As you might have noticed, I talk about all things spinning (products, fibers, techniques, you name it!) on my blog and YouTube channel. With all this information out there, it can seem intimidating to get started spinning.
So, people often ask me how to get started if you are a beginner. Getting started doesn’t have to be that complicated or scary. That’s why I want to give you a very bare-bones breakdown of the basic things that you need to get started spinning.
Watch the full video on how to get started spinning on YouTube or keep reading below!
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Should you start with a spinning wheel or a drop spindle?
When starting hand spinning, the biggest question is whether a spinning wheel or a drop spindle is best for beginners. People often wonder if they need to start with a spindle before they can move onto a wheel.
The truth is that you don’t have to start with one thing or another — they both count as spinning, and each has their pros and cons.
Therefore, the best thing to start with is whatever you can get your hands on and whatever works best for your accessibility and budget.
Drop spindles for beginners
Often, people feel like they should start with drop spindles, but I generally don’t like ‘shoulds’ when it comes to spinning. Like I said, you can start with whatever tool works best for you.
That said, below are some things to know if you are starting with a drop spindle. You can also read more about the power of the spindle from Abby Franquemont.
Types of drop spindles
There is a huge variety of drop spindles, so I understand why beginners could be very confused.
DIY and student spindles
The spindle I started on was a dowel rod with a craft wheel and a cup hook. It’s very easy to find these supplies at your local craft store and construct your own spindle like this, and they work great. It goes to show that you can start spinning with very simple tools and a small budget. You can also purchase very basic student spindles at a craft store for around $12.
If you have a larger budget, you can find handcrafted spindles created by skilled craftspeople. These are often well-balanced, spin very well, and are made of fancy and rare wood. They’re gorgeous, and I personally love when I’m able to support craftspeople in the community.
In the handcrafted category, you can also find a variety of culturally specific spindles. If you are interested in spinning because you want to connect with your culture or learn more about other cultures, there are all kinds of culturally specific spinning tools and traditions out there to explore. It’s important to learn those kinds of things within the context of the culture where they came from and to keep those traditions alive. So, definitely do a little extra research and learn from the people in the culture if you can.
There are also historical spindles that may be not only culturally specific but historically specific. If you are interested in spinning specifically for reenactment, definitely do some research and find some good sources that will give you a form factor for the time period you’re looking for. Find what connects with you and do some research!
Spinning wheels for beginners
Spinning wheels look really cool! Who doesn’t want to pretend that they are in their very own fairy tale spinning away on a spinning wheel?
I know I do. I want to be the fairy tale godmother of spinning!
But spinning wheels, just like spindles, come in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and a range of prices. So, it can be very confusing to know where to start here too.
First, it is important to acknowledge that they are a machine with moving parts.
Antique spinning wheels
Since spinning wheels are machines, the antique wheel at the flea market might not be the best place to start. While they might be pretty, they can be hard for beginners to get started.
Sometimes people luck out and find an antique wheel in good working condition, but more often than not, antique wheels are worn out, damaged, and missing parts.
So, they can be very difficult for a beginner who doesn’t necessarily have the experience required to get them running. Plus, if they need replacement parts, you could end up spending more money than you would if you had invested in a new wheel.
Vintage spinning wheels
Vintage wheels can be a bit iffy too, but they can be easier for beginners than antique wheels. They are hard to find, but they are out there. Do a lot of research to help identify vintage wheels and know what you are getting.
My first wheel was a vintage Ashford traditional from the 1960s that I fixed up and painted to look cute.
Modern spinning wheels
If you decide that spinning is definitely for you, you may want to purchase a brand-new wheel.
I am a Schacht dealer, so I carry all of the Schacht spinning wheels in my online shop here.
Let me know what you are interested in and I can help find the right wheel for you.
Rented spinning wheels
For a more economical option, you can sometimes find wheels to rent or borrow — possibly from a local fiber supply store or a local guild. Some maker spaces also have textile tools for public use.
Do some research in your local area to see if there are ways to get your hands on a spinning wheel and try it out.
I love my e-spinners! I have an Ashford e-spinner and a nano e-spinner.
I especially love e-spinners as an accessible option for people who may have physical hindrances and need to prioritize physical comfort while spinning.
E-spinners are very affordable wheels that you can purchase. Some E-spinners like the Eel Wheel Nano are small, so they are best for small projects using finer, thinner yarns.
Key takeaways: Spinners for beginners
Different tools are good at different things, so keep that in mind considering what tool is going to be the best fit for you.
But if you just want to get started, a student or DIY drop spindle, a borrowed spinning wheel, or an economical Eel Wheel Nano might be your best choice.
Fibers for beginners
You’ve chosen your tool, you have a spindle, wheel, or e-spinner, and you’re ready to start spinning — but what fiber should you start with?
Just like there is a huge variety of spindles and wheels and e-spinners, there’s a huge variety of fibers as well.
The most common fiber type for beginners is wool, but people also start with alpaca or non-animal fibers such as acrylic, cotton, or flax.
How to choose a wool breed for beginner’s spinning
If you look into wool for spinning, you’re going to discover that there are hundreds and hundreds of breeds of sheep. Each breed of sheep is bred for a different purpose and has different characteristics.
Merino wool is very popular for spinning, but I might be very controversial when I say that I don’t think Merino is the best wool for beginners.
Instead, I think the easiest wool to start with is a medium wool. Three of my favorite breeds for beginners are Bluefaced Leicester, Corriedale, and Cheviot. I feel like they draft easily and they’re fairly soft.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite breed is for beginners.
A combed top is a preparation of wool where everything has been combed and aligned so that it’s very easy to draft and spin from. Therefore, combed top is a great way to start spinning. Combed top is also very consistent and comes in some fun, exciting colors. I also hand paint combed top that is available in my shop.
Spinning accessories for beginners
None of these things are necessary to purchase, but there are a few spinning accessories you can get that will make your spinning journey easier.
- A niddy noddy is a tool that will assist you in taking your yarn off your spindle or bobbin.
- A lazy Kate (I like to call it a ‘hard-working Kate’) holds your spindles or your bobbins while you ply your yarn. (That’s when you take your two individually spun strands of yarn and twist them together to make a sturdy finished yarn.)
- A control card shows you the diameter of the yarn that you are spinning. These can help you monitor your progress in spinning consistency.
- A yarn swift and a ball winder will help you to hold a skein of yarn and put it in a ball for crochet, knitting, or whatever your plans are.
- A scale to weigh the yarn. You will quickly find that weighing your yarn is very helpful when you start to plan larger projects like knitting a sweater.
Conclusion: How to start spinning for beginners
The rabbit hole is deep my friends. One minute you’re thinking ‘I’d like to start spinning. What tools do I need to start with?” And before you know it, you’re putting a bid on 20 acres to have a place to put your flock of sheep and alpacas…
But all you really need to start is an inexpensive drop spindle, spinning wheel, or e-spinner and some fiber!
You can check out my shop for all the supplies you need to get started.
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If you want to learn more fiber tips and tricks, watch this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel and join my Patreon! I have a lot of blog posts and YouTube playlists with more information, product reviews, and spinning tutorials.
If you are interested in private virtual spinning lessons, you can send me an e-mail at email@example.com.