Honing your Craft
Monday March 25th 2013

SAW: Drop Spindle Class with Denny McMillan

My first attempt at spinning using a drop spindle.
My first attempt at spinning using a drop spindle.

For a very long time I’ve wanted to learn how to drop spindle. While visiting New York Sheep and Wool last fall I drooled over the beautiful spindles. There were some REALLY beautiful ones. **sigh**

Last Christmas my Sister in Law, AC and niece (X)/nephew (A) gave me a simple drop spindle and some brightly colored roving. I looked online. I checked out some books… but I really wanted to take a class with someone in person. While poking around the internet at New Year’s I ran across the SAW website and HAZAH! There was a drop spindle class! I was so happy to find that I’d made it into this class and looked so forward to finally learning the how-to’s!!

Enter Denny McMillan.

Denny McMillan teaching Drop Spindle at SAW.
Denny McMillan teaching Drop Spindle at SAW.

We each arrived to find a simple cotton drawstring bag containing a wooden drop spindle and two types of roving wool for spinning, one dyed and one undyed. (The spindle and the undyed roving shown above in the top photo.) Denny gave us a little instruction and we immediately dove in. We started with learning how to draft (pulling the wool into an even “string” to enable evenly twisted yarn) the undyed wool we’d been given. Next we learned all about twist. Twist is what makes yarn, yarn. Without it you just have a pile of fiber.

SAW - Denny showing off a fun spindle from her collection.
SAW - Denny showing off a fun spindle from her collection.

I am a fiber junkie, we know this by now. Drop spindling felt like the missing piece that I’d been missing! It came rather quickly and easily, almost an extension of my own fingers or something, much to the chagrin of the classmate sitting next to me who had a bit of trouble with even and consistent  drafting. Denny was wonderful and patient as she observed and assisted each student. (Thanks Denny!) She had a way of joking and calming a frustrated student that was wonderful to observe.

SAW: Drop spindle class: Denny Showing her Wares
Denny showing us her creations using yarn she'd spun on her drop spindles.

Denny brought a selection of items she had crochet and knit using yarn she had spun with a drop spindle. Beautiful and inspirational. My Mom also took the class and enjoyed it a lot as well!

Over the next few days (even after our days at SAW were over), when I wasn’t knitting with silk hankies, I found myself spinning with my new drop spindle.

Rolling the single ply yarn into balls.
Rolling the single ply yarn I'd spun into balls.

I spindled in the morning, afternoon and night. In the car, sitting by the fire place and while watching TV, until I’d used up all of the dyed wool that Denny had provided. I wanted to try the entire process while the discussion was still fresh in my memory. So, while I was still visiting my folks in NH, I began the plying process. I rolled 3 balls of the single ply yarn I’d spun. A small, medium and large ball. I then spun, twisting the strands in the opposite direction from how I’d first spun it, 3 strands together until the small ball was finished. I wound this 1st third of yarn over a CD case and tied it in two places. I repeated this process with only 2 strand of yarn, creating a second bundle and I finished with a slightly untwisted single ply bundle, all wound and tied.

Soaking the plied yarn in hot water and Eucalan.
Soaking the plied yarn in hot water and Eucalan.

Next I sat them in a bowl of VERY hot water with a little Eucalan wool wash and let soak until the water was cool. There was very minimal dye released into the water, so I repeated this step a second time. There was no color in the water the second time, so I rinsed it out, squeezed the water gently and hung them over the kitchen sink where my parents conveniently have 2 hooks where they hang their orchids on watering day.

Hanging spun, plied and washed yarn to dry.
Hanging spun, plied and washed yarn to dry.

To help in the blocking of the yarn, I hung a few spray bottles I’d found under the kitchen sink from bungie cords. It did the trick! I did this before bed and let it hang over night, rotating the bundles of yarn the next morning to aid in the drying.

Blocking and drying the plied yarn.
Blocking and drying the plied yarn.

For my first attempt, I was quite pleased!  A few spots were a bit too twisted, but all in all it was pretty good if I do say so myself! I have knit up 2 of the 3 yarns into swatches and will post photos of them once all three are knit up.

While visiting with my Mom the few days after SAW, we visited a few LYS in NH and I picked up a few bags of wool to spin. I’m currently spinning some Hand Dyed Merino Top roving (so soft!) in color #7 – Purple People Eater. I intend to make it a 2ply sock yarn and am designing a new sock pattern to knit it up into.

Thank Denny for teaching me the missing link! If you want to meet Denny and take a class with her, you can find her in Toronto, CA working at Lettuce Knit! I intend to stop in and see her again myself when I next visit my feller’s family in Toronto.

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