Since you are looking into handspinning, of course, you are also looking into equipment and fiber choices, which leads you to cost.
There are a ton of options on what to buy and from where, but what do you actually need and how much will it cost you to get started spinning wool?
You can get started spinning wool for less than $50 if you are using a drop spindle and wool roving. To get started with a spinning wheel, you will need to spend $500-950+ for the wheel and $20 for the wool.
Is Spinning Your Own Yarn Worth It? goes over the math of spinning vs buying yarn.
Start with a spindle or wheel
The simplest way, and the least expensive way, to start spinning is to just have a way to twist the yarn, which is the spindle or wheel and the roving, which is the fiber that you will be making into yarn.
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A spindle will cost $15-50
A spindle will cost you from $15-50 depending upon if you get a drop spindle or a supported one.
If you decide on a drop spindle, they tend to be closer to $15-20 and a supported spindle tends to be a bit more since they are a larger.
A spindle is inexpensive to buy and can be used nearly anywhere, but is limited on what you can spin and the amount you can or will want to spin with it.
A spinning wheel will cost $500-950
Spinning wheels cost anywhere from $500-950+. If you look around at the options, I would think you can find a beginner friendly wheel for less than $800.
I listed a bigger price range to give you an idea of the options, both in looks and feel of the wheel and how the wheel works, that you have available to you as a handspinner.
Spinning wheels will cost you more money upfront, but will enable you to make more yarn for your time and is more versatile, enabling you to spin a larger variety of yarns.
The Ashford Kiwi 3 is a very popular wheel, made to be easy to use and help the total beginner get to spinning in no time. It’s got a fun look and is made by one of the more well known brands.
If at all possible, go to a place where you can try out multiple wheels.
There are differences in how wheels look, feel to you and what type of spinning they are designed for. Choosing after you play around on a few will help you narrow down your choices.
If you are not ready to spend that much money upfront, consider renting a wheel. Shops have wheels for rent as do spinning instructors.
Start with wool roving (or top) as your fiber
Now that you have your wheel or spindle, you’ll need to choose a fiber to start out with. Your best bet is to get Corriedale roving.
Corridale top will cost you less than $20 for 250 grams, which is just over a half pound. That’s a lot of beginner friendly, beautiful fiber to spin for $20!
Corriedale is super easy to work with since it has a longer staple length and some “grip” and is fairly easy to find at most any fiber store. Get roving or combed top, either is fine, as long as it is Corriedale.
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.
Use commercially prepared wool as your first spinning fiber
A word of caution: if you have your own wool that you are planning to spin, go with prepared fiber, like the purchased roving, first. When you are comfortable with spinning, then give your own wool a shot.
Why? Purchased roving or top is so smooth and easy to work with that you can concentrate on your spinning alone, not the variability that will be in your carded fiber, since you are new to carding, too!
Can You Spin Non Wool Fibers? goes over some spinning fibers other than sheep wool.
Things that will make spinning easier
You can buy a few more things that will make spinning and working with the yarn easier. These are not “must have” items, but they are certainly nice to have!
Niddy noddy to put spun but not set yarn onto
A niddy noddy is a tool that looks like an offset “I” that you use to wind the yarn around when you take it off the bobbin or spindle.
A niddy noddy will cost $20-35 or you can easily make one at home. You don’t need one, but it’s so nice to have, especially when you can make a decent amount of yarn.
I used to wrap yarn around from elbow to hand until my husband made me a simple niddy noddy, which made taking yarn off the bobbin a ton easier and more organized.
Extra bobbins for plying
You may want to get more bobbins for your wheel, especially if it only came with one! The cost of the bobbins will depend upon which brand of wheel you have, but plan on around $14-30 each.
Extra bobbins will give you more options, like plying, since you’ll need at one bobbin per ply to hold the yarn and one to ply the yarn on to.
For a two ply yarn you would need a total of three bobbins. Two to hold the yarn that you spin as singles then one to hold the plyed yarn. Similarly, you would need four bobbins to make a 3 ply yarn.
