Where can I find a retired spindle?

By Amelia © January 4, 2016

The cost of a new wheel, drum carder, or loom is a lot of money for most of us. At the other end of the spectrum, the cost for a no-longer-made wheel, spindle, or book can also be right up there.

I've posted several entries here in the past about finding wheels and looms second-hand, and out of print books:

I put my own website sales on hiatus in mid-2014 when I started back in the workforce, as I didn't know if I would have time to respond to orders. That was the right thing to do, because it was a whirlwind first year!

However, I was still shipping it to Unicorn, so felt that would keep it available. I never dreamed they would stop being in business. But, they did. And the price on Amazon went up to $46 - I am glad the book is considered valuable, but was dismayed that folks had to pay so much for it.

The one retailer that had always contacted me directly still was, Bosworth Spindles. They have always been a big supporter of me, and me of them (great spindles!) So it could still be had for $18 from their website and at shows they attend on the USA's east coast.

I am pleased to have the new job in hand well enough, and enough support from my family, to return to offering Productive Spindling, my student spindles, and learn to spin kits on the website here.

But this post is supposed to be about finding retired spindles. Here are my tips for that:

Google the spindle maker and model - you may find that the maker has reduced their distribution, but still sells it directly. Besides, what's more fun than ordering it directly from the maker?

Define a watch on eBay, for the spindle maker and model. You can have it email you search results daily, if the spindle doesn't come up on the first try. I found several obscure weaving books there with patience. Also searched for completed auctions, which will tell you if any have been there recently, and what they sell for (or if they generally don't sell there).

Etsy is a good place to check, just in case someone decides to do some destashing there.

The Spinner's and Weaver's Housecleaning Pages often is for big tools, but spindles and spindle collections show up there from time to time.

The big one: ravelry. There are several spindle groups there, and spindle de-stashes show up in appropriate forums. Check out Spindle Candy - they have ISO (in search of) threads, Spindle De-stashing threads, and lots of great spindle information. There are other used equipment groups on ravelry as well -- it's a good idea to look in several, as a primarily wheel spinner may not be on Spindle Cnady. Always remember to follow group rules for sales and want ads.

Facebook now has a variety of spinning groups and barter forums - I haven't explored these much, but check. Maybe there's a group of spinners near you, so you could use this next item:

And last, let your local guild or spinning buddies know - you never know who has the toy you want, hiding in a cupboard. I've been fortunate to have friends with tools I was on the hunt for, so I could at least borrow them or give them a road test.

I hope these suggestions are useful to you; click through to those three links listed above for more ideas. Finding spindles can use the methods for wheels, looms, and books as well. Happy searching!

The spindles in the picture are Spin Dizzy's, made by Kat Walton. I wish I hadn't lost touch with her, as these are amazing spindles and folks always ask me where to get them. I sold them for Kat back in the day, but the ones I have left are definitely mine, and not up for sale (sorry).

What spindle are you on the hunt for? I admit my own flock is sizeable (and could use reducing), but I always keep an eye out for unique spindles.

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© January 4, 2016 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

What's your spindle made of?

By Amelia © December 30, 2015

I admit to being one of "those" people that pooh-pooh's spindles not made of wood. I love the warmth, the knowledge that my spindle was once part of a tree stretching out under the sun somewhere on the planet.

I haven't ignored other materials, though. I have a lovely stained-glass spindle that has withstood several slimmings of the spindle flock. And my very first bought-en spindle was a Mongold, back when they were still being made. Mongolds, if you don't know, are made of resin.

And now I'd like to introduce you to two of the newest members of the flock...

I have been enjoying a massive Turkish spindle crush for the past few years, especially after figuring out I could make one with pencils.

And these two spindles have been a joy. The Riley Sci-Fi, on the left, was purchased from Mielke's Fiber Arts (a long-time favorite stop of mine on the web). It is wood, and it has the type of modification I love to see on Turkish spindles, removing some of the intermediate arm weight. That is such a boost to the spin-time of a Turkish spindle, I can't say "Yay!" loud enough.

The Turtle Made, on the right, purchased from the maker on Etsy, is a 3-D printed spindle. I got mine in translucent red, because red ones go faster (really). It's both economical and a good spinner. I'm pleased to have finally taken the plunge to trying it, after resisting the thought of a 'plastic' spindle. It's actually made from PLA, a bioplastic from renewable resources. Pretty darn cool.

