My first spinning tutorial: Making your own drop spindle!

This week I’ve been taking a staycation to do some much-needed puttering. And one of the things I did was make a couple of new spindles from start to finish. If you want to learn how to spin but the sticker-shock of a wheel got to you, never fear! Drop spindles are easy to make, economical, and fun. Plus you can add your own personal touches! I ended up making one very large Gothly spindle for bulky weight yarns, and a more delicate flowery one…

You will need: A dowel,some sandpaper,1-2 packages of polymer clay,a good glue,paint or beeswax or wood-oil,(optional) one cup hook.(optional.)

First off, have a look at your dowel. How long is it? A good comfortable spindle should be between between 9 to 15 inches, depending on what you want to spin. If you want bulky yarns, go big. Smaller spindles are good for more delicate yarns, but if you’re new to spinning a larger spindle will be your very best friend. Sand your dowel so it doesn’t catch on your yarn and takes paint well. I also like to taper mine a bit because it looks nice. To save yourself loads of sanding for a tapered tip, you can use a pencil sharpener and then smooth everything down and take the sharp edge off. You’re looking for elegant lines, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer here…

Bare dowel
A bare dowel, sanded and ready for a hook.

You can add your hook at the top of the dowel. But if you couldn’t find a hook you liked, it’s not the end of the world. You can also add a notch to the top to hold onto your yarn. Just loop the yarn around your finger and slip it onto the notch, and it will hold nicely. You can use sandpaper to sand in your notch, or cut one carefully with a knife.

Notched dowel.
A notched dowel with sample yarn. Just loop it around your notch with a half-twist, and it will hold just fine.

I would recommend painting just the top of your dowel whatever color you want at the moment, and sticking it upright in a jar to dry. You’ll use it as a handle later for painting the rest of your spindle. Meanwhile, time for the fun part–playing with clay! For a large spindle, you’ll be using a whole small package of polymer clay while a smaller one will take about 3/4 of a package. You can smoosh out the clay in a circle or square, add colors, glitter, beads, whatever makes you feel fancy. If you have a piece of your dowel left over, you can use it to make sure your center-hole will fit your spindle. If not, you can use your spindle to measure the hole,but be careful you don’t distort the hole too much.

Polymer clay whorls
Polymer clay spindle whorls, ready to be baked.

Now that you’ve baked your whorls and they’ve had a chance to cool, you can add them carefully to your dowel. If the hole is a little tight, no worries–polymer clay is easy to sand down or even carve.If there’s a gap, it’s easy to fix with a good glue–or you can make a smaller bead with a tighter fitting hole, bake it and add it over the whorl, gluing it into place. But where to put your whorl? Some people enjoy the whorl near the top so you can show off all that hard work. But I like bottom whorls, because they’re so stable. Either way, leave a little room on the top or bottom so it’s easier for you to handle.
Once you’ve got your spindle happily positioned and glued, you can paint, wax or oil the dowel. I prefer paint and a nice clear-coat varnish…and sometimes some very small bore glitter between the pain and varnish layers. Because I get down like that. Once everything is painted, use a string to hang up your spindle somewhere out of the way to dry…

Finished drop spindles
The finished drop spindles, one a cute fairy spindle and one a dark, brooding Gothly one…

And there you are! Your very own spindle, for a couple of bucks and a little time…

Oddments and Ends…

September already? I’m always so happy to see September roll up. Because October is right behind it. Also, retailers have been pushing loads of Halloween decorating things, so I can get all the skull goblets and and bat tablecloths I can carry. Usually I do a big hit right after Halloween and snap things up on sale, but sometimes I’m just not that patient. Because of my scrabbling around,last year I needed a much bigger Gothmas tree for all my jacked-up, weirdo ornaments. Hopefully this one will last a few years until I need a bigger one still…

Meanwhile, that blue angora hood I made could use some friends, so I’ve been knitting up wristwarmers. I have enough yarn left to make some plain blue ones, perhaps with matching snowflakes, but I couldn’t help making something entirely different with purple and blue fair-isle. I was knitting up a tummy for a gut-monster, and everybody who saw it seemed a little disappointed that it wasn’t a thing they could wear…

Half of a mitt
Fuzzy! Blue! Purple! And also fuzzy!

It’s kind of refreshing to make something that eye-catching out of fun leftover yarns from other projects. The blue and purple yarns were for making zombie dolls, and the blue angora was yarn I had frogged from a sweater a friend found at a thrift store. It was someone’s project that they never quite finished–there was a front and a back, and one-half a sleeve, as well as a little lace in a blue cotton that was too heavy for all that angora. I wonder sometimes what happened with the original owner of that almost-sweater. Did they get frustrated and give up on their project? Or did they die and leave their not-quite-a-sweater behind? I’ll never know. But I’m happy I’ve managed to do some nice recycling and make a few fun things here and there. And maybe when I grudgingly go to my own eventual grave, some fun knitter will go through my own stash and go, “Hey, look at that half-a scarf! I bet I could make something really cool with that!” I’d like to think so. So maybe the first owner won’t mind much.

(I also made a ridiculously fluffy blue nightie with some of the angora. I’m ummmm…not showing it to you. Or possibly anybody. It’s that over-the-top.)