How do I spin wool and other fibers into yarn?

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Have you ever gone to yarn stores just to feel the soft fibers underneath your fingers? Have you ever imagined creating such heavenly yarn yourself? Stop dreaming and start spinning! The first step is to buy the fiber of your choice. Your best resources are online fiber and spinning accessory shops. If you’re weary of purchasing online, some parts of the country have wool festivals, where vendors sell every kind of fiber you could dream of, as well as spinning wheels, and the much less expensive drop spindles, so keep an eye out for those.

Once you find a fiber outlet online or off, you have to choose what you want to work with. Angora and Alpaca fibers are more expensive than sheep wool, but they are also quite a bit softer, both to wear and to actually spin, although clothes made from these fibers are more likely to shed loose fibers. Mohair is another popular choice, and is ideal for sweaters or scarves. The traditional sheep wool is the cheapest fiber option, but you must be careful when purchasing this type. Be sure that the wool has been well carded – all of the dirt and insects and bits of grass should be combed out. Also, make sure that there is only a small amount of lanolin, a waxy substance produced by sheep to protect their wool. This will protect the hands during the spinning process, but if there is too much, the yarn will feel like it’s been dipped in wax. When choosing what wool to buy, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Spinners are always excited to see someone new trying out this ancient art, and they will be very willing to answer any questions you have.

You’ve got your fiber, now what? If you’ve always dreamed of a spinning wheel like you see in fairy tales, be prepared to dish out a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, you can purchase inexpensive drop spindles from most fiber vendors, or you can make your own by securing two old CDs back-to-back on one end of a 12-inch piece of ½-inch dowel rod. Leave about an inch and a half on one end. Then, on the short end of the rod, place a screw-in hook and voila! You have a drop spindle.

Now you’re finally ready to start spinning. Take a handful of your fiber and gently pull it as thin as you can without pulling the fibers completely apart. Hook a small bit of the fibers around the hook of your spindle and hold it there with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand, roll the spindle up your leg in a swift, smooth motion and then release it so that it’s spinning in the air. As it spins, use one hand to continually pull the fibers thin, and use the other hand to control the release of those fibers so that they do not start spinning until they are as thin or thick as you want. You must also pay close attention to the speed of the spinning, and once it slows to a certain point, roll it up your leg again and repeat the process. Once the strand of yarn reaches the floor so that you cannot spin it anymore, take the yarn off and wind it around the long portion of your spindle, making sure that the yarn forms a cone. Be sure to keep a short length of it to wind back up and over the hook of the spindle. Continue spinning until you get to the last couple inches of your section of fiber. Leave this thinly pulled apart and add to it the first couple inches of a new section of fiber, allowing the two sections to combine and continue the spinning process.

In no time, you’ll find yourself with beautifully handcrafted yarn, ready to be made into anything you can imagine.

submitted by Natalie Fyffe