So, you see, spindles can be made from any (solid) material, as long as you enjoy it, it doesn't matter.

(The makers or businesses mentioned here did not pay me to write this or provide me with anything for this. Just so you know.)

What's your favorite spindle made of?

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Related posts...
All the ones that mention Turkish spindles
Can you spin a sheep?
Which spindle spins the best?

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© December 30, 2015 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

How do you get 4 oz. of fiber onto one spindle?

By Amelia © May 17, 2015 The New Spindle

Hi! I've a new job that is generally keeping me quite busy, but I still get to think about and touch fiber every day in my studio, so no complaints, and the steady paycheck makes up for not having an 'all fiber, all the time' life any longer!

An interesting question came across "Ask The Bellwether"'s comment feed the other day: "What I need to know and I hope you can help me, is: if you are spinning 4 oz of fiber and plying on the fly with your spindle, how do you get all 4 oz of the fiber on the spindle?"

Here, dear readers, is the answer I have to this:

To get four ounces of fiber on a spindle, there are several considerations:

  • First you want to be spinning a thickness of fiber that can support the 4-6 ounce weight of spindle-plus-fiber; so you aren't going to be spinning laceweight and doing this, as it just won't support the mass. I would aim for a single that is about sockweight for this, if you truly want your 4 ounce goal.
  • Second, you need to have a spindle that can store that amount of fiber on it. How do you know? Well, if it's top whorl, you will want a fairly wide whorl, say 3" across if you can get it, at least 2" across; and a longish shaft. That's because you are going to be storing all that yarn on the shaft under the whorl, and the cop (the wound yarn on the spindle) has to be no wider across than the whorl, or you run into other issues. If it's a bottom whorl, the long shaft is still necessary, but the whorl size isn't as important. For a Turkish spindle, you need long spindle arms so they poke out from the ball (unlike this little Turkish whose arms end inside the yarn ball).Stuffed Turkish spindle
  • Third, as you wind the cop onto the spindle, you need to keep it balanced. The spindle will get all wobbly and not fun to spin if the cop is not balanced, making you want to end the project right away.

If I were to work on this as a goal, I would start with a spindle that was about an ounce in weight, with a wide whorl or long arms, and a shaft length of at least 9-10 inches. In fact, I do have a ply-on-the-fly project going right now on just such a spindle, but I am going to split it into two 2-ounce balls, as the singles are fairly fine so that the 3-ply can be sock-to-DK weight yarn (about 14-16 wraps per inch).

I don't think that we have to get a whole braid of fiber onto a spindle to be successful; there are plenty of uses of fiber that tolerate breaks in the yarn. With knitting or crochet, Russian Joins or even other clever knitting joins are out there for making this feasible, and weaving and needlepoint are even more tolerant of breaks, expecting them in due course.

See related topics:

How much yarn can I spin on my spindle?
How can I combine two full spindles?
How can I get more yarn on my spindle?
When is the spindle full?
How much yarn can you wind onto a Turkish spindle?

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© May 17, 2015 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

How do you weave on a potholder loom?

By Amelia © August 3, 2014

It's been an eventful summer here with relatives and friends visiting, remodeling happening, and on and on. I had a very creative time with the young son of a friend playing with knitting looms and potholder looms. He wanted it all done faster, so being the kind to take comments to heart, I slept on it.

The next morning, I found he had inspired an idea ... my potholder loom reminds me of my weave-it loom, square with pegs all the way around. Why couldn't we load it with loops the same way we wound yarn on the weave-it?

Turns out, we could. And with that, Micah was mightily entertained loading loops on looms for a variety of color-and-weave inspired potholders, then ran around outside while I zipped through the much quicker weaving phase at the end.

Step 1: put loops on every other peg in one direction:

Step 2: put loops on every other peg in the other direction:

Step 3: put loops on the empty pegs in the first direction:

Step 4: weave loops through for the empty pegs in the "other" direction. I find this is easiest done by weaving an afghan crochet hook through all the loopers:

then pulling the new looper through and catching it on the pegs at the start and end:

Do this all the way up. There are only half as many to weave this way!

