Posted by: jinniver | March 6, 2009

My first handspun (fingers crossed!)

It’s just wool.  It’s not like I can break it.

First yarn Tulip (1)

That’s what I keep telling myself as I prepare to try to spin–okay, okay, Yoda-in-my-head!  Ahem…as I prepare to spin my first yarn.  The fact that I couldn’t demonstrate to Steve how a drop spindle worked last night (using actual yarn instead of roving) without everything falling apart and hitting the floor is a little nervous making.  But it’s just wool.  I can’t break it.

I can split it.  But Megan can show me how to splice it together.

Oh, I forgot to introduce Megan! Megan is the very nice woman who kindly put three wonderful videos on spinning with a drop spindle on You Tube.  Thanks to her, I now have an understanding of how you get from braided roving to yarn–trust me, that was not something I could get my head around until I saw it done.  For starters, I didn’t realize you split the roving.  So, although I’ve never seen anyone spin in real life, I think I can do it.

It’s just wool.  I can’t break it.  I think.

First, the set up.  I’m working in the kitchen, because we have a counter-height table with taller chairs, which give me a good drop (although I’m going to be a spin and park spinner at first–still, this means I’ll be less likely to bang the spindle against something).  I’ve got roving (I’m starting with the Tulips colorway, because I’m not ready to tackle plying yet, and this is the only roving I intend to leave a single-ply), spindle, leader yarn, scissors, and laptop; also, since I’m blogging, camera, Ott Light, and poster board (background).

Next, I unbraid the roving.  I find myself handling it very gingerly at first, almost like I’m trying to gently separate cotton candy.  It’s just wool.  I can’t break it.

First yarn Tulip (2)

Then, I have to figure out how to split the roving evenly.  I’d like to try to get a fairly consistent yarn, although for my first try I’m not going to stress over it.  The splitting doesn’t go as smoothly as I hoped; I keep getting sections that want to stay with the other half of the roving.  One split goes rather badly; I end up with 2 sections where they both started out fine but one ended up too thick and the other much too thin.  I can’t split the thick one again without it being too thin, so I’m going to see if I can get it thin enough by drafting.  The too thin stuff I simply pulled off the end, leaving that section a bit shorter than the rest.  Despite my best efforts, I finish with about 12 sections of varying thickness.

First yarn Tulip (3)

I’ve only drafted about 6 inches into my first section of roving before I split it.  (Not broken, just split! I remind myself.)  I decide to go ahead and finish drafting while I wait for Megan to get to the section at the end showing how to splice the roving back together.  When she does I give it a shot, but it doesn’t seem to want to draft back together properly, so I give that small section up.  Ha, Yoda-in-my-head!  I did not!  How you like them apples?

Erm, sorry.  Yoda-in-my-head ticks me off sometimes.  After several back-and-forths, I still have a lumpier length of roving than I like.  But I’m concerned that further attempts to draft out the thickness will lead to more splits; I’ve already nearly pulled the roving apart twice more.  So, now it’s time to move on to the other 11 or so sections…

First yarn Tulip (4)

or I could go ahead and try spinning this section–just to see how it’s spinning up, of course, not because of any need to rush to an end.  Of course.

The struggle to decide is short; patiently drafting all the roving first barely puts up a token protest.  I flip over to the next video, and quickly learn what I was doing wrong last night–I needed a slip knot to secure the leader yarn to the spindle.  I quickly get everything hooked up and give the spindle an enthusiastic roll down my right thigh.  It spins perfectly the air for a bit, before I triumphantly park it between my legs…and realize the leader yarn is much too long.  I have to cut it down twice before I have the length I want.

Ok, back to spinning.  Hmmm…yarn’s much too thick and lumpy.  More drafting is in order.

Now I’m getting something that I can work with.  The only part is that the yarn keeps wanting to either lose all of its spin or crimp up because it’s overspun.  Or is it overspun?  I remind myself there’s a reason that I joined 5 different spinning groups on Ravelry, and hop over to the Beginning Spinners group. Sure enough, I’m not the first person with this question, and one of the knowledgeable spinners explained that some kinking up on freshly spun yarn is okay.  And in the whole length of roving, I only manage to unspin everything and drop the spindle once.

Is…is this yarn?

First yarn Tulip (5)

To be continued…



  1. That looks great!! Keep it up I wanna see more. 🙂 lol

  2. Yes, it’s yarn! Congratulations! Now for just a touch of “bad” news–it does look a bit overspun. If you’re going to ply, that’s not a problem. Plying will take out a bit of the overspun part. You just take 2 (or more) singles, and twist them together the other direction from which you spun them.

    A bit of advice–for thicker singles, you want less twist, thinner singles, more twist. Thinner singles need that extra twist to keep it from falling apart.

  3. Working with fiber that is predrafted down to the thickness you want to spin can be anywhere from mildly useful to flat out impossible. If you’re looking for even a worsted weight singles, the fiber can end up so thin and airy that it breaks if you wiggle wrong. Not fun. If you’re trying to spin finer than that, it’s worse :-/

    I’d recommend digging through other YouTube videos, or even getting a quick in person lesson… in person really helps tons.

  4. looks better than my first yarn by quite a bit… I do not pre-draft at all, and don’t teach my students . wish you were here, we’d have a lesson!
    love yah
    rita n/

  5. Oooh that is lovely roving – and you’re right, it’s just wool, and you can’t break it 🙂

    That is great yarn you’re making there too – but I think I agree that it might be a bit too twisty 🙂 There’s an easy way to fix that though – if you want to take some twist out, you could unwind the yarn off the spindle onto your fingers in a figure-8 between thumb and little finger. Then, as you wind it onto the spindle again, take a length off your fingers, allow the spindle to spin in the opposite direction *just a little bit* for each length, to take out some of the twist, before you wind that length on.

    If you take out too much twist, you will find the yarn drifts apart in places…

    .. but that is all part of the learning process 🙂 How much is just enough for that thickness of yarn to hold together, how much is not quite enough 😉

  6. Ok – I’m not even close to ready to consider trying it.


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