Learning to spin yarn

Alpaca fleece and a drop spindle
Alpaca fleece and a drop spindle

Just before Christmas I stumbled on youtube videos about spinning yarn. I’ve thought about making yarn on a spinning wheel but I didn’t realise that you could do it inexpensively with a drop spindle¬†until I watched videos on the technique and found information about making your own drop spindle.

Visiting my mum for a week, we went to a hardware store and picked up a length of dowel and, unable to find a circular piece of wood, bought three coaster pieces which we stuck together. With a cup hook, some glue, and a drill, we made a drop spindle!

I was keen to get spinning but I didn’t have any fibre so we raided my mum’s tapestry wool stash of odds and ends which I spent time plying together. I found out later that I should have been plying in the opposite direction (against the original twist) which might have made my yarn easier to work with, but this is the point of trying… you learn.

Multicoloured plied yarn and a drop spindle
Plied yarn

The following day we visited a local craft shop and surprisingly found small bags of wool fibres ready for felting or spinning. I was happy and mum bought them for me as a Christmas present. The only problem I had was that the fibres were from overseas and I really wanted to spin Australian wool so, before we left the store, I asked the owner if she knew of anywhere nearby where I could get fleece. It just so happened that a farmer had left her a big sack of alpaca fleece to pass on to the school for craft projects and she offered some to me! I had no idea about how much I’d need but I grabbed a few big handfuls in to a plastic bag and thanked her repeatedly because I now had real Australian fibres!

I had to read about how to clean the fibres (I’ll post my method next time I do it) and then I patiently had to wait for them to dry (perfect time to practice spinning some of the pre-cleaned wool fibres to see how they worked with the drop spindle). Once the alpaca fibres were dry I didn’t have combs so I used my hands to separate, fluff and smooth the fibres in approximately the same direction. Then I spent several evenings spinning and spinning and spinning.

Spun wool
Spun wool

The alpaca fibres were generally easier to spin in to a thinner yarn than the wool fibres but I ended up with clumps because I hadn’t been able to comb the fleece. Overall though I’m very happy with how it turned out.

I’m definitely keen to get more fibres and do more spinning. The cleaning of the alpaca fleece was time-consuming (lots of little spikes and vegetable matter) but it was relaxing and it will be very satisfying when I’ve made something special with the yarn.

Spun alpaca yarn in a hank before setting the twist
Spun alpaca yarn in a hank before setting the twist
Plying with a drop spindle
Plying with a drop spindle
You're not meant to dry wool in the sun but it was so warm in the NSW bush that it didn't need to stay out there for very long.
You’re not meant to dry wool in the sun but it
was so warm in the NSW bush that it didn’t
need to stay out there for very long.