you DID talk about the hook. Please excuse me. If I knew how to withdraw the previous comment, I would. Maybe you can chop both of these, huh?

Mary in MN


I agree with all of your points, and I'm a devout and long-time spindler. I wonder if the shaft-weighted spindles you show in part I really want to be turned upside down and converted into support spindles, which often have such a whorl and work excellently. Any time you want to enter the spindling universe of support spindling, get ready, it's awesome!!


Great second post - and I think number 10 is something that should be reminded to even long time spinners.

I finally picked up the Twisted Sister's Sock book last night at Borders, and I was especially encouraged by this quote by Lynne, where she says, "Everytime I pick up my spindle, I learn something new." Good stuff.

Do you have a grouping of spinner's blogs you read often? Or resources (beyond Alden Amos and Spin Off) to recommend?

Thanks for this Ted.


Good job, Ted! I read your thoughts before attending a fiber event. The information came in handy. I used them to help a young person get started on a spindle. After a few hours, he had yarn. Thick, but recognizable as yarn.



Thank you for the reminder--needed daily--to keep spinning daily and patiently.


Follow-up to Kate's comment about the Ultralite Comet from Tracy: The weight is 11 grams or 0.4 ounces. It really does feel like it's going to float, but I would not recommend a spindle this light to beginners.


Nice collection of spindle topics. I think it's really best to try out a spindle before you buy if you can. There are lots of great spindle makers out there, so don't be afraid to pick up a spindle by a maker you haven't heard of before and give it a test spin. The way it spins for you is the most important part, not the maker's rep, the price or any of that kind of stuff. I've bought some expensive beauties from makers that others swear by and they turned out to be clunkers for me. I've also bought some unknowns that turned out to be gems.

Of course you already said that. :-)


I liked part 2 as well. Boat anchor? Too funny for words! I call them the Cave Men Club people or the fire wood collectors - some spindles would be better off warming our homes in Winter!


Excellent spindle posts! My name for a spinner's PEBCAC is "driver control problems".
My name for a boat anchor is head klonker.
Cheers, Jenny

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