What Is The Minimum Equipment Needed To Spin Wool?
So you are thinking about getting into a new hobby and spinning wool sounds interesting but you don’t want to get into it too deep (or spend much) until you see if handspinning is enjoyable to you, right?
If you’ve looked around in the slightest, you’ve surely seen a world of spinning equipment for sale, but if you are looking to get started on the cheap, you just want the “must haves” to get you going.
What is the most basic way to get started spinning wool with a minimal investment in equipment?
The absolute minimum needed to spin wool is your hands and some wool. To increase your output or the length of yarn you can spin, you will need a spindle or a wheel and an easy to work with wool, like Corriedale. Any tools in addition to a wheel or spindle and the wool are helpful but not strictly necessary.
We’ll start off with the absolute minimum that you need to spin wool, then move up to a minimal list of things that you need to spin wool.
Best Wool For Beginners gives you the easy to spin wools that will be great for you to use as you learn!
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Looking for a great resource on which fiber to pick and how best to use it? Consider getting The Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook, filled with wonderful pictures and details on just about any wool you can find.
To spin wool, you need fiber and a way to twist it
To get started spinning wool, you really just need two things, the wool you are going to work with and a way to twist that wool into yarn.
Really, it’s that simple!
This means making yarn, at it’s most basic is just holding the wool and twisting it into yarn then setting the yarn twist in hot water, all of which you can do with just your hands and the wool.
Corriedale wool is super easy to work with and holds together nicely, give it a shot if you are looking for a beginner friendly fiber.
Anything else used in spinning, like a wheel or spindle, is just to make your life as the spinner easier or more productive.
If you just need your hands and wool to make yarn, what’s with all the other stuff that folks have for spinning wool?
Unless you are an octopus or have an army of folks ready to hold the yarn for you as you make it, you won’t get too far making yarn without any equipment.
Anything other than your hands that is used for spinning wool is to help you work with and hold the yarn you are making or to make better use of your time allowing you to spin more or longer yarn.
So if you are willing to buy just a few basics tools, you can up your game to spinning a respectable amount of yarn without driving yourself crazy in the process!
You need a way to make and hold spun yarn
To make any reasonable amount of yarn, you are going to need some sort of tool to help you put the twist into the wool then hold the twisted yarn in an organized way, until you “set” the yarn.
Setting the yarn is easy, you put it in hot water and the hot water sets the twist, so what was just spun wool is now yarn that will hold together rather than untwist.
You can spin wool with a spindle
The simplest way to make and hold spun yarn is on a spindle, which can be a drop spindle or a supported spindle. This is the spindle I have (pictured above) from The Woolery.
Spinning with a spindle will also be the least expensive way to get started spinning wool.
Spindles have different configurations, depending upon what you are spinning and where the design for the spindle originated, but the basics are the same amongst all spindles.
Spindles help you put twist in the wool to actually make the yarn and, at the same time, hold the spun yarn in an organized way so that you can keep making the yarn longer and be able to take it off to be set.
For the scoop on spindles, read A Beginners Guide To Spinning On A Drop Spindle by Schacht Spindle and be sure to scroll down to the instructional video at the bottom of the page.
You can spin wool with a wheel
The other way to make yarn is to use a wheel, which is how I spin and how I learned to spin.
Wheels are more expensive than spindles, but will make more yarn for your time. The Louet S17 is one of the least expensive spinning wheels available, if you want to check it out.
A spinning wheel’s main advantage is that it is much faster than spinning wool on a spindle and allows you more options, of both materials and styles, in the yarns that you make.
However, if you have done any shopping around, you’ll know that a spinning wheel is a significant purchase, especially compared to a spindle.
Once you spend a bit of time spinning, you’ll realize how handy the other stuff like a niddy noddy is to have, but if you are looking for a minimum to start, with a spindle or a wheel and wool, you have it.
You need a source of spinnable fiber
Once you have decided whether you are going to use a spindle or wheel, now you can pick out the fiber that you want to spin.
You’ll want to pick the wheel or spindle first, then choose the wool that will be the easiest to use with that specific tool.
While there are many sources of spinnable fibers, go with wool to start with. Wool is easy to find and easy to work with.
Here is the protein fibers page at The Woolery, which lists out all of the wools they sell.
Go with Corriedale or Romney if you are completely new and using a wheel. If you are working with a spindle, go with Blue Faced Leicester instead.
If you want to work up to making yarn with other fibers, that’s super, but start with wool to make the early stages of learning to spin easier on you.
How To Spin Pencil Roving shows you how to work with pencil roving, which is a super easy to spin fiber that is great for anyone who wants to spin with minimal drafting.
Buy wool processed at a fiber mill
Start with a professionally prepared wool, by this I mean a washed carded and/or combed fiber from a fiber mill that is ready to spin without any further work from you.
You can get roving or combed top, either will work well as a beginner’s spinning fiber.
Spinners using a wheel should start with Corriedale
If you are using a spinning wheel, get some Corriedale roving or combed top.
This will be a professionally prepared fiber that is easy to use, consistent and ready to spin, as soon as you get it.
There are other breeds of wool to spin that are also easy to work with, but none are as easy to work with and commonly available as Corriedale.
Romney is a close second, but Corriedale is king for new spinners.
Spinners using a spindle should use Corriedale or Blue Faced Leicester (BFL)
As far as wool for spindles, especially drop spindles, use Blue Faced Leicester (BFL, with the “L” pronounced Lester).
BFL has a nice staple length, is pretty easy to find and is beginner friendly.
I especially enjoy spinning BFL with a drop spindle because its strength and long staple let’s the spindle dangle like a pendulum without the yarn falling apart!Jillian Eve Best Spinning Fibers For Beginners
You could also try Corriedale, but I had much better luck with the BFL on the drop spindle.
I found drafting out the fiber while working the spindle to be my biggest challenge and BFL was easier to draft for me than the Corriedale.
If you feel the BFL has too much slip for you, go with Corriedale (which have a bit more grip) and see if that works better.
Raw wool requires some preparation tools
If you plan to start with some raw wool, meaning an unwashed fleece, you’ll need to do quite a bit of fiber preparation to get that wool to be easy to work with and ready to be spun.
It’s doable, actually I use raw wool all of the time as my preferred spinning fiber, but I’m also not a rank beginner, so I can deal with some of the imperfections in the fiber due to my imperfect preparation work.
Can You Use Dog Brushes For Wool? goes over more of the details on using dog brushes and combs rather than buying wool combs or cards.
What I’m trying to say is that while you can use raw wool, as a beginner it is in your best interests to work with prepared fiber, at least until you get comfortable with spinning.
Then branch out if you want to, but start with the easiest wool to use with your equipment and get the feel for spinning before adding the complexity of preparing your own wool for spinning.
Don’t get me wrong, learning to work with raw wool is fun and a great skill to have, but it will be a bit too much for a beginner to work through all at once.
Get some experience spinning, then expand to raw wool or other wools that catch your interest.