In Crafts, What Is Spinning?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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In crafts, spinning is the way in which yarn is produced from fibers. This term is often used only to refer to the handcraft used to create yarn, but the creation of yarn using machines works in much the same way. Spinning yarn requires a number of different steps, often including preparing the fibers and plying multiple yarns together. There are many different types of fibers that can be used to create yarn, and working with different fibers requires different techniques. Machine spinning is also a highly complex process, although this type of yarn creation is not often considered a craft.

Hand spinning can be done using a number of different tools. It is possible to make yarn without tools at all, although this is extremely difficult and often imprecise. The most rudimentary of tools used for yarn creation is often considered to be the drop spindle, which uses a weighted stick to twist the fibers into yarn. This tool is still frequently used to make yarns by hand and is capable of creating highly standard and attractive yarns.


Spinning wheels are a type of machine used to create yarns. These machines work much faster than drop spindles, but they are still slower than industrial spinning machines. Working with a wheel requires some skill, but it is often faster than working with a spindle. There are many spinning wheel designs that work in slightly different ways. Various groups have designed highly efficient machines of this type due to the importance of yarn to the production of fabrics.

There are many different fibers suitable for spinning, and each makes different types of yarn. Commonly, animal fibers from sheep, alpaca, and other animals with fur are used to create yarn. Plant fibers can also be used to create yarn, although some are more common than others. Synthetic fibers are more recently becoming popular, and depending on the material, these can create yarn with highly unique properties.

Creating yarn as a craft is an interesting hobby because spinners often work with the fibers at several different stages of the yarn's production. The crafter may dye, spin, and use the yarn, but he or she may be involved as early as harvesting the fibers. Many people who have small herds of sheep, for example, are involved in all steps of the production of yarn, yielding a highly customized product. Being involved at all steps of the process means that a crafter can spin a yarn for a specific project rather than making the project fit the yarn. Although machine-made yarns can be highly consistent and beautiful, handmade yarns are attractive and valuable products connected to a long history of working with fiber.


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How many calories does spinning yarn on a treadled wheel use per hour?

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