*Publishing to GT because I don't think this ever got shared, or at least it didn't show up when I searched GT, so who the hell knows where it went, but you might like it*
If you have no idea what a drop spindle is, it's a way of making wool into yarn when you don't have a spinning wheel.
It's a prehistoric tool, it's light and portable, and for the princely sum of £8 I got one to play with. As with most tools, there is a knack to its use and a surprising variety of forms. In essence, the hands draw out the wool fluff into a strand of yarn; the spindle spins and adds a twist to the fibre to hold it together. The weight of the spindle keeps it spinning as the hands do their work above.
Mine is a top-whorl spindle, meaning the weight is at the top. Genius.
That blue yarn is called the leader. It stays attached to the spindle, and you use it to join your new yarn on to. See how it loops around that hook? That's how the twist is transferred to the fibre/yarn.
Don't worry, I'll find a youtube or gif demo. I have no pictures or footage of me spinning, because I am not Komaji therefore all my hands were full.
This lovely young lady has a good video clip. She is doing "park and draft" - holding the spindle while she faffs with the wool.
"Drafting" just refers to pulling the fibres gently into a thread. The skill here is knowing the staple length of the wool - each individual hair is roughly the same length (depending on sheep breed, age etc), and in order to draft well, your hands need to be a little further apart than this length.
There are lots of variations on how someone drafts. My first spinning was done longdraw (on a wheel) so I ended up doing longdraw whilst the spindle spun. This can be comical when your arms are as short as mine. In this video, imagine the little bit of the wheel as my spindle; and where this lady swooshes the yarn onto the bobbin I have to stop everything and manually wind the yarn on to the spindle.
Oh, and if you get over-ambitious you end up with yarn between your outstretched arms, trying to stop the spindle slowing down and reversing the spin using your knees, feet, or possibly the dog’s head. Yeah, you don’t want to reverse the spin – it’ll untwist your yarn and turn it back into fluff and then POOF it breaks and your spindle is on the floor.
Once your fluff runs out or your spindle is full, it should look a little like this.
This is single-ply; it’s ok, but not really strong enough to knit with. What we need to do is ply it. This means taking another single ply length of yarn, holding them together and twisting them the opposite way.
Now, if you’re weird like me, you’ll want a shortcut. Why spin, take it off the spindle into a ball, do the whole thing again, then ply those two balls together? Why not look up Andean plying?
Plying is faster than spinning, but it’s easy to get carried away. You may end up with the spindle between your feet while you let the twist get to the end of outreached fingertips…
So! Now you have this. Yippee!
The wool needs washing in lukewarm water with a dash of soap or shampoo. Wind it off the spindle around a chair back or your forearm. You want a big loop, not a ball of wool. Tie some scraps of yarn to hold it in the loop, like so.
Gently squeeze the wool under water. Now you need to shock the fibres a little. No, you don’t need to show it 4chan. Just squeeze out most of the water, put your hands in the loop, and “snap” your hands apart sharply. This shock sets the twist. I like to do it a couple of times at different points in the loop. Hang up your yarn to dry, and go change out of your now-wet clothes.
Look at the difference a little practice makes!