Beginner's Guide: Spin Yarn with a Drop Spindle
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is a Drop Spindle?
  2. Materials Needed for Spinning Yarn
  3. How to Setup Your Drop Spindle
  4. How to Draft Your Fiber
  5. How to Spin Fiber into Yarn
  6. How to Wind on the Spun Yarn
  7. How to Join New Fiber
  8. How to Finish Your Spun Yarn
  9. Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
  10. Additional Resources for Beginners

Have you ever looked at a beautifully hand spun yarn and thought, "I wish I could do that!"? Well, fret not, because this blog is all about learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle— a simple but magical tool that can bring your yarn dreams to life. It's not rocket science, but like all skills, it takes a little bit of practice. So, let's get started!

What is a Drop Spindle?

A drop spindle is a handheld tool that's been used for thousands of years to twist fiber into yarn. It's beautifully simple: a spindle shaft with a weight (often referred to as a whorl) attached to it. The spindle is 'dropped' from your hand while it spins, twisting the fiber as it goes.

There are many types of drop spindles, but for beginners, a top-whorl spindle is a great choice. The whorl is located near the top of the shaft, which makes the spindle spin faster and longer—perfect for learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle.

Here's a quick rundown of the parts of a drop spindle:

  • Shaft: This is the long, straight part of the spindle. It's usually made of wood and can be any length from 9-12 inches.
  • Whorl: The weight that helps your spindle spin. It's usually round, and it can be made from a variety of materials such as clay, wood, or stone.
  • Hook or notch: This is at the top of the shaft. It's where you secure your yarn as you're spinning.

These elements come together to make a tool that's as fun as it is functional. So, if you're ready to take the plunge into the world of spinning, a drop spindle is a great place to start!

Materials Needed for Spinning Yarn

Now that we've covered what a drop spindle is, let's talk about the materials you'll need for spinning. Besides a drop spindle, which we've already talked about, you're going to need fiber. Fiber is what you'll be transforming into your very own handspun yarn.

For beginners, I recommend starting with wool. Why wool, you ask? Well, wool fibers have a natural crimp to them, which helps them bind together and makes it easier for you to control as you're learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle.

Here's a basic list of what you'll need:

  • Drop Spindle: As we discussed earlier, a top-whorl spindle is a great option for beginners.
  • Wool Fiber: Start with a soft, easy-to-handle fiber like Merino wool. It's a joy to spin and is readily available.
  • Carding Brushes: These brushes help to align the fibers and prepare them for spinning. Though not strictly necessary for the absolute beginner, they can make the process smoother.
  • A little patience: Spinning yarn is a skill that takes some time to get the hang of, but once you do, it's incredibly rewarding!

With these materials in hand, you'll be ready to start your spinning journey. Let's move on to setting up your drop spindle, shall we?

How to Setup Your Drop Spindle

Once you've gathered your materials, the next step in learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle is, unsurprisingly, setting up your drop spindle. This may seem daunting, but fear not—it's easier than you might think.

Firstly, you'll want to attach a leader to your spindle. A leader is a piece of yarn that helps guide your new yarn onto the spindle. This allows you to start spinning without having to attach the fiber directly to the spindle.

Here's a simple way to set up your spindle:

  1. Make the Leader: Cut a piece of yarn about 24 inches long. This will be your leader.
  2. Attach the Leader: Tie one end of the leader to the shaft of the spindle, right below the whorl. Make sure it's secure—you don't want it slipping off mid-spin.
  3. Thread the Leader: Bring the other end of the leader up and over the edge of the whorl and through the hook or notch at the top of the spindle.
  4. Secure the Leader: Now, give your spindle a little spin—your leader should wrap around the shaft and stay in place. If it doesn't, adjust it until it does.

And there you have it—you've set up your drop spindle! Remember, the setup is a crucial step in learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle, so take your time to get it right. Now, on to the next step: drafting your fiber.

How to Draft Your Fiber

Drafting your fiber might sound like it requires an architectural degree, but it's really about preparing your fiber to be spun. It's an important step in learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle, as it determines the thickness of your yarn.

Here's how to draft your fiber:

  1. Prepare the Fiber: Pull out a small section of fiber from your roving or batt. This is your "drafting triangle". It's the starting point for your spin.
  2. Draft the Fiber: Hold the end of the fiber in one hand, and with your other hand, gently pull the fiber apart. You want to pull it just enough so that the fibers are loosened, but not so much that they separate. This creates what's called a "draft".
  3. Test the Draft: Give your spindle a quick spin. If it spins easily and the spun yarn seems strong, you've drafted correctly. If not, you may need to adjust your draft.

Drafting is a skill that improves with practice, so don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time. Keep at it, and soon you'll be drafting like a pro! Now that you've drafted your fiber, you're one step closer to spinning your first yarn.

How to Spin Fiber into Yarn

Now that you have drafted your fiber, it's time to really start learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle. This is where the magic happens!

  1. Start Your Spin: Hold the top of your drop spindle in your dominant hand, with the drafted fiber in your other hand. Give the spindle a good whirl in a clockwise direction. The twist will travel up the fibers, turning them into yarn. Neat, right?
  2. Control the Twist: The secret to a smooth, even yarn is controlling the twist. If the twist travels too far up the fiber, it can make it difficult to draft. Use your fingers to pinch the twist, stopping it where you want it to end.
  3. Keep Spinning: Continue spinning the spindle and drafting fiber, letting the twist turn the fiber into yarn. When the spindle almost touches the ground, stop spinning and proceed to the next step - winding on the spun yarn.