So now that I've sorted that out, of course I'm playing with yarn on the loom as if it were a weave-it on steroids. And considering making more potholder/looper squares with texture and weave ideas.

If you are interested in small looms, eloomanation.com is a terrific website for more information, and Meg Stump's new book Pin Loom Weaving: 40 Projects for Tiny Hand Looms has some fun projects in it.

Happy weaving!

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© August 3, 2014 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/

What do you use singles for?

Common spinning philosophy is that you "have to ply" so that your yarn is balanced. After all, if singles are unbalanced, and intrinsically they are, then they are hard to work with. Right? Well, yes-and-no. Like all things in life, the philosophy has its nay-sayers. There are folks who only learn to spin singles, never ply, and work with their singles quite happily. They get confused when other spinners walk up to them and tell them their yarn is "wrong" because it isn't plied.

And, I agree -- it isn't wrong to not ply. The key is to understand what you are working with. My bestie, D, spins singles and crochets up a storm. Her crochet is lovely and her singles are gorgeous, strong yarn.

So, how do you work with singles? what do you use them for?

First off, if you want your singles to behave when you work with them, you have some options. You can block your yarn -- hang a weight from it while it dries to stretch it out. This keeps the yarn calm while you work with it, though since it is at maximum stretch it isn't very elastic. If I did this with knitting or crochet yarn, I would use a slightly larger needle with the yarn and then I would wash the item in warm water so the yarn could relax and puff up, regaining some of its elasticity, after I made the item.

Singles in knitting can bias. If blocked beforehand, you may not be aware of it happening -- in fact, they won't bias until you wash the item in warm water. And, there are stitches you can use to avoid bias from singles. Seed stitch, moss stitch, garter stitch -- any knit stitch that puts purls above knits repeatedly will prevent biasing from the active twist in the single.

Another way to make singles behave and prevent bias in knitting at the same time is to full the yarn. Wash it repeatedly in warm and cold water, agitating it. With fine wools or fibers (merino, cashmere, angora) it takes very little effort to full the skein. With long wools or smooth fibers (cotswold, suri alpaca) it takes more effort to full the skein. So, test the skein as you are fulling it and stop before it turns from a skein of yarn into a fulled yarn-necklace. Re-skein it while it is damp or as soon as it dries, to separate the strands. Fulled yarn has the twist locked in place, so although it isn't technically balanced, it also no longer exhibits kinkiness from active twist. It will knit calmly and the fabric will not bias.

Weaving with singles is exciting -- all that active twist has to do something. It's fun to explore with mixed-twist fabric, stripes of S singles and Z singles in the warp. To keep warp singles calm, it's standard practice to douse them in a "sizing agent" -- basically a rinsable starch to keep them stiff while weaving but rinsed out when the item is done so their active twist reasserts itself.

When you weave S singles and S singles against each other, they lock in place (similarly with Z and Z), and do not buckle or bias as a fabric. The fun happens with S singles against Z singles -- the combination puckers and buckles, creating a very textured fabric. Combining singles and balanced plied yarn gives you something partway between the two -- a mild texturing to the fabric similar to the "tracking" you can see with some yarns.

My bestie D tells me that crochet doesn't bias with singles, and she should know :-) I think that's because crochet goes up and down, left and right -- all the different directions keep the single's active twist at bay.

I tried embroidery with singles recently...ummm, it was a brief, unhappy experience. I haven't heard of people using singles for embroidery, but I also hadn't been cautioned against it. So, I tried. I now see why all my DMC floss is plied, and my next handspun embroidery project will use a balanced plied yarn.

That said, I have been doing a fair bit of Nalbinding lately, now that I am offering it regularly at Bazaar Girls in Port Townsend. Traditionally, wool Nalbinding is done with singles. It's great for separating the yarn into the yard-long lengths used in Nalbinding, and also for the felted joins that make it seem like Nalbinding is one continuous yarn.


Those are the needle arts I have explored with singles yarn. I'd love to hear if you have experience with singles yarn in another needle art, and if you would recommend it or not. How would it fair in: tatting, sprang, punchneedle, rug hooking, kumihimo, or your favorite needle art?

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There are quite a few entries about singles yarn on Ask The Bellwether. These are a few of my favorites:



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© January 1, 2014 by Amelia of Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/