Tips and Troubleshooting for Drop Spindles

Don’t worry, drop spindlers, I haven’t forgot about you! Drop spindling is where many new hand-spinners start, and it can be frustrating when things aren’t flowing like they should. Here are some of my top tips for troubleshooting for drop spindles.

Check out these tips and frequently asked questions about spinning on a drop spindle…

Lace spindle

Photos via Laura Chau

Trying to ply yarn? Check out my article on tips for troubleshooting when drafting and plying yarn for more helpful advice!

“I have a hard time telling which way my spindle should be turning!”

I had a hard time with this at first too! If you have some trouble distinguishing between clockwise and counter-clockwise from the top of the spindle, try sticking a piece of masking tape or washi tape onto the whorl with an arrow to show you the clockwise direction for spinning singles.

It’s a great way to get acquainted with how the spindle feels when it’s going in each direction. Don’t forget that when plying, the spindle should be turning the opposite direction – you can also re-stick the tape in the direction that you want to go as a reminder.

Spindle tape

Photo via Laura Chau

“Why does my spindle turn backwards?”

A drop spindle turns back the opposite way (back-spinning) once it runs out of momentum. You can mostly prevent the spindle from going the wrong way just by keeping an eye out for when it’s slowing down – you want to catch the spindle before it starts going the other way entirely.

To give your spindle more momentum and therefore a longer spinning time, try rolling the shaft of the spindle against your leg, down the inside or outside to get it going the correct direction. You might need to practice a bit to get it going without getting away from you, but this will give your spindle a lot more time!

As you work through your fiber, your spindle will become heavier and slower to turn. When there’s enough yarn on the spindle that you can’t get it to keep spinning, or it’s just plain in the way, it’s time to wind the yarn off your spindle and onto a bobbin (like a toilet roll tube) or into a ball.

Cone cop

Photo via Craftsy member Cryla1009

“How should I be wrapping my spun yarn on the spindle?”

The bundle of spun yarn that you wind on around your spindle’s shaft is called the cop. There are quite a few ways to wrap your cop! The most important thing is to keep tension on the yarn as you wind it on – if you let go, the twist can travel up into your fiber supply and gum things up. The most common wrap is shaped like an ice cream cone, where most of the yarn is concentrated just under the whorl (or inverted for a bottom-whorl spindle) and the yarn spirals up and down the shaft. You can also wind on into more of a beehive shape, where the middle is thicker and the ends are thinner. Experiment to see what’s comfortable for you.

“Why is my cop so loose?”

Remember to wrap the spun yarn under tension, so that you can pack on as much as possible. It’s more difficult to wrap tightly as you ply, so you might need to wind the yarn off the spindle more frequently.

“Why does my yarn fall off the hook?”

If the spindle doesn’t have a notch somewhere around the whorl, it’s pretty easy for the yarn to come off the hook – and usually at the most inopportune time! Try looping the yarn into a half-hitch before placing it on the hook to prevent it from sliding off.

Supported spindle

Supported spindle photo via Flickr member grizzlymountainarts

“My yarn keeps breaking!”

Try adding more twist (link to yarn troubleshooting) – if that doesn’t help, it may be that your spindle is too heavy for the type of yarn you want to spin. If you want to spin thinner yarns (laceweight or fingering weight), you’ll need a lighter, smaller spindle than if you want to spin bulky yarns. If you’re spinning very short stapled, fine yarn, you might also want to try a supported spindle. Supported spindles are great for spinning cotton and cashmere, among other fibers!

Create beautiful yarns using the ancient art of spindling with the online class Spindling: From Fluff to Stuff! Learn the yarn-making process, from carding natural finders to creating stunning yarns in a variety of textures, all on a portable drop spindle.

Plus, learn to unwind while practicing your craft, as seasoned spindler Drucilla Pettibone demonstrates the Zen of spin!

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What’s your most common drop spindle problem?

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