Remember, spinning takes practice. It's normal to produce lumpy, uneven yarn at first. But don't worry, even the lumpiest yarn makes for great knitting or weaving. So keep spinning, and before you know it, you'll be creating beautifully spun yarn with your drop spindle.

How to Wind on the Spun Yarn

Great job on spinning your fiber into yarn! Now, you need to wind that newly spun yarn onto your drop spindle. But how? Don't worry, learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle isn't complete without knowing how to wind on the spun yarn. Let's get to it.

  1. Secure Your Yarn: First, stop your spindle from spinning. Hold the shaft of the spindle in one hand and the newly spun yarn in the other.
  2. Wind It Up: Start winding the yarn around the shaft of the spindle, just above the whorl (that's the round part near the bottom of the spindle). Keep winding until only a length of yarn is left unwound.
  3. Create a New Leader: With that last bit of unwound yarn, loop it around the hook or notch at the top of your spindle. This is your new leader, ready for you to continue spinning.

And there you have it! You've successfully wound your spun yarn onto your drop spindle. Remember, winding regularly helps prevent your spindle from dropping unexpectedly. So, keep it up, and you'll soon have a spindle full of your very own hand-spun yarn.

How to Join New Fiber

As you continue on your journey of learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle, you'll inevitably reach a point where you run out of fiber. Don't worry, it's not the end of the world. In fact, it's a great opportunity to learn how to join new fiber. Here's how:

  1. Prepare Your New Fiber: Take a new piece of fiber and fluff out one end. This helps it catch onto your spun yarn more easily.
  2. Overlap the Old with the New: Lay the fluffy end of your new fiber over the end of the yarn you've just spun. Ensure they overlap by a few inches.
  3. Spin the Spindle: Start spinning your spindle in the direction you were spinning before. The twist will catch onto the new fiber and secure it to the old.
  4. Draft and Spin: Continue drafting out the new fiber and spinning it into yarn as you did before. Don't worry if your join looks a bit bulky at first, it will improve with practice!

See, joining new fiber isn't that scary, right? Now you can keep spinning, no matter how much yarn you want to make. Just remember, patience and practice are your best friends in this process of learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle.

How to Finish Your Spun Yarn

So, you've mastered the art of spinning and joining fibers. Good job! But the learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle journey isn't over yet. The final step is to finish your spun yarn. Here's your easy guide to doing it right.

  1. Wind off the Yarn: To start, wind your spun yarn off the spindle and onto a niddy noddy. This helps keep your yarn organized and prevents it from tangling. If you don't have a niddy noddy, an empty water bottle or a chair back can work too.
  2. Soak the Yarn: Next, soak your yarn in warm water with a mild soap for about 15 minutes. This helps set the twist.
  3. Rinse and Squeeze: Rinse your yarn in clean water, gently squeezing out any excess. Remember, don't wring it—you don't want to distort the fibers.
  4. Dry Your Yarn: Hang your yarn up to dry, preferably with a weight at the bottom to help it dry straight. A hanger or a spray bottle can do the trick.

And there you have it! Your handspun yarn is finished and ready for your next knitting, crocheting, or weaving project. Remember, every spindle of yarn you finish is a testament to your progress in learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle. So, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. You've earned it!

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

As you continue learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle, you'll likely encounter a few bumps along the way. Here are some common mistakes beginners often make, and how you can steer clear of them:

  1. Adding Too Much Twist: Over-twisting your yarn can make it feel rough and hard. To avoid this, try to keep a consistent rhythm while spinning and pay attention to the tension in your yarn.
  2. Not Drafting Enough Fiber: If your yarn keeps breaking, you might not be drafting enough fiber. Remember, the more fiber you draft, the stronger your yarn will be.
  3. Skipping the Finishing Step: Finishing your yarn is an essential part of the process. It helps set the twist and softens the yarn. So, don't rush to use your newly spun yarn—take the time to finish it properly.
  4. Being Too Hard on Yourself: Spinning yarn is a skill. Like any new skill, it takes time and practice to master. So, don't beat yourself up if your first few attempts don't turn out perfect. Remember, every mistake is a step forward in your journey of learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle.

So, keep these pointers in mind, and remember—practice makes perfect. Happy spinning!

Additional Resources for Beginners

Embarking on this new adventure of learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle is exciting! But, like any new skill, it can also be a bit overwhelming at the start. Don't worry, though—you're not alone in this journey. There are tons of resources out there that can help you along the way.

For starters, spinning books can be a great source of knowledge. Titles like "The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs" and "Respect the Spindle" can provide you with a wealth of information.

Another good idea is to join a spinning group. These are typically local groups of folks who love to spin and are more than happy to share their wisdom and experience. You'll likely find both beginners and seasoned spinners in these groups, making them a great place to learn and grow.

Lastly, don't underestimate the value of online tutorials. There are many step-by-step guides and video tutorials available online that can help you master the art of spinning. Websites like Craftsy and YouTube have plenty of these resources.

Remember, the key to learning to spin yarn with a drop spindle—or any new skill, for that matter—is patience, practice, and persistence. So, take your time, enjoy the process, and don't forget to have fun. Happy spinning!

If you enjoyed the "Beginner's Guide: Spin Yarn with a Drop Spindle" blog post and want to expand your knowledge of traditional crafting techniques, don't miss the workshop 'Creative Ways to Use Traditional Hand Embroidery Techniques' by Irem Yazici. This workshop will help you explore the world of hand embroidery and show you how to incorporate these techniques into your creative projects.