Another bobbin option available on some wheels is a jumbo flyer, which gives you tons more room per bobbin for yarn, which is especially nice if you are spinning bulky or art yarn.
Since you are just getting started, a jumbo flyer is a bit of a stretch, you don’t need it now, but I list it so you can think about it as an option for later.
Lazy kate for plying
A lazy kate is an add on to most wheels that allows you to have two or three bobbin set up on your wheel so you can ply yarn.
There are a variety of options, some of which go right on the wheel you have some are separate and set on the floor beside you. Lazy kate prices range from $70-150.
Some folks love singles (unplyed yarn) and rarely ply, but most folks who spin prefer to ply, so having a lazy kate makes plying easy by allowing the yarn to come off the bobbins in a controlled manner.
Of course, you can try plying without a lazy kate and see if you like the idea of plying and then buy one, if you want your plying to be more controlled.
Replenishing or adding to your fiber supply
The final cost you will have is to add to or replenish your fiber supply. You have a ton of choices of fiber to spin, from breed specific wools to plant fibers and synthetics, there are scads of options!
As mentioned above, you’ll be best served starting with Corriedale. You could keep working with Corriedale or branch out and explore, either way you’ll need to keep buying fiber.
Buying more fiber to spin will vary tremendously with what you choose to purchase, but plan on spending $5-10 per 4 ounce bag for most. Special breeds or hard to find fiber will be more, of course.
Bulk fiber purchases are less per ounce
If you are willing to buy a larger amount of a commonly available wool, like a half to a full pound, you can get better prices per ounce than if you choose smaller wool amounts.
I buy my bulk wool at The Woolery, they have a great selection, are fast and have good prices.
Get naturally colored wool or dye it
You also have the option to keep getting white wool and try your hand at dyeing it or to buy naturally colored wool to give you a bit of color variety in your spinning.
A dye kit gives you a number of color choices and comes with instructions, it’s a simple and fun way to get started with dyeing protein fibers.
Buy raw or unwashed wool and process it
Buying raw wool or whole fleeces that you process yourself or have processed at a fiber mill are generally less money, overall, than buying the 4 ounce bags.
Working with a fleece, rather than buying roving or top, will cost you more upfront and give you pounds of the same fiber to work with, good if you love it, not so good if you don’t!
Try “new to you” breed specific wools
You can get one type of wool and stick with it, exclusively, or you can dance around and try all kinds of wool and other fibers to see what works well for you and inspires your spinning.
I like to mess around a bit and see what different breed specific wools are like, so I am doing a “wool tour” of neat and new to me wools to see if something works well for me that I have not tried yet.
New favorites, wools I’ll order again
So far, the surprise of my work is how much I like to work with Merino, I tried it once, years ago and it was a disaster! I couldn’t handle it then, but now, I am really enjoying Merino and plan to use it more.
If you are looking for soft, but want a bit more length than most of the finer wools, consider Polwarth. I really enjoy working with this wool! Wow, is it wonderful to spin and so, so soft. Polwarth is golden!
I also ordered some Falkland and I love it! That was the biggest surprise of the order, since I’ve been leery of finer wools, but wow, it’s nice! Once you get comfortable with your wheel, give Falkland a try!
Wools that were different than I thought they would be
The other interesting thing that I have found is that some fibers that I have heard a lot about and decided to give them a shot aren’t my favorites, but I thought I would love them when I ordered!
For instance, Romney is wonderful to spin, another great beginner wool, but for me, not a favorite to knit with and I’m surprised at this. It could just be the specific wool I’m working with, but I expected to love it.
Gotland was exactly opposite for me, it took me a bit to catch on to spinning it, it’s slippery, but I like how it knits up, very soft and lovely. It also has wonderful natural silver color (I’m a natural colored fan).
Both are interesting fibers and I’m glad I tried them, but I’ll be moving on to try other breeds rather than working more with either of these.
If I come up with a fun idea that one of these wools will work for, I’ll definitely get more, but for now I’ll keep exploring.
Look at The Woolery if you are still shopping around for supplies. They are fast and have a nice selection.