I've wanted to learn to spin for several years now, and have finally decided to go ahead and try it. I'm so excited!!!
I will probably get a top-whorl spindle, since it sounds like that will last the longest.
So, the question is, should I go with the absolute cheapest spindle to start with? Is there a mid-range style that I'll want to continue using? Unfinished vs. finished?
Is there a particular type of wood that's esp. easy to work with for a beginner? There are also lots of choice in the size of whorl. 3" vs. 2" or something in between?
And what fiber is best to start with? I was probably going to buy from Paradise Fibers (supporting in-state businesses) I tend to be sensitive to lanolin in lotions -- will that make a difference here? How hard is wool vs. silk vs. other fibers?
Phew! So many questions, but looking forward to seeing your thoughts. Thanks in advance!
Kathy in WA
Check Paradise Fibers' web site. Most of these places have a beginner's kit that comes with a plain spindle, a bit of wool, and maybe a book; they're used to dealing with beginners and will be able to advise you.
My personal experience was that a giant "beginner's" spindle was just too huge and discouraging. I only really got started when someone tucked a little toywheel spindle into a bunch of fiber I'd ordered for another purpose.
The book I like best, because it gives a balanced overview of many different types of spindle and a lot of instruction, is Connie Delaney's Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert. If you prefer a video, try the one by Barbara Clorite-Ventura. And of course, you can just Google around, there's plenty of stuff on YouTube!
You'll get as many different recommendations as there are responses, but I always tell people to get a plain-vanilla Kundert spindle (and by "plain vanilla", I mean one with an unadorned whorl -- solid cherry, maple or cedar), which runs about $25, which is a good price for the quality. They tend to weigh about an ounce, which is a good starter weight (and a good weight for down the road, too.) The whorl is a good size, has a good notch and a great hook. It is rim-weighted, which I always suggest to beginners, because they spin longer and slower (both good qualities for learning how to draft). And they're just a pretty spindle -- very, very well made. And easy to find -- lots of spinning shops carrying them, both brick-and-mortar and online shops.
As far as fiber, I'd suggest either Blue-faced Leicester (aka "BFL") or Corriedale -- both are relatively soft as well as relatively easy to learn with, because they've got some "grab", to help with drafting. If you can get some in the form of "sliver" or "pencil roving", all the better. Those are forms of preps which are like roving but thinned down to about the thickness of a pencil, again, for easier drafting. Louet has a sliver they call "Northern Lights" which is available in lots of places. There's also a website called Crown Mountain Farms that sells gorgeous, hand-dyed Corriedale pencil roving in 8 oz. bags -- a good amount to start with. You won't regret buying that stuff!
Hope that helps! :-)
I'm not even going to list possible fibers to start with, because, basically, you should spin (and learn to spin) what you like.
But that first spindle? Try a Bare Bones spindle from Greensleeves! It looks pretty plain, but dang! Those Bare Bones spindles spin (and not too fast, and not too slow, either). This is the spindle I use when I teach new spinners. They weigh about 1.5 ounces, which is enough weight so you know the spindle is still attached to your fiber and yet not so much weight that you're scared it will immediately breaky your yarn (or rip the fiber out of your hand) and fall to the ground. There's a notch in the whorl and a nice hook. And the cost? $15.
Those are Bare Bonesies in my pic (they're the 1 ounce version of the Bare Bones)...
First spindle - I can't help - I had (and still have) a DIY job that works just fine then there are the pretties...
As for fiber.... BFL is a great started fiber! It is very easy to learn on as it is long enough to 'give you a chance' to draft your fibers without experiencing the 'drop' in drop spindling ;) JMO
Destiknit the Podcast
Thanks so much for everyone's help! I've just ordered a Barebones spindle that just happened to be on sale and some gorgeous pre-dyed Corriedale roving. I've also just found out that the barn owner where my horses are used to spin when she still lived in Germany and can help me over the rough spots!
After a few disasterous starts, I finally mastered the drop spindle with a Lollipop (regular, not all-day) spindle and some nice tussah silk from Chasing Rainbows. Unfortunately, the Lollipops are no longr being made - they were great little spindles.
I don't think the wood makes any difference in how a spindle spins. What is important is that the spindle be a good weight for the fiber being spun and that it not be too heavy. Many of the inexpensive spindles sold specifically for beginners are way too heavy and could easily serve a dual purpose if you have a boat that needs an anchor.
If you meant "wool" instead of "wood", Romney is always a good choice for a beginner. As I said, I learned with silk so that's also a good fiber for learning to use a spindle.
