Spinning is one of the oldest traditions in the world. Did you know that whorls from drop spindles have been found at archaeological sites dating back to ~5000 BC? Now we spin more as a hobby than out of necessity, although that opinion is arguable in many spinning circles. Using a drop spindle is a great way to get your feet wet, or you may decide you prefer spinning on a spindle and forego the wheel entirely. But what type of drop spindle should you purchase? Read on, friend!
Choosing a Drop Spindle
Turning fiber into yarn only works because you are adding twist to the fibers. Without the twist, the fibers would simply fall apart. Spinning wheels achieve this goal faster than drop spindles, but the process can be enjoyable no matter the means. When spinning on a drop spindle, you are creating a twist that you will then allow to travel up the rest of the drafted wool. There is an art to it, and once you find your rhythm you’ll find it hard to put down.
There are many, many different types of drop spindles. You could prefer a top whorl, a bottom whorl, a Turkish style spindle, or a supported spindle, among many other options. The good news is that there is no wrong answer, and you can purchase one inexpensively. You can even make one yourself at home!
When selecting a drop spindle there are several things to consider.
The weight of your spindle plays a larger role than you might think. Spindles can be as light as 1 oz (or less, but lighter spindles don’t spin as long) or as heavy as 3 – 4 oz. The lighter the spindle, the finer yarn you can produce. With a very light spindle you can spin fine silk, or shorter fibers like cotton. A heavy spindle is good for plying or for spinning longer staple length fiber, as the weight can cause thinner yarns to break. This is why medium weight (2 oz) are typically recommended for beginners.
2. To Whorl or not to Whorl
A whorl is the weighted disc of the spindle. This helps to ensure that the spindle is well balanced and does not wobble while spinning. It is important to note that not all drop spindles have whorls, and some have a top whorl, while others have a bottom whorl. A drop spindle without a whorl will typically have a swell on one end or the other, providing weight and balance to the shaft.
3. Bottom or Top Whorl, Turkish, or Supported?
The placement of your whorl is personal preference. With a top whorl spindle the freshly spun yarn will be wound below the whorl, and with a bottom whorl spindle the freshly spun yarn will be collected above the whorl. A Turkish style spindle is similar to a bottom whorl, in that there are two arms that cross and intersect at the bottom, around which you wind the freshly spun yarn – producing a center-pull ball. Aren’t they gorgeous?!
While not all drop spindles have notches, I found them to be helpful when learning on my drop spindles. The notches keep the yarn from slipping around the whorl while you wind/rewind.
For your first spindle, I recommend going with a top whorl that is about 3″ wide, with a shaft about 9″ long and a total weight of about 2 oz.
If you want to play around with the different styles, I purchased this Beginner’s Drop Spindle Set on Etsy and I love the fact that you can try your hand at the top whorl, bottom whorl, or supported spinning – AND you get a 4 oz braid of Romney to play around with, a great fiber for beginners. Note that these are smaller (6″) spindles, which would be excellent to leave bedside for some relaxing before-bed spinning! ♥