Do you like to spin cashmere on a spindle or a wheel?

Cashmere skeinsBy Amelia © March 23, 2010

Cashmere is one of those challenging fibers. Its extreme softness comes from the fineness of the fibers, under 18.5 microns in diameter. There isn't much scale on the surface of the fibers, either.

I have more control over fiber on my spindle than I do on my wheel, to this day. Probably because the only pull on the fiber is the spindle's weight; no flyer tugging yarn away from me relentlessly. So, I found cashmere easier to spin on my spindle, at first.

But a very nice lady at a spinning retreat (Camp Burton, on Vashon Island, about 3-4 years ago probably), spinning a big bag of cashmere on her wheel for the whole weekend, handed me a chunk and said it was for my wheel. "Go back and try it on your wheel, Amelia," she said, as I spun on spindles for the weekend.

So, I did. And I found that that spindle time had given me the control I needed over this luscious fiber. The usual tricks for fine spinning on the wheel also helped make the draw-in as soft as a feather.

I have found time and again that wheel skills and spindle skills build on each other; as my skill with a new type of spindle develops, my wheel-handling skills get a boost. I was thrilled to find my spindle drafting getting zippier as the double-drafting I was playing with at the wheel almost magically transferred into my spindle spinning.

Pile o' skeinsSo if you spin on both tools, and a fiber or method has you stymied, you, too, might try playing with the other one for a while to give your hands a different perspective on things.

The finest cashmere I've spun is on the Akha spindle; that sideways drafting really gives me the opportunity for cobweb-fine yarn.

I would like to take cashmere to the charka next, to see if that cobweb fineness is as easy to spin on a 100:1 ratio charkha as it is on a thigh-rolled Akha.

And you, what do you do to help learn a new method? or, do you have a wheel or spindle preference for spinning cashmere?


Related posts:
How do you spin short Guanaco fiber?
How can I spin a fine yarn?
What tips do you have for spinning lace?

For a great Cashmere blog, be sure to visit Devon Fine Fibres, the blog of a a Devon farm in the UK with Bowmont sheep and Cashmere goats; or Liz Gipson's blog, The Cashmere Kid, full of fun Cashmere stories.


posted 23 March 2010 at


artsyfish said...

I've had fibers and preps I couldn't spin on my wheel that I went to the spindle for. After a while of spinning on the spindle, the "wheel" seems to work much better on them!


Gladtobemom said...

My Nanny bolted her bobbin winder (for the bobbins on her weaving shuttles) to the top of an old sewing machine treadle base. She used it to wind bobbins at blinding speed.

She filed a little bit of a groove near the tip of the bobbin axle which she said was "for a wee bit of traction." The resulting quill (axis of the bobbin winder was about 10" long, tapered, and tough. She started with a quite long leader and spun her cashmere and other fine short fibers just like a walking wheel, but MUCH faster.

She also prepped her cash with incredible care. Usually she was making the yarn for a weaving project and she wanted it silky. As a matter of fact, she often plyed silk with Pakistani Cash fiber. She said it made the shawls drape beautifully and made them strong.

Anonymous said...

I spun my first cashmere on my wheel and I should have spun it on my spindle. So it was overspun. I did MUCH better the second time around, on my wheel again.