I would recommend Bosworth spindles. They are good spinners, each spindle is test spun before leaving the shop, and they are beautifully made and balanced. A bit more pricey than some of the others but worth it and they do hold their value very well should you want to resell it in the future.
Hi Kathy in WA, I'm also in WA.. If I may ask where did you order your Barebones spindle? I'm also new to spinning, just got a LadyBug wheel for Christmas, but I'm thinking to help with my drafting skill and as a take with me when I travel I should invest in a Spindle. I'm so looking forward to getting better on the wheel and thinking a Spindle might help with my progress.
Hi, Barb -- I got it from knitwityarns.com, but order soon, 'cause she's closing up shop next week! Another victim of the poor economy...
PLEASE -- Don't go with the cheapest spindle!!! You might never get beyond the learning phase!
I used a Kundert for my first drop spindle. It is nicely balanced, top Whorl and you can email/call him and request a particular weight. My VERY next spindle (within a few weeks of learning) was a Golding, 3" 1.9 oz ring spindle --- oh my GOD what a great experience that was!!! I have 3 golding ring spindles now, and a drop spindle plyer, and a tensioned lazy kate for my majacraft wheel.
Golding spindles are NOT too much if you get the plain wood ones, AND you can email him and request a particular weight. 1.5 to 2.0 oz is recommended for beginning.
I agree with Sierra, to some extent: the cheapest ones aren't always the best...but I've got to tell you the Bare Bones, while one of the more inexpensive spindles out there, is as good or better than some of my spendy spindles. Sure, you can spend $40-$80 dollars on a really good first spindle not knowing if you're going to like spindle spinning, and sure you can sell it if you end up not liking it and getting most of your money back...or you can spend in the range of $15 and get a good, solid first spindle...and if you don't like spindle spinning, you're not out that much (and you don't worry so much when you're dropping that spindle on the floor!). I love spindles. I have lots of them (100s, even, from many different makers). And of the dozen or so spindle projects I have going right now that I can think of, 3 of those projects are on Bare Bones (yep, I have multiple Bare Bones...4 or 5, I think).
Ok, enough gushing about Greensleeves spindles from me for today!
Thanks for letting me know... I'll check her out now.
I forgot to tell you about roving! Silly me. I teach spinning at an LYS and I usually recommnend undyed roving of medium staple length. Corriedale is good, but it is a little on the short side. I have had very good luck with BFL and Border Leister. I also have some lambswool romney that is very soft and practically spins itself.
The reason I like undyed roving is that the dye molecules tend to make the roving stick and slip. It is either sticking together too much or just slipping away! Natural roving with just a touch of the natural lanolin, is smooth and silky to spin.
I like to buy from small operations rather than large conglomerates, their roving will not have the life (crimp and grease) processed out of it! I have used Ramifications, Frene Creek Farm and a local Shop French Creek Fiber Arts (I'm sure she would send you roving)
Ramifications -- Sharon Allen a retired sheep shearer -- SUPER friendly GREAT prices and her local fiber processor does a fabulous job
Frene Creek Farm -- Laurie Bolz -- she does most of her own blending, processing dyeing. I have spun ther lambswool/cotswold/mohair mix with great success. She has LOTS of unprocessed fiber, and you can always email her with requests.
French Creek Fiber Arts -- Peggy Strang -- Peggy is a spinner, and buys her Border Leister locally in Ohio and has it processed out. She always has a nice selection of natural fibers and can give you GREAT advice.
Hope this helps (and is not too lengthy)
p.s. you can go to my Dakota Designs Blog to see examples of yarn I have spun/ blended from these resources!
A cheap but good spindle to begin with is either the Louet high or low whorl...the spindles with the little sheep imprinted on the whorls. The Louet's are forgiving spindles and can withstand a lot of dropping. For an easy-to-spin commercial prep, I'd highly recommend Louet's Coopworth roving. It comes in handsome natural sheep colors and is surprisingly soft and versatile.
Spinning Spider Jenny
Everyone's been giving great advice, but I have to say that IMO the absolute best thing you could do would be to find a shop near you that carries spinning supplies, if you can -- and just go in, tell whoever's there that you're looking to get started, and ask what they have on hand and what the newbies they help out usually are successful with. A guild would also be great.
The Northern Lights fiber is what I usually use for teaching absolute beginners. The previously mentioned Barebones, Kunderts, and Bosworths are the top whorls I usually pick if people are fervently sure that's what they want. But don't assume it is -- get a low whorl too. Or make yourself one of each with a toy wheel and a dowel.